6 Steps to Understand and Engage the Next Generation

Chasing Relevance

 

You may have read the facts:

83 million millennials are in the United States. That’s 36% of our workforce today and 75% by 2025.

How do we best connect with this next generation?

How do we attract and retain them?

What’s the best way to care about their success?

 

Dan Negroni’s new book, Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace, tackles the challenge. Dan is the CEO of launchbox, an attorney, a sales and marketing executive, and an expert on the millennial generation. I recently asked him about his work empowering the next generation.

 

60% of the world’s population is under 30.

 

Understand the Generational Divide

Is today’s generational divide greater than the ones that have come previously?

Yes, the difference surrounds how this generation was raised versus others.  The first difference is technology.  The rapid change in it and the connectivity in the world and dynamics of social media have changed the nature of who we are and how we interact.  We have focused less on the interpersonal and more on the phone or device as a means of communication together with the immediacy of action.   This generation wants action and now.  Millennials are not schooled in relationship-building skills, so they are not wired to connect.  This is the biggest difference.  Instead of dealing with the differences, we are just complaining that millennials are not good enough.

The biggest gap involves perspective and myths.  Each side is completely steeped in their views that the other perspective is flawed. For example:

Do the following statements about millennials ring mostly true or mostly false?

  • They have a sense of entitlement, and expect everything now!
  • They’re lazy and don’t want to work hard like we did; work/ 
life balance is more important than hard work.
  • They are disloyal and jump ship if they are not engaged or 
growing.
  • They need feedback all the time, 24/7/365. (“Please tell me 
how great I am. Every day. Twice.”)
  • They have different career goals from non-millennials.
  • They want everything digital.
  • They don’t deal well with authority.

Here’s the answer: It was a trick question.

All these are true . . . and false . . . and none of that matters. They are assumptions—myths, really—and there is no right or wrong when it comes to them. That’s because while myths, assumptions, stereotypes—whatever you want to call them—may be false as blanket statements (“all Americans are overweight” and “all fashion models are anorexic”), they come from a place of partial truth (more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight and many models are unrealistically thin). But who wants to be viewed through the lens of myths like these?

Consider the quiz from the other side. Do the following statements about non-millennial managers ring mostly true or mostly false?

  • They obey the Golden Rule: “I’ve got the gold, I make the rules!”
  • They are only in it for the money.
  • They are inflexible and don’t like change; they’re stuck in 
their ways.
  • They are so not tech savvy.
  • They don’t care about their teams or people.
  • They are “hard graders” and couldn’t care less about 
recognizing others.
  • They are afraid of nontraditional approaches.
  • They are willing to trade the pursuit of true passion for
stability.

If you are a non-millennial manager, does this sound like you? Or sound like how you want to be perceived in this world? Well, these are the things most millennials say about us. How much is true? Not much. Just as you are guilty of creating myths that lead to disconnect and frustrations with millennials, they are guilty of perpetuating myths about you.

managers vs millenials

 

Work from the Inside-Out

What do you mean when you say to “work from the inside out?” 

The secret to job and life satisfaction is internal self-awareness and growth.  Youth in general is a time where, if we can understand ourselves, we can start to create a journey to build great careers and lives. Millennials in particular require training on how to understand and accomplish learning about themselves to impact the world.  We believe the secret to success is predicated on understanding yourself to impact others, and they need help to learn how to engage themselves in the world and subsequently to create a talent and career track.  If we can have them connect to their inside motivation and goals, we can universally have them succeed along their journey.

 

“Focus on where you want to go; not on what you fear.” -Tony Robbins

 

Bust Millennial Myths

Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders

Empowering Millennial Leaders 

On a trip in the Rockies, Jon Mertz experienced the wonders of aspen trees and walked away with a strong perception that the Millennial generation and these aspen trees shared many of the same qualities. He saw them both as “connection-rich, purpose-filled, and community-centered.”

Jon is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders and he blogs at Thin Difference. He recently shared some of his concepts and his research into the Millennial generation with me.

 

Survey: 6 in 10 Millennials want a sense of purpose at work.

 

Facts About Millennials

You write about Millennials. Share some facts on this generation.

In the United States, Millennials are the largest generation, standing tall at over 80 million, and they make-up over 30 percent of the workplace today. They are quickly becoming the majority. Millennials cannot be ignored and should not be stereotyped. After all, Millennials are the next generation of leaders. Period!

Some statistics that energize me about this next generation of leaders are:

  • 64 percent of Millennials say they regularly keep up with what is going on in the world.
  • 75 percent of Millennials claim businesses are more focused on personal agendas than helping society, and 6 in 10 want to feel a “sense of purpose” in working for their organization.
  • 87 percent believe business success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance—elements to include are employee satisfaction and retention, customer satisfaction and retention, and contribution to local communities.

