Executive Education

Six Ways to Effectively Lead Millennials

Not a day goes by that I’m not asked the question, “How can we lead these millennials?”

I am to the point now that I generally just laugh at first and then quickly answer, “You lead them like you lead others.”

That usually gets me a blank stare and then some form of a follow-up question that usually starts with, “But…”

Sure, there is much chatter. And there are a lot of social media posts about this generation. But have you ever thought for a minute that maybe, just maybe, the only difference between this generation and the one you are from, is the media exposure?

Have you ever considered that it is all just blown out of proportion?

I work individually with several successful millennials, and I can tell you firsthand that I lead them the same way I lead everyone else.

Here is how you can lead millennials well. 

1. Recognize that leadership is a priority for you, your team, and your organization.

Work on self-awareness. Choose to be a leader rather than a boss. Develop your own Leader’s Creed or simply use mine. If you set the standard for good leadership in your organization, your team (from millennials to baby boomers) will respect and follow your lead.

2. Engage and connect with your team.

Ask more open-ended questions and (this is key)…listen to what they have to say. You may actually learn something from their perspective, and especially as it pertains to automation, technology, and innovation in the workplace.

Get to know them better than you do now. Learn their interests.

Find common ground. For example, millennials tend to be very much about purpose. If you have ever talked to someone in their forties and fifties – and if you listen closely – you will hear the same desires for purpose in their work.

Find out what they truly value in life. Every person has a “why.” If you as a leader know the “whys” of your people and help them work based on those, you will seldom have motivation issues with your team. A good “why” is the best motivator.

Help them not only connect with you, but with the vision of the organization. Take them beyond the individual level to the level of higher and greater purpose. Being part of team with a clear and unified goal bonds individuals into one highly cohesive and very effective whole.

Make them feel like part of a team…because they are. It is important that each team member recognize value in their fellow team members. No matter what generation each represents, they bring perspective and ideas that are unique to them and valuable to the organization.

Be caring, but disciplined. It takes both to be a leader. Leaning too far in either direction yields the same lack of results.

As Teddy Roosevelt is credited to have said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Ensure that your discipline is done because you care. Your people will more readily accept it, knowing that you are only seeking to help them grow and be the best they can be.

This balance is a major difference between being a boss versus being a truly effective leader.

3. Drive results.

Teach, and show them how to drive results with you, not for you. Be a results-driven leader, and you will attract other results-driven people.

Set goals with them. There are instances where they may inspire your team to set higher goals than they would normally consider because they are accustomed to striving for higher levels in sports and technology, for example.

Develop strategies together. This is a great exercise for broader perspectives to combine forces. It often lends to new and fresh ideas for how to reach the goals you have set.

Celebrate successes and milestones as a team. When your team works well together and reaches a goal, every person wins.

Download and discuss your failures. This is a major lesson for those just starting into their careers. It lets them know that failure happens, that it is okay to fail because it means you have tried to do something. And if it doesn’t work, you talk about it, learn from it…and grow. In fact, and we can all attest to this, some of our most impactful life lessons have come from failure.

4. Develop others.

Make it your personal mission to help them develop as leaders. Lead by example and let them do the same. Invest in their development. Learn together, grow together, and create an environment that is a leadership development machine.

At some point in your career, this facet of developing others will become the most meaningful part of your legacy. And the good news is, you can start to build that legacy today. The opportunities abound.

Elon Musk

5. Advance the vision.

Include them in conversations about where the company or department is heading. Ask them for ideas and suggestions. Let them know you want them involved in advancing the vision, through forward thinking and strategies.

This inclusion has manifold benefit: they will feel valued, secure, and purposeful in their work if they can see the greater good that will come of it.

6. Legacy

Most people think about family when they hear the word “legacy.”

And while family is usually our most impactful legacy, we also have an opportunity to leave a legacy to those with whom we work on a daily basis.

The fact is, you are going to have a legacy; why not make it one that speaks to developing current and future leaders?

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Dave Ferguson
Internationally respected and highly experienced executive leadership coach, speaker and author. Check Dave out at LivingToLead.com. Dave is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.