“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” ~ Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
Judy Garland’s line from The Wizard Oz could appropriately capture the feeling of many leaders when it comes to managing Millennials in the workplace – it’s a whole new world! Millennials, or Gen Y (born 1982-1995), are rapidly becoming a greater share of the workforce and some studies have estimated that by 2025 they will comprise 75% of the working population. Like each generation before them, they bring a unique blend of attitudes, traits, and characteristics that define how they “show up” at work. Building trust with this generation and leveraging their strengths in the workplace is a pressing priority for today’s generation of leaders.
Last week I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion on the topic of Trust in Millennial Leaders, on the Trust Across America radio show, hosted by my friend Jon Mertz, a leadership writer and marketing executive. Jon assembled representatives from Gen Y who are in the early stages of their careers along with a couple of “old guys” (me included!) further along in their career.
The insightful discussion produced a number of valuable learning moments, four of which stood out to me as particularly important for leaders to grasp in order to build trust with Millennials.
1. Millennials are a trusting, optimistic generation – Whenever you speak about generational demographics, there is the danger of over-generalizing and stereotyping individuals. With that said, by and large the Millennial generation has a higher propensity to trust others and they value authentic relationships. A study by Deloitte showed that 87% of the Millennials they surveyed reported that they “completely,” “mostly,” or “moderately” trust their boss, with nearly 1 in 3 falling in the “completely” category. This opens the door for leaders to extend trust to the Millennials on their team with the expectation that trust will be reciprocated. Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship and it’s the starting point for leaders interested in maximizing the talents of the younger generation.
2. Tech savviness of Millennials opens new doors – Gen Y is the first workforce generation to grow up completely in the world of modern computers and it fundamentally drives the way they approach work. Millennials take to technology like a fish takes to water and their use of technology is forcing organizations to reevaluate their business practices. The ubiquitous use of social media by Millennials is one prominent example. For many younger workers there is a blending of work and social community interaction through Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms. Today’s leaders need to consider ways to build trust with Millennials through the use of technology rather than viewing these new methods with fear or suspicion.
3. Millennials are quick learners – In large part due to their upbringing in the computer age, Millennials are conditioned to consume, absorb, and apply large amounts of information. (No experience with creating a business plan? Google it and have nearly 3 million options to meet your need!) Because of their fast-paced nature to learn on the fly, many in this generation have gotten the bad rap of not wanting to “pay their dues” or are “entitled” (Generation Me!) to quick promotions and pay raises. Leaders interested in building trust would be wise to avoid labeling Millennials with these stereotypes and treat them on an individual basis. As Jon Mertz pointed out, many Gen Y’ers understand that growth in organizations today is much more horizontally focused than vertically up the traditional corporate ladder.
4. Millennials know the power of community – A common trait of this generation is their focus on social causes and the strength that comes from like-minded individuals banding together to achieve a common goal. Whether it’s assisting in disaster relief, combating slave trafficking, or providing clean water to villagers in Africa, Millennials have emerged as leaders in addressing social issues. What does that mean for organizational leaders? Millennials are naturals at teamwork! Who wouldn’t want that skill in their company? Millennials are eager and ready to accept new responsibilities and have a natural inclination to partner with others to achieve ambitious goals. Rather than forcing Millennials to “wait their turn,” leaders can build trust by looking for appropriate projects and growth opportunities where they can showcase their talents.
I encourage you to listen to the recording of the radio show. I think you’ll come away from the discussion with a greater appreciation for the skills and talents that Millennials bring to the workforce and a greater hope for a bright future with this new generation of leaders.
Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.
Trying to keep your internal (employees) and external customers coming back? Maybe it’s time to engage diversity, embrace new and innovative ideas from all of your customers, and be a learner with everyone you meet.
Last week I was with a client teaching a session on the topic of Legendary Service. There were people in the room from six different countries and we were beaming out to three more. The participants represented a rich blend of values, generations, depth of knowledge of technology, and history with customer service content. It was an amazing opportunity to see what service looks and feels like given different life views. The dialogue was frequent, fiery, and focused. Below are a few pearls of wisdom I captured from the group’s spontaneous suggestions—with important morals for interacting with anyone.
- Some of the women felt that a mentality exists that women are not as technologically savvy as men. These very smart women feel talked down to when a product or process is being explained to them. They are left feeling insulted, irritated, and humiliated rather than cared for. Moral: When explaining a new product or process, treat every customer as if they were the smartest person you know who is simply learning something new.
- Some of the men felt that women take too long to get to the point when sharing their thoughts. These men want to know up front what women want—their specific, targeted needs or ideas—as opposed to spending time reflecting on whys, hows, and back stories. This reminded me of a football metaphor regarding the difference in men’s and women’s communication styles. Picture the players on the line of scrimmage: “64, 56, 72, HIKE!” Like football players, these men are eagerly waiting to get the ball and run with it. Moral: Do your work ahead of time so you can speed up the focus and desired actions from conversations.
- From an international participant: People don’t seem to listen anymore. Most attendees agreed that people have lost the talent of listening. Many act as if they have heard every question a thousand times. They don’t focus on finding out specific details, but rush to generalize the question and dive into their prepared spiel. We had a rich discussion on the cost of NOT listening to people—it causes rework, doesn’t solve the problem, and leaves the other person feeling uncared for. Moral: Give people the gift of listening. Listen to learn. See each interaction as the first you’ve had with that person and clarify what you heard before you share your thoughts.
