First I have a confession. As a leader, it has taken me some time to understand the true value of the millennial generation. Firmly planted at the end of the baby boomer generation, I bought into the many reasons why Millennials drive baby boomers crazy.
I admit, I was wrong. What I now understand, by simply paying more attention, is our young leaders can teach us a leadership lesson or two. Here are just a few of the many lessons I have learned over the past couple of years.
1) It’s okay to be a vulnerable and compassionate leader.
I was raised in a generation where showing weakness was not really acceptable. “Fake it until you make it” was the mantra in business. What I’ve learned from my younger leaders is that being “real” is much more endearing and results in quicker solutions as many minds wrap around an issue, instead of an egocentric leader pretending to have all the answers. It also helps to keep the young minds engaged, because it eliminates the monotony of doing the same things over and over again. Which brings me to my next lesson.
2) Collaboration really does make for a much better corporate culture.
As a baby boomer, I was raised as a competitor. Not just a competitor, but someone with one goal – to win. While I still believe in winning, it really is much more fun winning as a team. While baby boomers hate “participation trophies”, it does eliminate the ego driven winner/loser mentality. To be honest, I didn’t really get this until one of our top producers, whose ego was that of a single performer, left our organization. Immediately our culture changed for the better. I was shocked, because I didn’t see the effect on the whole group until he was gone. Today we all work as one team and everyone is genuinely happy for each other’s successes.
3) Employee Engagement is a real thing.
Nothing in my opinion fosters engagement more than being in the trenches with the people. Not only does this help to stay grounded in the realities that your people face every day, it can inspire people to unleash their talents around a shared vision. Today’s leaders, who focus on a “people first” culture, are watching their organization’s grow. Millennials want to work for an organization where their work serves a purpose – understanding what is their “why” as it relates to their career. As baby boomers it is a refreshing change to focus on how what we do doesn’t just produce a profit (yes this is important), but also how it serves the greater good. Once you understand this, your career too, will be much more fulfilling.
4) You can have fun while being effective.
This one has been the best learning of all. Take special note baby boomers, as the senior leaders, your culture will only change if you are willing to change with it! Over the years I’ve allowed my inner child to come out and play. We tape dorky videos, enjoy Office Olympics and stop at 4:00 some days to enjoy time as a group. Don’t get me wrong, we work extremely hard. But what I’ve learned from my younger leaders is how to laugh while working hard.
True confession, I’m a fan. Thank you Millennials for staying strong despite the criticism from other generations. We can learn much from each other and create cultures rich in diversity. Thank you for forcing us to keep an open mind and gain a fresh perspective. I so look forward to 2018, armed with the knowledge that together we will all be better.