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Leading the ‘Millennials’

by Guest Writter
Jeremy Kingsley

Companies and organizations in the US and around the world are currently facing a challenge in finding ways to motivate and lead a group called “The Millennials.” There are an estimated 80 million young people between the ages of 18-35, more specific, those born from 1980-2000 (some groups use different years). They will make up approximately 35% of the American workforce by 2014.

Millennials are the tech savvy multi-taskers who love anything electronic.  It’s almost impossible to miss them at Starbucks and fast-food joints with their laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Facebook to them is like water, vital for existence. They are smart, optimistic, creative, love to work in teams, and often have a passion for community service. Yet they are also known to have a sense of entitlement, opinionated dialogue, free spending habits, and are not good at communicating face-to-face (especially in confrontation). Millennials like to work at their own pace and don’t like rigid schedules or long hours. They are looking for more than a “job.” They want to feel a sense of purpose and have a relationship with their boss and colleagues.

If you are a leader, maybe the most important factor you should know about this group – when assigned a task, they often want to know something before they start – Why does this matter?  That can be a good or bad thing depending on the situation.

It’s too easy to say “To motivate Millennials, just follow these major tips:”

  1. Be flexible: Work-life balance is crucial for the generation.
  2. Offer feedback and encouragement regularly.
  3. Find ways to take advantage of their tech-savvy.
  4. Let them work in teams.
  5. Make community service a priority.
  6. Embrace Social Media

Those tips will help, but I think it’s deeper than that. Regardless of a staff member’s age and attitude, the challenge for any leader is to get the most out of his/her people. The quality of interaction between boss and employee is crucial. I’ve seen company directors who don’t have the first clue of how to guide their staff. Yet I have also seen bosses who lead their teams to surprising levels of success with everyone actually enjoying the process.

The more I have observed the differences in generations, the more I began to ask myself, what type of leader would be the most effective for the Millennials? How can today’s boss thrive while directing a young diverse team in a rapidly changing world? When I came out of college and grad school, I used to think that the ability to lead was only innate and therefore, could not be learned. I was wrong. Obviously there are leader’s who are born with certain abilities, are charismatic, admired, and the word LEADER might as well be tattooed on their forehead. But, I have also met a number of leaders who learned and believed in certain principles that were recognizable and definable. These leaders were consistent with these principles and as a result, had a huge impact on people and were very successful.

Leadership is about influence. The key to leading and motivating Millennials is no different than past generations – be consistent with the principles we all respond to – trust, patience, humility, loyalty, caring, and integrity.

When Milllennials see your commitment to them, you will start to see their commitment to you and your company.


About the Author

Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker, best-selling author and the President of OneLife Leadership. He is the author of four books, his latest is titled: Inspired People Produce Results (McGraw Hill 2013). 

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