You've heard the news, right? The millennials have arrived in our companies, board rooms and on our management teams. Soon there will be more millennials than there are Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers combined. And as with all change, these arrivals have been met with some uncertainty and fear.
Millennial is the buzz word of the day. It's as if we're being inhabited by a tribe from another planet that has previously been unknown -- a secret band of warriors with a language and set of mannerisms we do not understand.
But take another look -- these are our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews. They've been with us all along and we've nurtured and loved them every step of the way. This mighty group are peace loving and benevolent. They think outside the box and see themselves as a part of a global community. Plus, they want to help us move forward on our travels through the galaxy!
Now we have an opportunity to utilize their strengths, throw in our wisdom and know-how and co-create a great future. Here's a start:
1. Accept the disturbance in the Force (and welcome it.)
It's just human nature. What we expect is what we get. If you are expecting millennials to be selfish, lazy and lacking in social skills, you may see some examples of those behaviors. Our minds love to be right even when they are wrong. Expect the best of the millennials in your workforce and you will see more of their strengths.
This doesn't mean that you will not have to set boundaries or make requests. But boundary setting will be greatly diminished if you expect the best from the outset.
2. Welcome them aboard the mothership.
I've worked with many executives and managers over the years and I've seen that when my clients welcome change, they expand and succeed. When they resist, life gets hard. Millennials are knocking at the door and they are bearing gifts. Let them collaborate and contribute to the greater mission.
3. Learn their language.
And thank your lucky stars that their language is "technology" and not "Tatooine." As our first generation of technological natives, Millennials are able to skip over the "learning curve," and just use technology. Notice how they communicate and get things done. Follow their lead and utilize technology the way they do. Initially it may take longer, but in the long run you will have access to tools you did not know existed.
4. Be Yoda.
The best leaders are willing to learn as much as they are willing to teach. Sharing your wisdom garners respect and loyalty. But if you feel you always have to be the expert you lose out on true collaboration. When you are willing to learn something new and implement that learning, you gain the trust of your team. Yoda was always learning as he was teaching. Be Yoda.
5. Remember, the Force is with you too
Your value is in your ability to exhibit executive presence. You have been around the solar system a few times and you have experience to show for it. If the buck stops with you, so be it. Inhabit the gravitas and position that you have earned. The most impactful executives and managers do not try to prove their seniority through power and control. They are leaders because they are inclusive, acknowledging, clear, decisive and kind.
It just takes a few tweaks in perspective and communication to change the culture of an organization. These five easy steps are a good start. Let's welcome the Millennials!