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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

5 Tips to Lead Millennials into a Bright Future

millenial leader speaking in front of millenial audience listening in office

So we know millennials are about to take over, but do we know how to lead them?

I can assure you that leading millennials and Generation Z will be different than teams you might have led in the past, but I can also assure you that this is not something to fear.

As millennials rise to power, so does a unique set of leadership styles for us Gen X’ers. If we want to communicate effectively, we must get to know these younger generations and find ways to lead them to success in their career.

So how do we do it? How can we meet millennials in the middle?

All it takes is for us to flex the right leadership characteristics. It requires you to: adapt, trust, listen, communicate, and mentor.

Sounds easy enough, but the amount of flexibility and independence that the younger generations require can be challenging, especially for the leaders who lean toward micromanagement.

If you can lead with the right characteristics at the forefront, you’ll find your millennial teams to be much more receptive, productive, and engaged.

1. Adapt to a new leadership style

A key element to any leadership is the ability to adapt. If you are using the same leadership style that you did twenty years ago, you are not growing as a leader. What motivated our generation (Gen X), is not necessarily what motivates others.

This is also true from person to person within a generation. Understanding your team’s work and communication style is not generation-specific. Every individual operates and works differently. It is up to you as a leader to continually strive to expand your leadership style to care for a wide range of talents and personalities, regardless of generation.

2. Trust in your team

When you build trust, you are paving the way for independent work within your organization. Independence in the workplace might sound alarming, especially for the leaders who struggle with letting go of control, but when you have a team of people who feel confident and comfortable making decisions for the betterment of the whole, your organization will thrive.

The younger generations have an inherent need for independence and autonomy.

This is why so many startups and disruptive enterprises have come from these generations.

To keep the creators, innovators, and forward-thinkers in your workforce, you need to immediately develop mutual trust.

It is said that trust is a two-way street, but I believe there is an on-ramping period that happens first. You have to show trust to earn trust. With trust established, you’ll be able to allow more freedom for these generations.

For instance, many of the younger generations like the flexibility of working from any location. But without trust, our tendencies as leaders are to have them in the cubicle next to us so we can look over their shoulder. Establishing trust and mutual respect produces loyalty and allows them to prove that they are capable of greater flexibility, independence, and productivity.

3. Listen to your young leaders

A key element of leadership is the ability to listen. If you don't understand your team, their values, goals, and aspirations, you need to ask.

What is it that motivates them to come to work each day? What do they need to be successful?

Actively listen to their responses and be prepared to act. The fact that you are providing time for them, and they are heard is highly valued in these generations. Being vulnerable enough to ask these questions of your team shows empathy, honesty, transparency, and genuine leadership, all of which are also highly valued.

4. Communicate and give feedback

All generations value clear communication and feedback. In many cases, you may feel that you are over-communicating, which will typically not be the case.

Millennials and Gen-Z also take feedback in different ways. While millennials may require encouraging feedback, most Gen-Z will request straightforward feedback. Incorporating consistent communication and feedback channels into your workflow and processes will prove hugely beneficial for both people involved. The younger generations tend to crave a bit of praise, but they are also hungry for improvement. Mary Donohue says in her Ted Talk, “If you improve communication between the generations at work, work sucks less… because you’ve reduced the stress between the generations.” Giving a good balance of ways in which they are doing well in addition to areas where they can improve is highly valued by these younger generations.

Learning how to effectively communicate on an individual basis shows your flexibility and commitment as a leader.

5. Mentor the Millennials

As millennial leadership in the workplace is growing, it is our job to help them pave the way to their bright new future. Both of the newer generations value mentorship and on-the-job training. Research has shown that millennials who are mentored are twice as likely to stay with an organization for more than five years. Millennials and Gen-Z are both highly motivated to learn something new every day. Be a resource for them or connect them with other resources or mentors that will guide them as they grow. The best thing we can do for these young leaders is to assist them in their journey to success and support them as best we can.

A New Workplace

Millennials and Gen Z’ers taking over the workforce is part of the “new normal” we will all need to adjust to. If we can embrace new generations in the workplace and refine our leadership style, there is nothing but positive outcomes ahead.

Working with millennials can be incredibly efficient, exciting, and prosperous, we only have to figure out the right keys to unlock their greatest potential.

And once we do, the sky is the limit.

If you are a leader with a team of millennials, let’s connect! As a leadership speaker millennials and Gen Z in the workforce, my keynote will help to bridge the gaps in your organization and inspire everyone to work together effectively.


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