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Management: For Millennials Who Manage- Executive Leadership Articles

Management: For Millennials Who Manage

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: For Millennials Who Manage

It has become popular in many channels of the mass media to utter the word “Millennials” in a disparaging way, the way many say the word “politicians.” Just the mention of that generation loosely defined as being born any time after 1990 carries the implied baggage of entitlement, over-involved parenting, and me-centric, unrealistic expectations of applause and recognition. If you’re a member of this generation, you’re probably tired of hearing about it, especially because none of the attributed stereotypes seems to apply to you. You worked hard to get where you are; your mom didn’t come with you to your job interview; you know that for all its bad press, being a Millennial comes with a multitude of admirable qualities which you have leveraged to get where you are. Chances are, your resistance against the collective, condescending voices is well-founded: you’re managing your own team now, and you’re one of millions stepping into new leadership roles. Toward a better understanding all around about your generation and its potential for leadership, here are a few morsels of wisdom you might consider, keeping in mind that we’re dealing in generalities here, and while generalities can’t be accurate across the board, they’re seldom inaccurate across the board as well.

You grew up in an age where inclusion was assumed. Your soccer team let everyone on the team get a fair number of minutes on the pitch. You shared classrooms with people of varying abilities and backgrounds. Your experience in sink-or-swim situations is limited to a handful of environments, because yours is the generation who was expected to take care of everyone, with no sinking allowed. Many people in the generations before you scoffed, saying the “real world” isn’t like that, but you’re in the real world now, and you get to shift the climate, and your upbringing in such an inclusive world means you thrive on collaboration, on seeking consensus, and on addressing specific needs so that everyone is equipped to succeed. As a manager, you will use this strength, especially in managing other Millennials, to offer a variety of responsibilities tailored to fit the abilities of each team member. It means you will hear every voice before moving forward, and it means you’ll strive for a company culture of mutual affection. Your fellow Millennials will respond well to these approaches.

However, understand that if you’re managing people older and more experienced than you, not everyone thrives in the settings where you thrive. The obvious places will involve technology and team members’ ability to adapt to new technological systems or structures. But that’s an easy one to spot. Less obvious are Gen Xers who don’t need feedback every day, who are fine working solo, who do better with fewer guidelines and more open space. Here’s where that inclusive nurturing comes into play for you in a somewhat ironic way. The older guy who bristles at too many instructions (or instructions that are too specific) is as deserving of differentiation as anyone else on your team, even though he often seems resistant to the very concept of inclusion. It’s all about recognizing and capitalizing on each team member’s strengths.

Many of your teachers used phrases like “multi-modal, “multi-sensory,” “multiple intelligences,” and “differentiated,” phrases that shaped those classrooms where you might have created a drawing on Monday, participated in role-playing Tuesday, and listened to a story while sitting in the grass outside on Wednesday. These educational strategies were aimed at addressing and developing a wide range of learning styles and retention strategies. This is why you appreciate a variety of tasks related to your job, preferring to change things up, rather than settle into the same routine every day. This is true of your Millennials too. While your office may not have a lot in common with a classroom, you will find that strategies similar to those of your more progressive (often younger, but not always!) teachers will be met with enthusiasm. Team members from other generations may be uncomfortable with ever-shifting sands, but give them a taste of it, and adjust according to their responses. They may experience some discomfort because it’s not the environment they’re used to, but they may find that solid pedagogy works because it’s about people, not about generations.

Ultimately, it’s how your higher-ups measure and assess your success that will matter, so stay in communication with everyone about what you’re doing and what you hope to accomplish, and remember always that the very qualities for which your generation is often looked down upon can be the strengths you rely on in managing and nurturing healthy, productive workplaces. Spend time knowing what those qualities are, and you’ll recognize what a gift those differences are.


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