Challenges and tips to leading Millennials

If you feel frustrated leading millennials, you are not alone especially if you are of my generation. I have been privileged to manage millennials in my career. It is not a walk in the park if you do not understand them. Manage them well, you get excellent results, mismanaged them, you end up with low productivity and losing them at the end. They will rather stay at home than work for the money. Money is not a motivator for most millennials.

According to Morley Safer, “The workplace has become a psychological battlefield and the millennials have the upper hand, because they are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their bodies. They multitask, talk, walk, listen and type, and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first” (AZ Quotes). This is a very good summary of a millennial. With this type of complexity, millennials require leaders who can inspire them to achieve set goals. Dictatorship type of leadership approach does not work with them.

There is no denial they are technically very good, think on their feet and deliver the desired results. On the other hand, they have little attention span, have no respect for protocols and want to do things their own way. Try to play their game, they will beat you to it without remorse and leave you in confusion. Leading them requires understanding, patience and above all empathy which most leaders lack because they do not understand them. Constant engagement is required to understand what motivates them.

According to Wikipedia, “researchers and popular media use the early 1980s as starting birth years and mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years, with 1981 to 1996 being widely accepted as defining range for the generation.” They are smart, intelligent with short attention span, focused, impatient, forward looking, idealistic, not afraid and want to be listened to and taken seriously.

I visited one of the tech companies in Silicon valley last year and we were informed that the vehicles in which they were transported to the office were equipped with power points and Wifi. They put in about 2 hours of work in traffic before they got to the office. To lead them successfully, you have to enable them by providing the tools they require to do their job. We lost 3 of them in my previous work place because they were given standard computers used by the organisation which were not powerful enough to help them deliver on their mandate.

Motivation is important in leading millennials. You need to identify what motivates them and give it to them and in some cases, it is not money. Some of them want to work flexible hours and some from home some days of the week. More importantly, you have to treat them with respect. They know their worth and can easily find places where they will be accepted even paid higher remuneration because they are in high demand.

I have avoided using the word managing in this article because millennials don’t like being controlled and instead they want to be in control. Therefore, you must not micro manage millennials. Tell them the result you expect, empower them and they will deliver on their own terms. You lead them by influencing them which is the essence of leadership. You have to listen to them actively with patience and show them that you care. That is the key to getting the best out of them.

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