"If I know anything about millennials, it is that you have the resolve to change the face of leadership and chart a new course for the way business – and therefore our world – works."
In early 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the US workforce – surpassing the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Looking ahead into the next few years, millennials will become an important part of the workforce as many will assume leadership positions in their organizations. If you are a millennial looking to take a leadership role, preparing for that opportunity is paramount.
There are a lot of challenges in the world of work today. Only 1/3 of the workforce is “engaged” and people are looking for greater meaning and purpose in the work that they do. As millennials, we have the power to create a workplace that is more collaborative, innovative, and fulfilling. According to Marcus Buckingham, the number one reason people quit their jobs is because of their managers. We can change that. We can provide leadership people are inspired by. It won’t be easy but we’re in a great position to make this happen.
As a millennial manager myself, I found Manager 3.0 to be a helpful resource. The book is written specifically for new millennial managers and provides a ton of great advice and frameworks on how to become a more effective manager. If you’ve done a lot of reading in the leadership development space, you’ll notice that much of the content draws from time-tested strategies on improved leadership and team management.
If you’re currently managing a team at work, this is a book worth picking up. It’s information dense and has tons of practical advice (e.g. types of 1:1 you should have with your direct reports or questions to ask yourself to understand your leadership style) that you can apply immediately to help your personal and team development. In this summary, I’ll take you through the book’s core framework – CONNECT – and focus on one area – Communicate – as it’s often cited as a skill millennials struggle with.
"Robert Half International and Yahoo! HotJobs polled more than 1,000 millennials and found that more than 60 percent wanted to hear from managers at least once a day… Here’s the catch, the majority of millennial managers we spoke with said ‘having difficult conversations’ or ‘delivering tough feedback’ is their main weakness"
Karsh and Templin introduce the acronym CONNECT to breakdown the 7 essential skills that millennial managers need to be successful:
Each skill is deep so for this summary I’ll focus on unpacking Communicate, which is a skill millennial managers have the most difficulty with. I’ll also be the first to say that communication is not one of my core strengths. I don’t have a lot of experience with giving feedback and framing conversations at the beginning of conversations is a skill I haven’t practiced much in the past. I believe other millennial managers share the same feeling since the majority of millennial managers the authors spoke with mentioned that “having difficult conversations or delivering tough feedback is their main weakness.”
So what does “Communicate” look like? According to the authors, communication breaks down into two components: “First, you need to communicate expectations, goals, and the structure in which your team will thrive. Second, you need to provide feedback.” Let’s break these two components down and provide some tangible tips from the book on how you can communicate your expectations/goals/structure/vision and feedback in the GEMs below.
PUSH for bigger goals
"Let your employees know that doing the bare minimum won’t help them get ahead. Especially if you’re managing other millennials, they value this straightforwardness and transparency… Millennials thrive with structure, and this fundamental acquaintance with the job and their responsibilities will go a long way in getting them started off right."
Something new I learned as I read this book was how much millennials prefer having some sort of structure. As a generation, we’ve always have had a path. Whether it be the academic tracks that were laid out for us in high school and university, to the video games where orderly “leveling up” from Nintendo games, our generation has been provided with a tried and tested track to follow. So it makes sense that millennials appreciate the idea of having clear expectations and goals set for them as they tackle a new task or project.
PUSH is the acronym the authors use to illustrate the components of an inspiring and ambitious goal. It stands for the following:
I particularly like the idea of introducing “Hairy” goals. I truly believe that when you inspire people to take on a challenge, you can engage them in incredible ways. Take for example the recent achievement of Space X to not only send a rocket into space but land it safely on the ground for the first time in history. The team behind Space X were mainly young, 20 or 30 something engineers, who were given a Hairy problem and tackled it. When you present a team with a big challenge and give them the space to solve it, you’ll be surprised with what they might come up with.
Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions
"You must ingrain this idea in your mind - feedback is for the employee’s own good… Think about your favourite teacher, mentor, or coach. Was that person a pushover? Did any of them let you get away with everything, or did they hold you accountable and challenge you? ... Most memorable mentors are those who really pushed us and didn’t let us get by. Often we learn the most from the people who are the toughest on us or expect the most from us. Be that manager. Don’t settle for mediocrity."
I love the quote above because it provides context on what feedback really is. Feedback is meant to be helpful for your employees. They’re designed to help them grow and learn from their mistakes. By not providing feedback or being worried about how it will be received by the other person, you’re shortchanging them of their growth. Millennials love getting feedback and the idea of improving their knowledge and skills. So as a leader of millennials it becomes important that you create a culture around providing genuine feedback.
The authors also explain there are three types of feedback to provide:
- Day-to-day feedback
- Informal, regularly scheduled feedback
- Formal review
With any of the feedback you provide, you also want to make sure the feedback is a dialogue and not a one-way street. Ask about the approach that your team member took or whether they would try it differently next time or not. They may arrive at the answer themselves. Either way, when you do provide your opinion – remember, they’re just your opinion and not a universal truth. Also, be specific and explain how your team member could’ve done something different. Examples can really be helpful. Finally, remember that feedback – especially critical feedback – must be delivered in person and not behind the safety of email.
We only skimmed the surface of this book but I hope it provides you with some thoughts on how you can incorporate CONNECT, PUSH goals, and feedback into your leadership toolkit. One more thing that I think is really important as leaders is to understand our own leadership style. Karsh and Templin explain how important it is as a leader to think about what drives you, inspires you, and what you stand for so you can better communicate with your team.
A lot of it boils down to how open we are at communicating. Sure, we’ve got more tools than ever before to help us communicate online (email, text messaging, instant messaging programs, etc.) but managers need to be able to excel at communicating face-to-face. Invest the time and energy to improving this skill and you can distinguish yourself as a leader people want to work for.
How has your experience been as a millennial manager? What have been some of your challenges? What other strategies or tactics do you have when communicating with your millennial team members?