There are no precise dates for when generations begin and end, but by some estimations the oldest Millennials turned 37 years old in 2017. The youngest? Old enough to go to war. They have effectively been in the workplace in some capacity for two decades, and there are still rumblings about how to lead them. In fact, another generation is entering the workforce and we still have not gotten this Millennial thing quite right.
There is hope though, and it rests solidly on the fact that Millennials are human beings, too; they just bring another element of diversity to the workplace, which means we cannot lead them exactly as we lead everyone else. When we realize that standardization is better suited for processes and machines than for people, we will end the suffering that occurs when each new generation enters the workforce.
Millennials ARE just like everyone else as it relates to coaching and feedback. They are just more comfortable vocalizing what everyone else has thought at some point in his or her career. They want to know how they are performing. According to NY Times Bestselling Author Alan Fine, we all have phenomenal capacity to learn and perform at a higher level and the biggest obstacle to improving performance isn’t knowing what to do, it’s doing what we know. Increasing focus reduces the interference that blocks our capacity to access what we know. If, as a leader, you buy in to this mindset, coaching and developing each person on your team becomes a little less arduous.
Where do we get stuck?
Leaders think we can have one big conversation and coast for a while. This strategy results in mistakes, misalignment, uncertainty, etc. Millennials aren’t having it! They want to be clear. Therefore, they want their leaders to have regular check-ins and provide them with regular feedback. There is hardly a leader who wouldn’t agree that feedback is critical to improving individual and organizational performance. At the same time, most people would say they don’t get enough feedback and want more. In their defense, leaders aren’t purposefully withholding the information; they often cite “lack of time” as the reason for not having more frequent coaching conversations with their employees. In turn, leaders feel some shame associated with the mirror that Millennials hold up to this gap in leadership performance. However, this usually causes leaders to identify Millennials as being too needy.
I say we ditch the shame and try redirecting any energy we would put into complaining about Millennials towards being more intentional about our coaching for every person on our team. It is truly living in an inclusive way versus finding ways to further cause separation for the members of our team — especially our Millennials.