This is a guest post that I wrote for Mike Hohnen’s blog. Mike is a leadership coach, workshop facilitator and keynote speaker. I work with Mike and we talk a lot about leadership and management. Mike once told me people asked if he found it difficult to work with millennials. As I happen to be a millennial, here is a post to address the impossibleness of my generation.
Millennials were born and raised in the age of information and technology, in a globalized world, in times of peace but also in some ways, times of crisis. We are tech-savvy, we have itchy feet, and we are naïve and foolish. We are “Generation Me”, “Trophy kids”, “Peter Pan Generation” or “pragmatic idealists”. There are so many other ways or words people use to describe generation Y. In short, we are really different. We dress differently, we think differently, and we live/work differently.
With access to computers and the Internet from an early age, we receive information and communicate through multiple sources and platforms. We learn and process knowledge from a more global perspective. Being more exposed to traveling and other cultures, we are also more liberal.
Many people think we are selfish, greedy narcissists. That is only partly true with a proportion of generation Y. The reason behind this is that we were born in a time where consumerism was booming. Everything we have is in adequacy and abundance. And our parents, mostly Baby Boomers and Gen X, who lived through wars, recessions, had sacrificed a lot for us to have better lives. And some of us just got accidentally and unintentionally spoiled.
However, most of us aren’t like that. Millennials have already taken over around 50% of the workforce. We have been, and will be, changing the world in every way possible, and for the better. We are responsible global citizens. We care deeply about global issues and we take actions. We learn and adapt fast; we are also very versatile with change.
But, we are also lost… Growing up in a globalized world, we question our identity and doubt about our core values. We do not want a stable, secure life like older generations, so we struggle at times to find our purpose in life. Generation gap probably hasn’t hit any generation as hard as it has us. Millennials live and grow in a fast-paced, constantly changing world. So we get lost and disoriented…quite often.
With the relentless and restless spirit of generation Y, we get lost but we are foolish enough to continue leading and pursuing the life we want. But, we could use a bit of guidance and orientation from older generations. Guidance, not impositions.
People from previous generations, who are wiser, older and more experienced, can be great mentors and advisors for us. On the other hand, we youngsters can show you a thing or two, a different perspective on things, a different side of a world we are living in, a different way to do things. It can be a wonderful learning experience and growing opportunity for both sides if you are patient and open-minded enough to get to know us, listen to us and most of all, grow with us.
Millennials and leadership
Okay so basically we are a bunch of energetic, complicated, crazy youngsters. How does leadership work with us? Or how can you lead or manage us?
Millennials can make great leaders. No doubt. Generation Y is full of ideas and fresh perspectives. We don’t really settle; we always look for a better solution and change. We are determined and naïve enough (yes) to make bold decisions and take risks. We are not afraid to tumble. “Stay hungry, stay foolish” has been pretty much our motto.
And from our yearning to learn, change and grow, comes innovations. Our positive energy and restless spirit are contagious. With us, there is neither boss nor manager. We lead by inspiring, motivating and being part of the team.
If you have millennials as part of your team, depending on your mindset and approach, it can either be the worst nightmare imaginable, or the best management experience of your career. So, how can people deal with us? Well, don’t.
– Give us something meaningful at work, a purpose, and we will stop calling it work. We will live it. A purpose gives us a sense of belonging and we will commit ourselves to the cause you stand for.
– Don’t micro-manage us. Instead, give us the freedom and flexibility to learn, explore and try things our ways. You will be amazed at the ideas we come up with.
– Give us some challenges. We are action junkies and we get bored super fast sitting in cubicles doing paperwork or running errands. Believe in us and maybe let us be in charge of a big project. This will make us feel really valued and respected. We will be even more creative, responsible and engaged.
– Allow us to learn and grow. We love learning and developing ourselves. We will be more likely to choose and engage at a workplace that provides us with training opportunities and mentorship rather than a higher-paid position doing endless repetitive work.
– Listen to us and open your mind. We might be young and inexperienced, but that is actually our advantage. We are curious and we have different views and opinions. If you are patient enough to listen to us and our ideas, we will help you “unstuck” and show you a new way of doing things. Don’t be afraid to change and accept to be challenged.
So after all, Millennial isn’t impossible at all. If you just change your mindset and approach and allow us to thrive, we are actually the “I’m possible” generation.