Business leaders from virtually every sector are facing a dilemma: How do we manage and lead the emerging generation of leaders? They expect to receive information, answers and solutions immediately. They have an idea and move to quickly implement it, without considering consequences and ramifications. Many business leaders are perplexed and frustrated with the on-demand millennial generation.

Are You Also Complaining?

When Sales Growth Specialists asked business leaders about their frustrations in working with millennial leaders, we received an outpouring of concerns. Sixty percent of respondents said they struggle to effectively implement character, confidence and collaboration development strategies. They believe millennials lack determination and resilience. To many, it seems they also lack accountability, have a “know-it-all” attitude that turns any leader’s stomach, and have an ever-present disregard for the value of their work or their company. They have a confidence based on their ability to quickly source information on the internet instead of a deeply rooted confidence that can withstand the pressures of real-world leadership. Leaders also said millennials lack the face-to-face communication skills and emotional IQ to deal with real-world conflict.

What Is the Solution?

So, what do we do? Send millennials back to school? Give their parents a failing grade? Skip this generation and hire the next? Start new training programs? Complain about them? None of these are effective solutions.

However, business leaders who move past the complaints and frustrations, create a plan, and learn to work with millennial leaders find that this generation has far more to offer than they anticipated or expected. The key is to be committed to genuinely working with them, bridging the gap and tapping into their strengths. This generation can sense insincerity and negativity. They can tell when you disapprove of their work. In contrast, they greatly appreciate the effort experienced leaders make to connect with them. Authentic compliments and encouragement are the true reward.

There are a few key points every business leader needs to understand about millennial leaders. By coaching and understanding the mindset and true characteristics of this generation of leaders, it becomes possible to create a productive, even breakthrough, culture that inspires them to the best possible success. To do so, consider a few key areas of focus:

1. Recognize Their Individuality.

Unlike virtually any other generation before them, millennials have been taught they are individuals and that their uniqueness should be celebrated. You cannot force them into a mold, and they resent it when you do. How can you celebrate, rather than fight, that individuality? A good place to start is by creating a culture where millennials can thrive.

A 2016 Inc.com article sheds some light on this generation. For example, 74 percent of millennials want a flexible work schedule. They are more willing to work hard when you can accommodate their free spirit, their longing to make a difference and their need to explore the world.

2. Give Regular Feedback and Encouragement.

The Inc.com article also reported that 80 percent of millennials want on-the-spot recognition. They favor this type of feedback far more than a formal annual conversation. In fact, they also feel that this type of recognition, given freely, openly and honestly, provides them with essential information to help them grow in their skills and career. It also helps them to better understand the job you want them to do.

Regular feedback is a first step business leaders can take to transform this young workforce of leaders. Offer daily feedback. Engage with them more openly about what they are doing, how they are doing it and how they could do it better. Most often, this generation is not put off by feedback, especially when it’s encouragement-oriented. Rather, they crave it.

3. Leverage Their Talents and Strengths.

Millennials are passionate and keen to learn from people they trust and respect. Keep in mind that members of this generation often lack strong role models, and many millennials have been through a difficult life with divorced parents, limited household incomes and challenging school environments. This situation can be an opportunity for the business leader who knows how to leverage it. Provide insight and support to millennial leaders to encourage them to explore their talents and develop their strengths. This may mean getting to know your millennial leader and testing different types of work or roles. Once you know what that talent is, provide an avenue not just for using it but for fostering continued growth within it.

4. Listen to and Learn from Them.

Finally, respect them. Be willing to listen to your millennials and learn from them. Listening builds respectful relationships and creates a win-win culture. Millennials are insightful and innovative. They long to be world-changers and can bring exciting ideas and knowledge to the table to help your company achieve bigger and better things. Their unique way of learning, thinking and expressing themselves opens up new opportunities, markets and products to fuel company growth.

There’s no benefit in complaining about your millennial leaders. Instead, start coaching them to draw out their fresh insights, strengths and perspectives. Empowered properly, these individuals can carry your business forward in a highly competitive world!

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