There is so much talk these days about working with millennials. We fear that this younger generation is not ready to lead as the baby boomers step into retirement. Well, I think being prepared to lead has less to do with generation and age than it has to do with the right mentors teaching the right lessons. Even if you are born with natural leadership talents, leadership is still a skill. If you want to be a good leader, you need to learn the tricks of the trade. And the best way to shorten that learning curve is to find someone with a little experience and a lot of success to show you the ropes.
Face it, probably none of us who are currently doing a killer job of working in leadership positions got to where we are without a little help along the way. We had someone who showed us the ropes. Someone made sure we really understood what it takes to make it as a leader. Sure, we pretend that we came up the hard way. We pretend we were thrown into our jobs without any training or support. Just like we walked uphill in the snow to school both ways. But pretty much every single one of us somewhere, somehow, had some help along the way.
While I always believed this was true it struck home when I was writing the book “Own It: Redefining Responsibility.” I interviewed many successful business leaders and CEOs. I found out what it took for them to achieve the level of success and accomplishment they had reached. And while they all had unique stories and different challenges to overcome, they all agreed on one thing. There was someone, some leader in their life that had stepped to the plate and showed them the way. And for me, this directly related to today’s issue of working with millennials.
I began to really wonder: what are we doing to prepare the next generation? What are we honestly doing and teaching them? Beyond learning job responsibilities and reading spreadsheets, how are we working to prepare them for the challenges of being outstanding leaders? Well, again from my research, I have uncovered five lessons that every leader needs when working with millennials in order to reach their goals and accomplishments.
Now this is not rocket science; these lessons need to be taught and need to be learned. Why? Because these are not lessons we learn in school. Far too often they are not taught at home. Yet these lessons are the difference between a struggling career and success as a leader.
Working With Millennials? 5 Lessons To Pass Along:
As leaders. we need to understand we never do it alone. The best way to achieve our goals and build our organizations is to help and invest in other people. As a leader, you are not an island. In fact, you are far from it. You have to invest in your people. You have to support your team. The more you reward and recognize others, the more successful you will be.
Harry Truman said it best, the buck stops here. As a leader, there is great power in holding yourself accountable. Blame is not only a waste of energy; it burns valuable time and resources. If you can learn to take personal responsibility and look to your actions first for cause and effect, you will not only gain the respect of your team and your peers, but you will always have the fastest route to success. Passing this message along, if working with millennials, will help to instill a stellar work ethic in your company culture. Be an example and set the tone by holding yourself to highest of standards.
To your team, your community and those that helped you. Giving back with your time, your expertise, and your dollars will keep you in touch with what really matters. Giving to others keeps you connected with what is important in life and business. As we go up the ladder and become the success we wanted to be, it is important that we stop and take the time to give back.
Build Your Network
Networking is a lifestyle, not a task. Successful leaders know there is power in a strong network. When working with millennials, or any demographic for that matter, demonstrate the importance of a great network. Make sure you understand how to build one internally, externally and throughout your industry first. Master the art of networking for yourself. Acknowledge that networking is critical to success. If you build your network you will change your life.
Earning respect requires walking a fine line. As a leader, you have to balance being liked and appreciated with being tough. We know that we need to inspire people, not direct them. We want to encourage others to do more and to give us their all. That begins with realizing that respect does not come with a title. It is earned. We can be kind and approachable all day long, but people follow leaders who are confident and can be tough when the situation calls for it.
So again, learning the spreadsheets and mastering the job description may be important. But these are not the tasks that make a leader. Leadership is not black or white. It does not come with a rule book. In working with millennials, we need to step to the plate and lead by example. We need to make sure we are instilling these lessons in the leaders of tomorrow. And for you leaders of tomorrow, stop waiting on us! You are smart and eager so find a mentor, find a coach and ask them to walk you through these five leadership lessons. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with this younger generation, they just need us to show them the ropes!