In case you haven’t noticed, things are changing in the American workplace. As more millennials are reaching experienced and management positions, their approaches are becoming more prevalent … and the differences there are causing some frictions. Now, before we go any further, let’s make one thing crystal clear. This is not some throwaway missive tossing millennials under the bus.
This is about differences and preferences … not “better and worse.”
As Dan Palmier has noted, “Looking at tendencies and the research we have, Millennials tend to prefer leading to managing, and they want to be inspired and led rather than managed. There is a difference. Management focuses on operations and functions, while leadership focuses on inspiration and vision sharing. One model says, “do this, and I’ll give you that.” The other model says, “look at this, let’s get there together.”
The latter method requires a skill and a management trait that some older managers will struggle with: transparency.
Now, I can almost feel some of you bristle at that but stay with me here, because I’m going to share a difficult reality with you… we’re fast approaching the point where transparency in leadership is not a luxury, it’s going to be an expectation. When you have a second generation entering the workforce that literally grew up with the internet – with everything at their fingertips – some of the Old Ways of operating just won’t inspire any more.
The first step toward honest transparency is in open and intentional communication. This is a two-way street. It’s not just about people sharing, it’s also about people choosing to listen. It’s about creating two-way communication that shows your people you value their contribution in other ways than on payday. Yes, they are getting a paycheck, but today’s workers want more than that. You might think that makes them “entitled,” but your derision isn’t going to get them to work any harder or produce any better.
However, if you learn to communicate with them, creating an open exchange of ideas, you will find them rising to the call and exceeding expectations. Why? Because they are looking for a mission to accomplish and a vision to carry. They want their work to be about more than punching a clock, and you have the power to give that to them. If you don’t, there is someone out there who will.
But communication is not the end all. Where management is about giving tasks and monitoring people who are supposed to be getting them done, leadership is about sharing responsibility and trusting people to invest in the greater success of the team. This is a much different approach, and it values people more. Valued people deliver better work, and they do it with a more appreciative attitude.