Turn Millennials into Your Biggest Asset

Millennials Matter

Many business leaders are beginning to worry about how few Millennials have the leadership and sales acumen to fuel their growth and transition into senior leadership roles.

Danita Bye passionately believes that Millennials could be the new “greatest generation.” She is a leadership expert on the Forbes Coaches Council and is the founder of Sales Growth Specialists. I recently spoke with her about her love of Millennials and how to equip the next generation.


Millennials Matter: Proven Strategies for Building Your Next-Gen Leader is the title of your new book. Share some statistics with us about why that is.

The star performers responsible for the growth of our businesses will, in a few short years, primarily be Millennials. Mentoring young leaders needs to be a top priority of every company’s business growth strategy. We need to actively recruit and train them to replace the nearly 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day. Starting in the early 2020s, Millennials are going to drive our economy. Since that is the case, Millennial leaders will be key assets to accelerating business growth, tapping new markets and launching innovative products and services.

In our recent Millennials Matter Survey of over 270 business leaders, 60 percent voiced their concerns with Millennial leaders in three areas: character, confidence, and collaboration. Even experienced leaders are seeking proven strategies to deal with these and other mentoring and coaching challenges. Doing so will help them maximize their business opportunities while realizing their leadership legacy.


Why Millennials Get a Bad Rap

In my opinion, Millennials often get labeled unfairly. Why is that?

Millennials do indeed get a bad rap in the media where the focus is often on the group of Millennials who are entitled, narcissistic, and still living in their parent’s basement. However, that’s not my experience. I work with many emerging leaders who are highly talented people of rock-solid character and firmly grounded confidence. They exhibit the ability to connect and collaborate in a wide range of challenging communication scenarios with a broad range of people.


91% of Millennials see themselves as leaders.


We also have to admit that Millennial leaders are different from previous generations.  Based on current media, technology and culture, they view leadership from a unique angle. For example, 91% of Millennials see themselves as leaders. This is shocking to many who worked hard to climb the ladder and become “leaders.”  Plus, they crave leaders who interact in a non-conventional way – they don’t want a boss. They want a mentor or a coach to help them grow in their leadership capacity and influence. Some leaders perceive this “different” as a negative, expressing concern. However, when we are able to look, stop complaining and start coaching, we can harness the incredible potential that Millennials bring to our businesses. It’s these fresh insights and perspectives that hold the seeds to dealing more effectively with the competitive pressures of today’s crazy sales and business environment.


“Millennial leaders don’t want a boss. They want a mentor or a coach to help them grow in their leadership capacity and influence.” -Danita Bye

How to Find and Work With a Mentor

Become a One-Minute Mentor

I’m a big fan of mentoring relationships. A mentor may be a formal relationship with someone or it may be a virtual relationship. In fact, the reason I read so much is that I’m curious and constantly learning from others. I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than make them myself. I’d rather take a shortcut if someone else has already figured out the best way forward.

One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor-and Why You’ll Benefit from Being One is a new book by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Ken Blanchard. Claire Diaz-Ortiz, an early employee of Twitter, was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. Leadership guru Ken Blanchard is the author or coauthor of more than 60 books—including the iconic bestseller The One Minute Manager —with combined sales of more than 21 million copies.


Mentoring Tip: a successful meeting with a potential mentor puts the personal before the tactical.


Why a book on mentoring?

We believe that behind every successful person, you’ll find a mentor—usually several—who guided their journey. There are many famous mentor/mentee examples out there—Socrates and Plato, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey—the list goes on and on.  With the pace of change today, we believe that mentoring can ground you and guide you in a way that few other activities can. The amazing thing about mentoring is that in many ways it benefits the mentor as much as the mentee.


“Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz


How to Start

Many people who want a mentor don’t know where to start. You point out that “Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” How do you identify potential mentors? Ones who match your needs?

There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  We’ve found in our own lives that mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.  You might find a mentor in a boss, teacher, neighbor, friend, or colleague. Or you might find one through a professional association, volunteer organization, or online mentoring organization.

That old saying works both ways—when you’re ready to become a teacher/mentor, the student/mentee appears.  We encourage people to step up and become mentors, because you won’t fully discover, appreciate, or leverage what you have until you start giving it away.

As for identifying a potential mentor/mentee, it’s important to think about compatibility. In the book, we show that there are two aspects of working with someone: essence and form. Essence is all about sharing heart-to-heart and finding common values. Form is about structure—how you might work together. For a mentoring relationship to thrive, you need to establish that heart-to-heart connection.



