Leading Millennials: 10 Silent Expectations They Won’t Express

If you listened—gave us the opportunity to speak honestly and frankly, and you really heard what we said—we might all be better for it.

Read this article on Catalyst Conference.

So You Lead Millennials: 10 Expectations They Won’t Demand Face to Face, but You’ll Be Better For Embracing Anyway

We live in a day when everyone has leadership advice, many offer unsolicited input about Millennials, and stereotyping is the Internet’s modus operandi.

So is it any use to write about leadership tips for the stereotypical Millennial generation, or is that just too cliché?

Yes and yes, perhaps, because “according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, there are plenty of them to study, 80 million plus (the largest cohort size in history).” Though full of contradictions and confounding traits that other generations easily besmirch, there’s still plenty to appreciate and praise about today’s social-minded digital natives.

As a generation known for lack of long-term commitments, Millennials are poor poster children for proven work and leadership—but are they, really? One astute writer recently pointed out:

“The negative opinions directed at millennials are a perfect example, on an enormous societal scale, of cultural gaslighting.” – Born Again Minimalist

The tide is turning in churches and culture, with more young adults stepping into the forefront of businesses, arts, ministries, and more.

Those of us identified as Millennials, generally born between 1980 and 2000, can admit some of the stereotypes are true for good reason. We often gravitate toward doing what we want, avoiding responsibility and hard work, and saving money by living with our parents long after we attain a college degree (the fine art of “mooching”—or being strategically fiscally agile—depends on who you ask). In other words, we are fellow humans who’ve experienced the same difficult economic recession the same as all the rest. Some of us have just embraced the new trend called “delayed adolescence,” while the rest of the world tumbles onward.

But it’s not that simple.

“The millennial generation has been tasked with fixing the broken system we inherited and chastised for not doing it right or for daring to suggest improvements. If you think we’re doing a bad job, ask yourself how it got this way in the first place.” – Born Again Minimalist

We’re actually quite skilled, engaged, and creative in seeking for solutions previous generations never had to seek out.

We may have prevalent flaws, but that means we need all the more help overcoming them.

Mentors and leaders are the cheerleaders and gatekeepers of our lives, simultaneously pushing us forward and keeping us back from doing meaningful work. To really accomplish something as our life’s work, we’re going to need assistance as well as responsibility. Just because we’re younger doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be respected or listened to. We may not have much proven worth career-wise at this point in our lives, but it doesn’t grant older generations a free pass to ignore us.

If you listened—gave us the opportunity to speak honestly and frankly, and you really heard what we said—we might all be better for it.

Here’s what we’d tell you:

10 Suggestions for Leaders from the Millennial Generation

  1. Cast vision. Millennials don’t want to be given tasks to accomplish. We want to be part of a story bigger than ourselves. Paint the big picture and remind us where we fit into it.
  2. Be accessible. You’re an industry professional we can learn much from. But for us to learn from you, we’ve got to be around you and interact with you. (But don’t try to be our buddy; that’s weird and boundaries are a good thing.)
  3. Be interested. One rightly-emphasized aspect of the postmodern perspective is relationship over rules. We can easily get lost in the minutiae of tasks, so even a brief, friendly conversation with a boss can lift spirits among the cubicles. (Again: boundaries.)
  4. Be patient with us. We desperately need work experience and we’re hoping your company is one that can grow us and prepare us for a better future, even if it’s not with you.
  5. Lead with passion. No one is drawn to dry, robotic rigidity. We want to see what gets other people motivated to do great work.
  6. Develop talent. It’s convenient for a leader to use interns or newbies in the office to fill gaps in the company positions, or frantically meet the demand of each day with an unplanned reordering. But take the time to learn who we are and what skills we can best use to benefit the company. Recognize personalities, too. Don’t make the extrovert file papers in the corner all day. Don’t tell the introvert she looks too serious when she’s focused on a project. It’s better for everybody long term.
  7. Be honest. We don’t need you to sugarcoat the truth. If we suck at something, tell us why and shift us into a role that works off our strengths for the good of the whole team. Give us the space and agency to choose how we apply your feedback.
  8. Respect our boundaries. We’ve all got more going on in life outside of our work. Sure, we should put in our full hours and be willing to go the extra mile at times. But don’t abuse our schedules or take our time for granted. Our commitment can stretch, but it will break if you keep repeating the same encroachments on the boundaries we put around our personal and professional lives.
  9. Invite us into the decision-making process. You can tell us something, or you can include us in creative problem solving and allow us to craft part of the organization. These kinds of opportunities will help us really buy into the vision of the company.
  10. Believe in us. We’ll work ten times harder if we know our leaders have our best interest in mind, not just the company’s profits margin.

A time will come when the current generation has had its final day. Transition will be necessary—in fact, it’s already begun. A leader can’t keep her position forever.

By valuing the Millennials in your organization, you ensure the next generation of leaders will take the helm the best equipped they could ever be. They will be better for it, and your organization will be better for it. Good leadership is about leaving a good legacy, and a legacy worth leaving is rooted in what benefits people.

Give Millennials a chance.

It will be our turn soon, so we’re better prepared if you lead us well in the meantime. We are leaders in the making. Please don’t underestimate us. Besides, we might even surprise you.

Also on Made For More:
Why I Turn Off My iPhone Notifications

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