How Hip Am I?

Actually, it’s not about me!

Welcome to another year wiser! For the aging Gen X-ers among us, like myself, working with and managing millennials, our darling disruptors, can be both exhilarating and challenging. Personally, I’m loving it. I’m learning a lot, adjusting my own attitudes, and have a few insights that seem worth sharing.

Pay your dues? Forget all that. Millennials have come up in a culture that makes it clear that while you may have been hired in the mailroom, you could probably function as CEO. Why not, I say? Fresh ideas and hard work can come from anywhere in the organizational chart, if you are still clinging to one of those, and I know for a fact that many non-profits are.  Yes, I still believe experience is important, but, it’s not everything.  Being an institutional replicator is not a great goal. Innovation matters.

Takeaway Number One: Listen to every good idea.

Keep Talking and Keep Listening: Millennials like immediate feedback. What’s working, what’s not, and let’s tweak it is their dominant culture. That’s smart, right? Why wait all year for an annual performance review to explain to Frankie that the spreadsheets can never be on purple paper? It makes sense to provide consistent, if not constant, feedback. Everyone wants to please the boss, or senior colleagues, and an email usually takes about a minute. At the same time, make sure your communications are conversations, not directives. They actually expect a conversation, and I think that’s perfectly reasonable. Why not hear what all of your employees have to say? If they sound a bit high-handed or dismissive of senior team, gently coach millennials by letting them know their input is valued, and how they say it can be as important as what they say if they want people to truly listen.

Takeaway Number Two:  Have a real conversation, don’t just give instructions.

The Work / Life Balance Thing is real for them. This is the biggie for me. What I’ve seen is millennials actually often do not care as much about looking good to the boss or killing themselves with crazy hours as they do about taking off, going snowboarding and closing the door on work until Monday morning. This is healthy. Don’t resent it just because the culture didn’t allow you to do it when you were climbing the ladder. You want employees who are in touch with friends, the outdoors, books, sports and other pursuits. All of it informs your employee as a critical thinker, doer and whole person.

Takeaway Number Three: Encourage employee work/life balance. It’s good for your organization. It’s good for you.

With these three thoughts in mind heading into 2016, I can guarantee you’ll start feeling younger, just like me! Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

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