Rise Performance Group

Leading Millennials in 21st Century Style

Where did you get your first ideas about how to motivate others, how to lead them, inspire them, and basically get them to do what you want them to do?

If you’re like me, you probably learned it from your parents, grandparents, and others around you when you were growing up. And you probably learned it at the most basic level, hearing a simple rationale over and over again: “because I told you so.” Perhaps this will sound familiar:

Dad: Take the trash out, son.

Son: Aw, why do I have to do it right now, dad?

Dad: Because I told you so.

It should come as no surprise then that for many of us, as we transition to corporate leadership, we simply expect people to do what we tell them to do. And most will, even if it’s just a matter of doing what they need to do to keep their jobs. But true leadership is more than that, and never was more important than it is right now.

Here is the challenge: Job turnover among millennials is the highest of any age group. I read one study that said the average company can expect 60 percent of the millennials they hire to leave in the first three years.

So how do we keep these people engaged, tuned in, and excited about the organization, our vision, and where we are going, in order to get the return on investment that we are making in them?

First, let me note that I believe that millennials are the first generation that has truly added value as they were growing up. About all I could do as a kid was carry dad’s tools around. But the younger people today bring value. They have valuable perspectives on social media, on diversity, on websites, and on the whole digital commerce arena.

Millennials want to be empowered in their work, just as they have been empowered while growing up. With that in mind, let me offer you three things to think about that I believe will bring tighter alignment and unity to your teams of millennials.

The first is clarity. As you give instructions to your team, be crystal clear about what you want and why you want it.

Second is to have a dialogue. Don’t just direct your people, but ask for their input and get them involved. Let them suggest what they think is the best way to achieve both the immediate goals and the longer-term mission.

Third, think about how you can inspire them. Use words that help feed their need to grow, to develop, and to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Never hesitate to talk about the “why” behind the “what.”

One client told me that when her organization began to emphasize the why behind what they are doing, it proved to be inspiring to their employees, both millennials and others.

So practice these three things and I promise you that you will move behind your father’s style of leadership into a 21st century style of leading millennials. With that, you will see rich performance gains as a result.

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