As an increasing number of millennials work their way up their organizations, and become leaders, managers, and executives, they want to know how to take their leadership from just good to great. In fact, 60 percent of millennials see themselves in management positions in the next decade.
According to Jonny Chia, Innovation Director of Doable–a company that helps millennials take their ideas from pipe dream to possible–and Sheena Livingston, Creative Director, there are five specific things millennials can do to take their leadership from good to great:
1. Practice the art of empathy to help bridge the gap between team members and outside stakeholders.
2. Be inquisitive and invest in your personal growth.
3. Act as a mentor to others in your cohort/age group to help advance their own careers.
4. Trust and instill confidence in others to explore and pursue ideas.
5. Practice creativity and resourcefulness. Do a lot with a little.
I asked Jonny and Sheena to provide more detail about what millennials can do to become better employees–and great leaders. Here’s what they said.
Q: What trends are you seeing with millennial workers? What do you think stands out among them? What is different from a millennial worker than you might see from any other type of employee?
Sheena Livingston, Creative Director of Doable:
I think millennials at work tend to take matters into their own hands a little bit more. If they have an idea, they are more likely to go for it. They create a prototype, start making it or share it with people and get feedback. They don’t necessarily wait to get approval. They would rather prove out their idea first before they get permission to do it and I think that’s the trend we are starting to see.
I also think millennials are just starting to embrace their “millennial-ness” a little bit more. A few years ago, there were all these articles about how millennials are the “me, me, me generation”: selfish, lazy, narcissistic, needy. And you wanted to hide the fact that you were younger and you wanted to talk and act a little bit older, more professional, buttoned up. You wanted to act like the leaders in the company were acting. But now, millennials are starting to be themselves a little bit more at work. There is more celebration of the good qualities of millennials. You are starting to see appreciation in the headlines you read. And we’re becoming such a larger part of the workforce so there’s strength in numbers. I think everyone should be able to be themselves at work or not feel like they have to conform to what was the standard to previous generations.
Jonny Chia, Innovation Director of Doable:
Another trend we’re seeing is that millennials are a lot more inquisitive than generations before. They have grown up with social and professional networks that allow them to look into different worlds beyond their own. This ability has developed a lifelong passion to continue to evolve oneself. Millennials are aware that in order to keep up in an ever-changing and sped up world, they need to continue to learn and evolve, and do it fast. This is how they will not only make themselves relevant but also invaluable.
Personal growth is a huge motivator for millennials at work. There’s a drive to innovate or create something new. Actually, financial reward and recognition or fame are ranking on the lower end of motivators. It’s really just about bettering yourself.
Agreed, adding more tools to your toolkit so that you can achieve the things in the future that you want or will be asked to do.
Yeah adding value to the world. And that’s why you’ll see millennials have regular jobs, but then they also have some kind of side hustle or passion project, whether it’s like a blog or a new company.
Q: What type of leadership traits do millennials possess–or should they possess?
Listening is a big one. Leaders should listen more than they talk. They need to be open to feedback. That means if they’re asking for feedback, they need to be open to actually taking that feedback and turning it into actionable results. You need to see your leaders change based on feedback and experiences.
For millennials taking leadership from good to great, they need to be able to act as the arbitrative party by working across the aisle and translate what’s going on at the ground level, and in the c-suite.
This means that you need to practice the art of empathy and collaboration to create the best solution with that works for the majority of the key stakeholders. This doesn’t mean creating the blandest version of the idea, but rather understanding the strengths of your team members/staff and giving them chances to leverage their strengths throughout the process to come to the best solution.
Some questions I like to ask myself when working with millennials and now Generation Z are: “How can I be that person that can help bridge the gap between team members and outside stakeholders?”, “who is the most informed and influential throughout the different parts of the process?”, and “how do I keep everyone engaged and contributing when their opinions are not in line with right direction?” (Because they will likely be integral in another part of the process or decision.)
To Jonny’s point, being able to work with different kinds of people and actually move forward and not come to a stalemate is really important. The ability to negotiate and find a solution that works for everyone is key.
I also think trusting people is really important for leadership. You’ve chosen this person to be on your team for a reason, so trust them to do what they do best. Give them the autonomy that’s going to make them feel like they are making decisions and have agency. And that’s going to make them feel invested in the project or a company. Nobody likes to be micromanaged. No one performs better that way.
I think it’s crucial for people that want to nurture their leadership skills to get in front of the people they work with whether they’re customers or they’re colleagues. It is really important spend face to face time to build relationships.
Q: Do you think there’s a role for millennials to help break through the brick wall of hierarchy and process to get ideas and opinions heard?
Millennials are now coming into the position of middle management or at least in a couple years. Millennial managers need to emphasize being a conduit of information and resources rather than a wall. This means asking yourself, “how can I help guide or connect this person to the things that they need to advance their agenda?”
I know some millennials that are managers at large companies and one thing that I’ve noticed is that they’re going above and beyond to mentor the younger millennials. We’re in our early 30s and so we’re starting to take management positions. And we’re starting to work with people that are 10 years younger than us, which is kind of freaky having been the youngest people at work our whole careers. But I’ve certainly noticed that my friends at companies are asking me if I could have coffee with their protégé. They’re going above and beyond to set up their younger colleagues for success. It doesn’t seem like it’s protocol or a program through the job. They are being magnanimous. Anecdotally, it’s something I’ve noticed.
Q: How do you think these mentor relationships are forming?
I don’t think millennial managers see their only resources as being within the company that they work in. They’re all about nurturing connections, professionally and socially, so that they have this buffet of resources to choose from that’s not necessarily within the walls of their organization. And I think that’s okay. I think that as soon as companies embrace that, it opens the gates to more of that behavior.
Q: What skills do you think millennials have that are particularly good that other generations don’t seem to have?
Confidence. They are a pretty confident generation; in case you haven’t noticed. And I think that can take them pretty far.
Creativity is one of the main characteristics. Millennials have passion projects and side hustles. They’re acting entrepreneurial and innovating because they have access to an unprecedented amount of tools and technology to make their ideas a reality. They could publish their own writing, get funding for projects from the crowd, start movements with a hashtag, have millions of people view their talents on YouTube and get immediate feedback on their creations.
Millennials are resourceful. They don’t necessarily feel like they have to go through the proper channel or climb a corporate ladder. They’ve seen their co-millennials rise up on YouTube without a record deal. They’ve seen their fellow millennials create blogs that make them millions of dollars without getting a traditional publisher. They’ve seen people be successful without having to necessarily “put in your time” and “keep your head down.” That’s the traditional way we were taught when we first started working: “you just wait; your time will come.” But now we’re starting to say, “No, I don’t actually have to wait my turn or put my head down.” With the tools, technology and platforms that are available to me, I can do it myself on my own timeline.
CREDIT: Getty Images