What Millennials have the opportunity to create is a new digital citizenship. The new digital citizenship has the potential to enhance trust, transparency, purpose, accountability, and sustainability within and across organizations. I know this sounds lofty, but I believe in what Millennials are bringing to politics, business, and charitable organizations.

 

“Clarity is the fuel to make collaboration work.” -Jon Mertz

 

Millennial Misconceptions

What’s are the biggest misconceptions about them?

The biggest misperception about Millennials is that they are an entitled generation. New influences were present through societal and technology changes, no different than previous generations. Intensity of change accelerates, though. What I have found is not a sense of entitlement but a sense of how can we make things better. Embedded in this is a strong sense of purpose and problem solving. These are the traits Millennials are using.

An example of this is the Food Recovery Network. Two college students volunteered at a nearby homeless shelter. Back on campus after lunch, they saw good food being thrown away. How can people a few miles away have little food and good food is being thrown away here? They set out to solve this problem by working with the university to deliver the food to nearby shelters. Today, this social good initiative is active in over 160 chapters and has recovered over 1 million pounds of food across the United States.

Millennials are not entitled, but they are blazing a trail of renewal in solving real problems with purpose-filled solutions.

 

Survey: 87 percent of Millennials believe business success is more than just financial performance.

 

Find the Right Tempo

Let’s talk about patience. You say it cultivates growth. There are other times that we need a high sense of urgency and drive. How do you know what is needed?

There is no stock answer to finding the right tempo between patience and impatience. What patience engages is a visual of pace and stride. Patience embodies doing the work, learning our craft and honing our skills. Being patient is not wasted time. It is as Steve Martin said, “Being so good they cannot ignore you.”

Copyright Jon Mertz, Used by Permission Copyright Jon Mertz, Used by Permission

On the order side is stride. To achieve bigger missions and purpose, we need to step up to start a company, change jobs, move on, or re-start. Getting this timing right takes the right alignment of heart and mind. More specifically:

Leadership and Millennials: How to Overcome Perceptions

Generational Leadership

Were you were born between 1980 and 2000 and are or aspire to be in a senior management position?

Do you have a boss who is younger than you from this generation?

I’m always fascinated by the research that shows how various generations act and react. Sure, the research often results in generalizations. Some of us may resist or see the exceptions. Still, there’s no denying that there is truth in the research that may help you become a better leader. Perceptions about each generation shape how we manage and lead.

Chip Espinoza is a noted expert on generational dynamics and especially the Millennial generation. How to manage them is often a subject, but increasingly it will shift to how this generation will lead and manage others.

 

“Invest in yourself before you expect others to invest in you.” -Chip Espinoza

 

Chip’s latest book, Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader, co-authored by Joel Schwarzbart, is one of the first to cover the subject. I found it a fascinating read, backed by extensive research, that helps everyone better understand workplace generational dynamics.

I recently spoke with Chip about his research and his work with Millennials.

 

 

“Engaging authentically with people is the first task of genuine leadership.” -Margie Worrell

 

Characteristics of Millennials

What are some of the characteristics of Millennials?

Ambiguity is their kryptonite. If you want to freak a Millennial out, be ambiguous. Millennials believe everything is negotiable, and they expect authority figures to be friendly, helpful, and their advocate.

Career development is their love language, and they expect to have a voice in the organizations they work for—from day one. They also tend to confuse quantity with quality. For example, in college, if there is a 10-12 page paper assigned, if they write 12 pages, they often will think it warrants an A.

It is important to understand that intrinsic values drive behavior. Millennials have some very admirable values when it comes to work, but their behaviors are often misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Here are some intrinsic values of Millennials and how managers characterize them:

Intrinsic Value: Work-life fusion | Managerial Perception: Autonomous

Millennials express a desire to do what they want when they want, have the schedule they want, and not worry about someone micromanaging them. They don’t feel they should have to conform to office processes as long as they complete their work.

Intrinsic Value: Reward | Managerial Perception: Entitled

Millennials express that they deserve to be recognized and rewarded. They want to move up the ladder quickly but not always on management’s terms. They want a guarantee for their performance, not just the opportunity to perform.

Intrinsic Value: Self-expression | Managerial Perception: Imaginative

Millennials are recognized for having a great imagination and can offer a fresh perspective and unique insight into a myriad of situations. Their imagination can distract them from participating in an ordered or mechanistic process or from focusing on solutions that are viable under organizational constraints like timelines and budgets.

