Five years ago I was hosting a session of over 100 HR professionals at a user conference on the topic of managing millennials.  I was totally surprised by the anger and frustration they had for this generation. Why?

Simon Sinek in an interview described the problem with millennials, saying they are tough to manage, entitled, lack focus and lazy.  Talking to peers both at work and outside of work everyone seems to agree with this viewpoint.

Sinek says if you ask millennials what they want they will say they want to work somewhere with a sense of purpose, where they can make an impact, have free food and beanbags.  His premise is that there are four factors that play into the way they are: parenting, technology, impatience and environment.

For so many years as leaders we have not had to worry about integrating new employees into the business because they mostly had the same value set and work ethic as we did.  We became complacent.  I know I did. Until I was thrust into hiring over 100 college graduates at one time and relying on them to get us through the hardest time in the company’s history.

Based on what I learned there and elsewhere, here are my three tips to leading millennials:

  1. Challenge your assumptions about the path to success. The path doesn’t always have to look the same to be “the right way.”  A new generation brings new ideas and many new paths.  Tap into that! As a leader you cannot be stuck in the past. Instead, focus on what is ahead of you.
  2. Make a connection with “why?” The millennial generation wants to make an impact, and they will not feel like they are if your answer is, “because we have always done it this way, just do it.”  Instead, let them see the issue we are solving, and get them connected to it.  Show them how their work makes an impact for the customer and the company.
  3. Lead with a relationship of value. If you treat millennials like a number, you will always be disappointed in the performance you receive.  They are adding value, and they need to see their value in the way you lead.

Remember: Managers lead everyone the same, but Leaders lead everyone differently!

Leaders have become complacent and are simply managing now.  It is time to stop blaming a generation. Instead, own your responsibility; stop managing and start leading!

Get outside help

Working with a new generation of employees can be undermining to the success of any organization without objective analysis on identifying the status quo and expert guidance on what to change, and how. This is where a skilled business strategist can turn your company’s efforts around.  Learn more.