Success Tip: writing about issues that arise during introspection can help to clarify them.


Keep a Journal of Your Journey

Why is it important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey?

One of Ken’s most important mentors, Peter Drucker, taught him that, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” It’s important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey so you can see where you’ve been and stay on track with where you’re going. In the book, the first step in our MENTOR model stands for “Mission”—creating a vision and purpose for the mentorship. Keeping a journal as you engage with your mentor/mentee will reveal the ways you’re fulfilling—or not fulfilling—that mission. For example, if your goal in a mentoring relationship is to create a career you love, you can record in your journal each step you take toward accomplishing that mission.


Success Tip: tread lightly on the networks of others. Never use or abuse the connections made for you.


“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” How have you seen that in practice in your own lives?

Ken’s earliest mentor was his father, a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. Ken’s dad had a brilliant way of guiding Ken without dampening his spirit. For example, when Ken was in junior high, he was elected president of his seventh-grade class. He came home all proud of winning the election. Instead of telling Ken he was the greatest thing since sliced bread—or, on the other hand, telling him not to get a big head—Ken’s dad said with tactful honesty, “Congratulations, Ken. But now that you’re president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great because people respect and trust them, not because they have power.”  That One Minute Mentoring taught Ken one of the most valuable lessons he ever learned about leadership.


“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz


What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?

Is a Talent Assessment Missing From Your Strategy?

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.


Does your organization possess the skills necessary to successfully implement your strategic plan?


Strategic Planning Is Not Enough

Organizations invest a lot of time, talent and money in a strategic planning process. They carefully consider market segments, opportunities, trends and competition. Then they develop strategic initiatives and projects. They examine assets, products, pricing, costs, headcount, revenue projections and develop detailed 3 -5 year projections. Sometimes shareholder value and market value models are created.


“One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades


I have spent considerable time with organizations on strategy, planning and process as strategy officer, as interim CEO for several companies and as a consultant. I am surprised how often the entire process misses a key element of strategy:  a strategic talent assessment.

If the organization does not actually possess the key skills to execute the strategy, what skills are needed and how can they be obtained? No matter what process is used for strategy development, a strategic talent assessment is needed before “dropping the flag” on execution.


“A strategic talent assessment examines the skills needed to execute.” –Bruce Rhoades


What is a Talent Assessment?

Simply stated, a strategic talent assessment examines the organizational skills needed to execute the strategy. It should include:

  • Necessary skills to assess the market needs, attractiveness, competition and size
  • The know-how to define, plan and price the product
  • Type of talent to actually develop the product
  • Competence needed to market, sell and deliver the product
  • Skills to provide customer readiness and adoption
  • Expertise needed to provide service to customers for products
  • Leadership talent to actually execute and deliver the strategic initiative
  • Certain cultural elements of the organization: decisiveness, accountability, delegation, results, etc.


“If the necessary talent is not present, the strategy is flawed.” –Bruce Rhoades


Performing a Talent Assessment

Ideally, the assessment should be performed when key strategic initiatives are identified. It is especially important to assure that the talent is available to assess the market and opportunity at the next level of detail before committing major resources.

The assessment should be performed at a sufficient level of detail to enable successful execution. Avoid a tendency to categorize talent at high, abstract levels. A good test for the level of detail is to imagine that you are trying to hire a person with these skills — how would you identify that the person possesses the skills? For example, do not just indicate “technology skills” but specify the exact technology skills. Likewise, do not indicate “sales” but what type of sales skills – consumer, consultative, B2B, etc.

One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership. Even if all the necessary talent resides in the organization, execution will fail if leadership is absent. We have all seen a sports team with an abundance of individual talent but with no leadership to get the talented individuals to perform and deliver as a team.


“Even if the necessary talent is present, execution fails without leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades


The result of the talent assessment should be a “skills gap” matrix that lists the skills currently resident in the organization and the skills needed to execute the strategy. They can even be ranked critical, important, necessary, etc. The “skills gap” matrix should be used as a guide to acquire the necessary talent.

One gap that often occurs in current strategies is when organizations want to utilize “big data analytics” in products, marketing or sales but actually have no resident skills in analytics, statistics, large database technology or modeling.

Another example is when organizations want to capitalize on “social media” but have scarce skills in the organization that actually understand how to best use social media to reach their goals.


“Execution before the proper skills are in place can waste resources and damage credibility.” –Bruce Rhoades 


How to Remedy the Strategic Talent Gap