Intrinsic Value: Attention | Managerial Perception: Self-absorbed

Millennials are perceived as primarily concerned with how they are treated rather than how they treat others. Tasks are seen as a means to their ends. Millennials are often preoccupied with their own personal need for trust, encouragement, and praise.

Intrinsic Value: Achievement | Managerial Perception: Defensive

Millennials often experience anger, guardedness, offense, and resentment, and they shift responsibility in response to critique and evaluation. They want to be told when they are doing well, but they are not used to being told when they are doing poorly.

Intrinsic Value: Informality | Managerial Perception: Abrasive

Perhaps due to technology, Millennial communication style can be experienced as curt. They are perceived as inattentive to social courtesies like knowing when to say thank you and please. Whether intentional or not, their behavior is interpreted as disrespectful or usurping authority.

Intrinsic Value: Simplicity | Managerial Perception: Myopic

Millennials struggle with cause-and-effect relationships. The struggle is perceived as a narrow-sightedness guided by internal interests, without an understanding of how others and the organization are impacted.

Intrinsic Value: Multitasking | Managerial Perception: Unfocused

Millennials, as a cohort, are recognized for their intellectual ability but are often perceived to struggle with a lack of attention to detail. They have a hard time staying focused on tasks for which they have no interest.

Intrinsic Value: Meaning | Managerial Perception: Indifferent

Millennials find little energy in doing things they don’t consider to be meaningful. As a result, they are perceived as careless, apathetic, or lacking commitment.

 

“To attract followers a leader has to be many things to many people. The trick is to pull that off while remaining true to yourself.” -Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones

 

Unfair Stereotypes

Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success

The New Rules

You’ve heard the advice, but maybe you are uncomfortable:

Why standing out is more important than ever

The importance of personal branding

How to get noticed in a crowded world

More than ever, your career opportunities are dependent on your reputation.  The good news is that there are more tools than ever to help you get started.

Dan Schawbel is a columnist at Time and Forbes.  He is the managing partner of Millennial Branding.  If you haven’t read his many articles and blog posts, you may have heard or seen him in the media.  As I was reading his latest book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, I happened to catch an interview with him on National Public Radio.  He is an expert on personal branding and understanding and reaching the Millennial generation.

 

“In today’s knowledge-based economy, what you earn depends on what you learn.” –Bill Clinton

 

Why Personal Branding Is Important

What are the top 5 reasons that personal branding so important?

  1. You will be found in search engines when either a recruiter is looking to hire for a specific position or a prospect is looking to hire a consultant.
  2. You will gain confidence in yourself because you’ll know who you are and how your expertise fits into the business world.
  3. You will be able to communicate who you are and what you do at networking events without being stressed out.
  4. Your personal brand will give your company more credibility and make it easier to promote your company in the media.
  5. Your brand will help you both attract the right opportunities and repel the ones that aren’t a good fit, saving both you and others time in the research process.

 

“Think of your career as a series of experiences.” -Lenny Mendonca

 

“If everyone has to think outside the box, maybe it is the box that needs fixing. Malcolm Gladwell

 

What do you say to critics who say that personal branding is self-centered and egotistical?

I really don’t think it’s possible to build a strong brand without the support of those around you.  I also don’t think that being selfish is necessarily a bad thing, especially in a tough economy like this.  Being selfish, in some regard, is a way of saying “I’m investing in myself so I can become more valuable and in doing so help others.”  As long as your intention is to help others today or in a year, everyone benefits from you being selfish.  Those that have built strong brands have empowered others to build their own and promoted their work.

 

“Become the expert your company can’t live without” is powerful advice. What steps do you recommend to make this a reality?

Promote Yourself CoverIn Promote Yourself I talk about how you need to become an expert in your field.  65% of managers are looking to hire and promote experts, not generalists. You need to align your strengths to areas in your company that need improvement.  Back when I worked at a Fortune 200 company, I was the only social media resource.  If a department wanted to learn social media or use the tools for their own purposes, they almost had to contact me.  This truly makes you valuable to your group and to your company, while at the same time giving you visibility which creates opportunities.

 

65 percent of managers are looking to hire and promote experts, not generalists.

 

Use Social Media as a Career Tool

You talk about the importance of social media. Why is it critical for leaders to understand and leverage social media?

Social media is the fabric of our society at this time.  I started using it in 2006 because I realized that it puts everyone on the same plane, regardless of job title.  Through social media you can easily connect with people in your company, profession or industry, which creates opportunities.  Another aspect of social media is that the customer now has a voice, and people, in general, are moved by experts and influencers.  Leaders need to understand social media because it’s a channel that people will use to follow them if they have something interesting or important to say.

 

“Social media is the fabric of our society at this time.” -Dan Schawbel

 

 

How did you use social media to propel your career?