Why Leading Millennials is More Effective than Managing Them
By Cindy Wubben
Four years ago, Millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest workforce demographic. While an entire generation cannot be generalized, there are characteristics about this new workforce that remain consistent. One main characteristic is that they would rather be lead than managed.
Things that leaders can do for millennials that are likely to make them want to follow are:
- Help them progress in their career. They will want their skills to be developed on a regular basis so make sure you are offering training, mentoring, and teaching moments on a regular basis. In a world where information is readily available, learning must be a regular part of the culture.
- Make their work meaningful. When recruiting, the question or comment I always receive from recent college grads is regarding our community service projects. Millennials want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. Help them connect the work they are doing to the effect it is having on the client. They want to make a difference in the lives of others so show them the connection.
- Collaborate with millennials rather than just giving them orders.The old, “because I said so and I’m the boss” model doesn’t work well with this new workforce. Bring millennials into the brainstorming process so that they can share ideas and feel as though they are contributing, because they are. They have new, innovative ideas that are relative and need to be considered when putting a plan together.
- Create real connections for them. Setting up social interactions outside of work will help millennials form friendships with co-workers. Having friends at work helps create greater engagement and as a result effects collaboration and teamwork.
- Let them learn through experience. Bring them into meetings early and often so that they can observe and be a part of the process. This generation grew up playing video games and learned how to progress to the next level by trying over and over again. They want to be a part of what is going on and have an active role, so let them.
In Kouzes and Posner’s book, “The Leadership Challenge,” the authors share that exemplary leaders are able to do five things that produce excellent results.
Those five things are:
- Challenge the process (step out into the unknown)
- Inspire a shared vision (breathe life into the hopes and dreams of others)
- Enable others to act (enlist the support of all those needed to make the project a success)
- Model the way (behavior wins respect rather than titles)
- Encourage the heart (genuine acts of caring)
Author and speaker, John O’Leary writes, “Focus more on people and you’ll demonstrate leadership, more on results and you’ll perform management.” The results will happen when you focus on people and millennials are looking for leaders to follow rather than managers.
If leaders can find a way to incorporate the things that inspire a millennial to want to follow them, with the things that fulfill them as a worker and person, then they can build a team that will assist them in reaching goals. There is no cookie-cutter recipe that fits all employees but a good rule of thumb for leaders is to start with genuinely caring about the people that they work alongside. If that’s focused on first, the rest will fall into place.
Cindy Wubben | Director of Human Resources