Written on: July 6, 2017
by Elisa Coleclough
I am from generation X, so it means I am encountering the millennials in their first jobs. At the beginning I have to admit it, it was different working with them, they seem to be very active, and are 100% technology connected, their scale of job commitment and satisfaction is entirely different to mine. However, they are here to stay, they are the future. I have often found out that people from my generation kind of fight them constantly instead of teaming up the good aspects of both generations.
This is a very complex subject and I most certainly could write about it for pages and pages, but here are 5 things that as a leader of millennials I have found useful for both parties:
Social networkers. They are all the time, with their cellphones, tablets and all these cool gadgets around, they live in a connected world, and guess what?… we all live in the same world. We cannot deny how technology and social media has shaped our lives. Instead of fighting them we need to inspire them to use the technology for the better for the research and for attaining the goal objectives.
Leaders instead of bosses. Generation X, respects the authority just because it is authority itself, for the millennials you have to give them a good and valid reason to respect you. So the rules are clear, you need to give respect and your attention if you want theirs; otherwise the span of attention will go from low to inexistent. For example, you listen first, if you want to be listened. You lead by example.
Gadget-free meetings. While in meeting, we all leave our “gadgets” aside and we see each other faces. It is quite annoying for some people that other people are talking to them and they are listening to you (or not) and typing in the cells like their life depended on that (and this goes to all generations not millennials only). So in order to be all in the same page, in our weekly meetings, I set a box, yes an empty paper box, with a sign that says “leave your tech here”. The meetings are short about 30 to 40mins no longer, the aim is to talk about our work (finance stuff, objectives and all that) but also to see our faces and body language and pay 100% full attention to the conversation.
Appreciate their talents. The younger they are the more knowledgeable about ERPs, apps, networks, features and tech in general. I totally use that. I know more about other things, and so I do the quid pro quo. I say I will teach about a certain subject, meanwhile they teach me about certain tech stuff. I totally love technology and guess what, they do not look at me like I know nothing, they look at me like they are being helpful to me and they are being able to share their knowledge. So if you are the kind of leader who is afraid to say “that I do not know” it is time you let your guard down and start making your team feel appreciated for what they DO know. It will pay off more than you think!
Commitment and freedom are not incompatible. I always explain the reasons, why I want what I want, the final purpose, my suggestions to perform certain tasks, how it will fit in the whole organization, what is ok to do and not to do, the soft skills and technical skills that they will gain by doing that. I give examples, but after I have done so, I leave them on their own. It is really hard for me to do that and not being able to peep at what they do, because I tend to over control everything. However, I remember to myself, I come from a different generation, they need their time and space. Sometimes, though when I look at their puzzled faces, I come around and ask if everything is ok, or simply remind them that my door is open if they have any questions, or whatever they need. 80% of the time, the results I get from them exceed my expectations. And that is because I give them clear instructions, autonomy and the sense of empowerement. It certainly works.
In a nutshell, here is what I have learnt along this way, I love tech, and I get to learn a lot from the millennials, but also they get to learn a lot from me in terms of content, leadership, technical financial skills and analysis and all those things that only come with many years of experience in finance. We complement each other. I show respect for what they know, and they show respect for what I do.
So next time you hear about millennials, think of the as the future, the creators, the influencers, their creativity and “tech-friendly” skill set, and tell yourself this: Let’s team up!