The Problem With Those Damn Millennials
So how about those millennials? It seems like whenever there is a problem in life, business, or society, millennials are an easy target for blame.
I mean, it’s pretty easy to blame a bunch of people who are always unfocused, lazy, entitled, flaky, addicted to technology and impatient. They’re disloyal and superficial, so why bother? Let’s just write off this entire generation of disconnected self-interested super flakes, right? Wrong.
I’m sorry to say dear readers, that unfortunately the problem with millennials isn’t them.
The problem with millennials is YOU.
“But, my generation was nothing like these damn millennials!” you say?
Yes, yes it was. EVERY generation preceding the next complains about how the new generation is not as good as their own.
Here are some blind spots that I think we can uncover, and what you can do about them.
Blind Spot #1: You’re becoming your Old and Crotchety Parents
Do you remember your parents saying stuff like:
“When I was your age…” and then they’d throw some comment about how thankful you should be for what you have?
Or: “Back in my day…” and then insert a comment about how easy you had it compared to them?
How about this one?: “I would have never said..” and then talk down about your attitude?
Do you remember rolling your eyes at that? Because I do. I’d put money that at least some of you reading this post have used these same preambles when complaining about those jerky millennials. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been caught from time to time saying this too.
What I’ve done in those situations is try and think back to my past self, then ask if this comment would have been effective to me.
How would you have liked to be spoken to back then? Figure that out, and see how you can change the way you communicate next time.
Blind Spot #2: YOU were once Unfocused, Lazy, and Flaky
Do you remember Beatniks? What about Hippies? Grungers? Punks? Skaters? Skids? Would you describe these social misfits as Alpha types living their lives to full potential, contributing to society, and eager to please others? Hell no!
Are you saying no one in your generation skipped school to go to a concert?
No one in your generation ever partied so hard on a Tuesday night that they called in sick for work?
Did everybody in your generation do exactly what they said they were going to do, and not flake out?
I’m assuming that as you’ve matured in your career, these things don’t happen as often. Why? Because you learnt over time. Maybe you got caught and got fired. Maybe you lost a client or a partner over your behaviour.
The point is this: you learnt from your mistakes.
Laziness or a lack of focus aren’t inherent in a generation of people. It’s just part of growing up. Think about that next time you feel a need to write off a millennial.
Blind Spot #3: You were an Entitled Little Sh*t too
I remember me and several of my friends graduating university thinking we were the bees-knees and how we were going to take over the world. I remember thinking we should all be making a grossly unrealistic salary for having a slightly higher than average GPA on my university transcript. I mean, a 3.1?! Why wouldn’t you pay me an obscene amount of money to do a VP’s job right out of school?
Did you really love your first “real” job?
I don’t know about you, but my first “real” job was terrible, and was a large contributing factor to why I started my own company.
Remember those Hippies and Grungers? They’re now the same “corporate shills” that they rallied against in their flower power days, and mosh pits. Nothing wrong with that. They just grew up and adjusted to what their lives needed. So did you. And so will millennials.
Blind Spot #4: The Smartphone IS what the Walkman WAS – a DISTRACTION
Many say that smartphones are the reason millennials are so distracted, so “ADHD”…
But people since the beginning of time have tried to find ways to distract themselves from being present in the moment.
Do you remember your Walkman? Ghetto Blaster? Palm Pilot? Large New Jack City Gangster Cellphone?
Do you remember that people died crossing the street listening to their walkman headphones (you know, those fluffy red ones with the metal wire that got caught in your hair)?
Didn’t we all have an uncle who wouldn’t talk at the table because he was too busy reading the paper?
It’s all the same today.
And don’t tell me you’re not just as hooked to MyFace or SnapTwit as the next person. I’m a marketer. I know what our stats say. Technology changes. If my wife’s 99 year old grandmother is on Facebook, you can figure out Snapchat if you really wanted to.
Ultimately, it’s about teaching ourselves and others that there is a time and place for distractions, and a time and place for being present. I definitely try to practice this when I can, and when I’m on my fantasy football league instead of being engaged, my 8 year old daughter is there to let me know. Meditation seems to help too.
Blind Spot #5: You #Lexicon do it, you just don’t want to
My staff will actually use “LOL”, “NSFW”, or “WTF” in our company meetings. Not the spelled out versions, the acronyms. I have emails with emojis on them.
It’s funny because it’s different… and more of the same.
Phrases such as “that’s so cool”, “like, you know”, “yeah, for sure”, are lexicon from another generation. Like technology, lexicons change. This is why we don’t use words like “whilst”, “groovy”, or “amaze balls” anymore. So as the great Bob Dylan once sang “oh the times they are a-changing”.
Try out some new lingo. See if it sticks. It might help you “get woke”. :S
…did I just use “get woke”…?
Blind Spot #6: People are people. Period.
I’ve found that two people can be brought up in the exact same environment, and one will succeed and the other will not – regardless of which generation they’re from. Blaming a whole generation on crappy overbearing parenting or whatever else you want to say is a cop-out. You’re basically saying you’re powerless to make a difference in another person’s life. As a leader in your career, family, and life, that’s a whole load of irresponsible BS.
Ultimately, I’d invite you to look at yourself and see where you can up your leadership game.
My agency is filled with hard working passionate young people, but it wasn’t always the case. It was through our constant pursuit to improve our own leadership that Tak and I were able to create an awesome culture. Our team members are proud of what they do. Sometimes they come in early and stay late – and I’ve never asked any of team to do overtime. They take ownership for their project work, and internal projects too.
Below are tips around leadership overall, but you can use them in helping you elevate your level of leadership around millennials.
- Listen to each person
- Get to really know them. Find out what they care about, their fears and their dreams
- Build culture
- If you haven’t read my blog post on this, here’s the link. I’ve seen magic happen when you put people with the same core values in a room together.
- Remember that yes, you were (and sometimes still are) like this too
- This is more about learning empathy and compassion, for others and ourselves. If you can do this, you’ll relate to them on a more human level. And, you’ll be more inclined to guide them rather than tell them they’re mucking up.
- Let them fail, share your failures, and coach them to succeed
- No one’s perfect. And no one likes to be drilled about their faults by a superior either. I’ve found (through trial and error) that sharing my faults and coaching people from my experiences is more effective than yelling at people until I’m blue in the face. I’ve also found asking open ended questions tends to be an effective way for the other person to discover something about themselves.
- Inspire and lead by example
- Do you remember that jerk of a boss you had in the past? What about that person in your life who never really believed in you? How did they make you feel?
- Now, compare this to the person in your life who took the time to relate to you, give you guidance, and mentor you. Which of these people do you want to be for your people?
Well, that’s it for now, my homies. Hit me back on what you think.
Until next time,