- From a brilliant Latin American woman: Many people think they are being efficient with others’ time by diving right into the task—but they forget that some people need to know that there is deep appreciation for their time, ideas, and culture before they can truly listen. Others in the room agreed that in many Latin, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries it is crucial to build a relationship BEFORE transacting business. Moral: Build the relationship and show respect before addressing the task.
It’s exciting to live in a generation where we can learn so much about the different ways people solve problems, leverage their history, and stay energized. Customers expect us to know their needs. We can learn about and leverage the rich diversity of their values, ages, and ethnicities and their competence at using our products, services and processes. Let’s deliver value to all customers by listening to their voice and communicating with them in a way that ensures they feel heard.
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their “others-focused” posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, a time to reflect back on the life and teachings of the great civil rights leader and activist. While most of us will not be called to engage in social activism on the scale that Dr. King did, we can still have a great impact on the people around us through our actions and behaviors.
Here are three ways to honor the spirit of Dr. King’s message in your corner of the world.
Be inclusive. It’s never a good idea to create artificial divisions between people even though, as humans, we seem to love to do it. People have a fundamental need, and a right, to be included in decisions that affect them. No one likes to be left out. Go out of your way to bring people into the process.
Listen. Once you’ve brought people together, make sure that you take the next step and truly listen to them. One of our favorite reminders for leaders is to occasionally stop and remember the acronym WAIT—Why Am I Talking? And one of our favorite recommendations for leaders is to “listen with the intent of being influenced.” Use both in your interactions with people.
Act with integrity. Even though people may not always agree with the final outcome, it’s important that we always agree with, and respect, the process. Leaders need to be especially conscientious in monitoring the ways that decisions are reached. Resist the tendency to cut corners. Ken Blanchard recommends that leaders hold themselves to a high standard by using a 3-step ethics check with all major decisions. Start with the basics—is it legal and is it fair? Then hold yourself to a higher standard by asking, “Would you be proud if your decision-making process and result was published and widely known?”
As you go back to work this week, take a minute to review the way you are interacting with people. Are you including all stakeholders in the process? Are you truly listening to everyone’s ideas and concerns? Are you being fair and ethical in the way you are making decisions and allocating resources?
Today, more than ever, we need a process that includes, instead of excludes, people. See what you can do in your areas of influence this week. You’ll be surprised at the difference you can make.
Bringing people together from a wide variety of backgrounds creates tremendous opportunities for organizations, but also some challenges. In two upcoming executive briefings in Calgary and Ottawa, best-selling business author and consultant Ken Blanchard will be discussing how organizations can benefit from new perspectives if they are able to unite people behind a common set of values and goals.
For leaders looking to improve their ability to successfully manage a diverse workforce, Blanchard recommends six strategies:
- Set a clear, inclusive vision. As Blanchard explains, that includes identifying your organizational purpose, picture of the future, operating values, and action steps.
- Increase the quality and quantity of conversations occurring between managers and direct reports. The greater the amount of diversity there is in the workforce, the more managers have to communicate to make sure that everyone’s issues and concerns are on the table.
- Walk the talk. In the past, if leaders were inconsistent, employees would talk about it in the bathrooms and in the hallways, but that was usually as far as it went. Today, people are much more direct, so integrity is more important than ever.
- Turn the organizational hierarchy upside-down. Effective day-to-day implementation requires turning the organizational chart upside down so that front line people are at the top serving customers while leaders move themselves to a supporting role and focus on removing roadblocks and providing resources.
- Consider the whole person. Don’t ask people to “leave their nerve endings at the door.” Employees want their managers to know them as people—including the issues they might be dealing with both in and out of work. Employees want to feel cared for, understood, and supported in their efforts to make a difference at work.
- Increase involvement. As Blanchard likes to point out, “No one of us is as smart as all of us.” One of the great advantages in having a diverse population is that you can tackle a problem from a rich variety of viewpoints. But you have to encourage participation and really listen to what people have to say to make the most of that opportunity.
Globalization and the increasingly international nature of business is changing the requirements of leadership. The old ways of doing things are not necessarily the ways of leading in the future. By using the excitement, willingness and the capability of people from diverse backgrounds, leaders will find they are able to make a significant impact in their organizations, their communities, and in all walks of life.
You can learn more about what Ken Blanchard has to say on The Changing Face of Leadership by checking out his recent article in Diversity Executive. You can learn more about his upcoming presentations in Calgary and Ottawa by clicking here.
Would you like to win a free seat to see Ken Blanchard in Calgary or Ottawa?
Tweet about this post between now and October 4 and you will automatically be entered into a raffle to win a seat to Ken’s presentation in Calgary October 19 or Ottawa on October 22 (a $250 value). Be sure to include @LeaderChat in the body of your tweet. One winner will be randomly selected and announced on October 5. Winner will have their choice of attending either the Calgary or Ottawa presentation.
October 5 Update: Congratulations to Peter John McFarlane @pjmcfarlane who won the free admission to see Ken Blanchard in Calgary or Ottawa. Thanks to everyone who re-tweeted this announcement!