Want to Lead Millennials? Just Stop Giving Us What We Want

Millennials

There are countless articles out there that detail how to lead Millennials — everything from the importance of transparency, meaningful work, and being genuine in your efforts.

There is no doubt that our generation is looking to turn the traditional leadership approach of “Do as I say” inside out. We want leaders that inspire us to conquer the world.

While there is nothing wrong with a leader that has many of the attributes listed above, there is a problem with the delivery. Too many managers are concerned with making Millennials happy through giving us everything we want.

Please, stop doing this!

Here are four (4) ways you try to make us happy but actually do a great disservice to our generation:

1. When we ask for more work, you give it to us

We have come to you for the umpteenth time asking for something to do. This is particularly annoying for Gen Xers that were raised to fend for themselves when Boomers were out building incredible careers.

For the record, who raised Millennials? Gen X have you created the problem you are now complaining about?

But back to my point. Instead of denying our request you feed the bear. If you continue to babysit us through supplying to-do lists throughout our early careers, we will get promoted because we get a lot of work done.

What happens in return is we fall on our face because you are no longer there to layout our step-by-step plan.

Please, take more time now to explain why we can’t run to you every time we are bored or uncertain.

2. You tweet, text and Skype us

It’s no secret that we lack soft skills, especially when it comes to communication. Instead of forcing us to improve this deficiency, you caved and once again and gave us what we wanted – less face-to-face communication.

Has technology improved the world we live in? Of course it has, but, it also created a generation that has had less face time than any other.

Instead of relying on technology to communicate with us, schedule more in-person meetings, force us to join networking groups that do not require a screen name and maybe even recommend some public speaking courses.

We must find ways to hold meaningful conversations with others instead of going mute after 140 characters.

3. You give us an “A” when we deserve a “C”

Millennials are the coddled generation where everyone gets a participation trophy, many say. Xers and Boomers feel they cannot deliver any negative feedback to Millennials because our skins are just too thin.

Instead of telling us we completely blew it, you polish our trophy for trying our best. In return, we are taught that as long as we work really, really hard, we will succeed.

While we all need ambition, goals, and vision, there are times in life that we will fail. We need to know it is just that – a  failure.

I’m not advocating that you criticize anyone when they make mistakes, but don’t be afraid to tell us we could have done better and inform us of the implications our mistakes have.

I promise we will not start sobbing in your office.

4. You promote before we are ready

I remember teaching a course on generations in the workplace and I asked a Millennial how soon she felt she should be promoted. She said two years — after being in her current role for just six months.

The Gen Xer sitting behind her literally laughed out loud. She then proceeded to tell her Millennial co-worker that she spent 13 years in one role before receiving a promotion.

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After the training session I pulled the Millennial aside and asked why she thought two years until the next step. She said,   “Because I’ve done all the tasks outlined in the job description, so I can clearly do the job.”

Her response is where the “entitled” stereotype comes from.

Humor me and think about the game Angry Birds. The object of the game is to get rid of all the pigs at each level. Once the
level is complete, you are promoted to the next. Which generation has grown up gaming since they were small children? Why do we think as long as we complete tasks instead of master them we get to move to the next level?

Show us why mastering a skill versus completing it once or even twice is imperative to our success.

So, should you forget everything you know on how to attract, hire and retain Millennials?

Absolutely not, but please, do not make life harder on either of us by trying to make us happy.