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When our clients speak of management struggles, they often speak of challenges in managing millennials.
When I was a teenager, much to the chagrin of my parents, I loved drag racing. To be successful in drag racing you need a car with a big engine and a lot of horsepower. While challenging, the concept of horsepower is pretty straightforward. What is often more challenging is getting all that power to the road without your wheels just spinning. Managing millennials is similar. They have a lot of horsepower but how do you get the power to the road without your wheels just spinning?
Here is what we have learned from interactions with thousands of candidates, dozens of clients and from building our own teams: It’s really not all that different. We just have to be really good managers. Here are the five keys we stress:
- Be Worthy of Following. Millennials don’t follow you because you are old or have position of authority. Millennials follow you because you are worthy of following and have something to offer them. Don’t expect to have respect. Expect to earn respect. You will not be followed for the seat in which you sit. You will be followed for who you are.
- Explain the Why. Millennials work best when they understand how what they are doing fits in the big picture. They want to know the impact they are having. Being a taskmaster doesn’t work. Helping millennials understand why their task is important works in helping millennials be successful.
- Be Future-Leading. Millennials want to know where they are going. Active career development is important. Managers must help millennials develop a vision of their future and then help lead them there. An important part of future-leading is helping them understand that what they are doing today helps them tomorrow.
- Develop Self-Managers. Millennials don’t like a lot of oversight. However, they don’t have the abilities, early in their careers, to self-manage. They must be intentionally equipped with the tactics, processes, tools and education to be successful. This can be a slow build process. What is critical is that you are “explaining the why” and “future-leading” during this process. If they understand the why and where they are headed, they are much more likely to engage in the journey of becoming self-managers.
- Accountable Culture. If you made the journey to self-management, then you are one step away from management mecca…. an accountable culture. Once you have self-managers, you can start to manage by outcomes. Be clear on outcomes and timing and get out of the way.
Managing millennials isn’t easy. However, they make us better managers and they have a lot to offer. If managers can help them transfer all their horsepower to the road, without everyone spinning their wheels, then millennials and their employers have a great chance at success. Happy drag racing! Would love to hear your comments.