Three weeks ago at a business lunch with some colleagues I made the statement that “Millennials Make Great Leaders” and it became clear that I had taken them by surprise. They are the utmost professionals so they were not quick to disagree, but from their facial expressions and looks at each other, they were searching for the words. One of them eventually said to me, “Maurice, that is a very bold statement to make.” He, a consultant who interacts with more business owners and executives than I do, continued saying, “In all my years, you are the only person I have ever heard say anything like that. Most of the business owners and managers I speak with are saying the opposite. They don’t like to work with Millennials and they can’t seem to get them to focus and stay.”
I told him that I understood and that I too, hear the same thing. They were open to dive into the topic so we began to peel out some of the issues. I told them that the reason I believe managers and business owners are feeling that way is because by and large we, as non-Millennials, have written Millennials off and we have not figured out how to tap into the energy, skills and potential that Millennials bring to the table.
One of the other guys was very transparent and said, “I have tried. I really have. But I find that what they bring to the table is unreasonable and over-demanding.” He shared with us how he often hears from Millennials that they want fast opportunities for growth and too many perks. I encouraged him to be open, and to hear what they are really saying because a lot of what Millennials are requesting is not actually unreasonable. We as non-Millennials just don’t know how to negotiate with them, get them what they want or tell them how to get us what we want. He agreed that he too had thrown his hands up in the air. I told him that we needed to figure this out quickly because there is a tsunami wave growing that has over 70 million Millennials already moving into positions of leadership throughout the marketplace. And right behind them is another 60 million Gen Z’s who are looking to us for opportunities and help to grow.
The more we talked, the more we agreed that the biggest challenge we saw Millennials facing was being un-coachable and coming in to their jobs with so much education that they didn’t really think they needed any mentoring and coaching from us or from their peers. However, we collectively also admitted that we are very poor at giving them the time and support to coach them even if they are coachable.
By the end of our meal, we were more hopeful and left with a better outlook; desiring to develop ourselves so we could connect better with Millennials. I encouraged them that my experience - at my office - is that when you do listen to what they want, and you negotiate with them what you want, and you coach them on a regular basis what you expect from them, the Millennials have an incredible ability to get things done. They love results. They are more no-nonsense than most of us, and they will be more efficient because they want to get out of the office and do other activities. Those are all good things.
I told my colleagues I was going to be writing a series of blogs, and do a workshop soon about this. They asked me to send it to them and share with them what I discovered.
This series of blogs is what I’m sending them, and what I’ll be sharing with you as well. My goals are to help both sides find collaboration and support, to listen to each other, and build great leadership all around.
I welcome your feedback.