One thing is for sure, Millennials will be taking over leadership positions real soon - some of them are already contributing in senior management roles - and they will only increase. Yet their journey to the top is not smooth, and not as well-defined, as their predecessor generation - the X's. It does not help that Gen Xers are still in their prime, and they are not ready to let go. This creates a tension between them and the Millennials, who are more anxious to take on larger roles and responsibilities, and are not keen to "walk the beat" as their predecessors did. And that is exactly what the Xers want from the Millennials. Hence a chasm grows.
Yet organisations cannot stop the tides of time. They need to embrace the time of the new leaders, and some of them have, only to question the validity of their decision when Millennials falter with spectacular mistakes. Needless to say, their failures have been magnified by the attention they attract. Everyone wants to see how they do and this intense scrutiny makes even the smallest mistake a big deal. But Millennials cannot let this stop them. They need to embrace the growth mindset, to learn as they do, to fail fast and fail cheap. However, Millennial Leaders need to be mindful of the mistakes that others have done before them so that they can move forward faster and cheaper. So in this article, we have compiled the top 8 mistakes that Millennial Leaders have made in the past so that you can do better going forward.
(1) Being too ambitious
Ambition is a good thing because it drives action. However, Millennial Leaders can sometimes be seen as too ambitious. They have higher expectations than the Xers, and this makes them (the Xers) uncomfortable. They start labelling Millennials as having the entitlement mindset. While this is unfair to Millennials as individuals, there is a need to understand that the path taken by the Xers is quite different from the Millennials, and the timelines that used to govern promotion for Xers may seem too long for Millennials. This normally prompts Millennials to leave the organisation just at the prime of their contribution, further putting paid the "risk" by organisations to promote Millennials into leadership in the first place. Hence, Millennial Leaders should curb their ambition, not so much in terms of actions, but in terms of voicing intent. They must let their actions speak for themselves.
(2) Being too smart
Millennials, by nature of advancement in the education system, have higher education level than Xers. They know a lot more at this time than their seniors, who are also their superiors. However, what they lack is experience, which can more than make up the difference in educational level. By using educational discourse to defend one's position, the Millennial Leader can come across as being too smart for their own good, and this contributes to the growing chasm. Millennial Leaders need to tone down their rhetoric, and not use their superior knowledge against their superiors, no matter how right they may think they are. It is not that they have to accept something that is wrong, but there are always different perspectives at work in any situation, and the lack of experience blinds the Millennial Leader to this. Hence, it is wiser not to rely too much on education, and to hear the counsel of experience. They might just learn something more!
(3) Being too confident
Relying on their superior education, Millennial Leaders can have an over-reaching sense of self-confidence. This could also be a consequence of relaxed parenting, where they as children were rewarded for simply showing up. Whatever the reason, this sense of confidence can make them foolhardy, and react to a situation without due consideration of the consequences. Millennials must learn to assess risks, and if they did not have the experience for it, then apply a robust process.
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(4) Being too fixated on one solution
The education system has taught our children to take a position and develop the case for it. This has made our Millennial Leaders fixated on solving a problem along one track only. By not considering other options, or seeing the validity of different ways of getting things done, the Millennial Leader can be perceived as being too stubborn. The fact of the matter is that they were taught to be like this, and now they face other ways of thinking and doing and they don't know how to deal with it. It is not their fault, but they will now need to learn not to be fixated on one solution - even if that was the best solution - but to apply creativity to uncover other ways of solving the situation, and finally arrive at the best solution (which could well be the one they had initially thought of). This exercise is not one in futility but in confidence-building, to build the confidence of the superiors in YOUR ability to make the right decisions. If you don't give them options, you seem to be fixated, and that is not good.
(5) Challenging too much
Challenging the status quo is good, unless of course it is done without tact, and without understanding its genesis. Status quo normally locks an organisation into practices that may no longer be effective. However, there is usually a back story to all these, and without understanding them, appreciating the connection they have with different stakeholders, it would be foolhardy to simply challenge them. Hence, Millennial Leaders should learn to apply Thinking in Time - a process of looking at past decisions and actions on a decision. By fully understanding the constructs of the status quo can one therefore challenge it properly. Hence, Millennial Leaders should not simply challenge for the sake of challenging it.
(6) Not apprising the boss
Millennial Leaders may sometimes have a chip on their shoulder - that they want to be seen as the boss, and to be seen as right. Hence, they will do things on their own, make their own decisions and act on them unilaterally. That is good, but if they don't apprise their boss of their actions, and align thoughts and actions with them, they may run down a path that may not be supported, and ultimately cause the Millennial Leader to falter. Keeping the boss apprise and updated, and allowing the boss to shape the outcome will not only prevent a big mistake down the line, but also get the boss' support in crucial times. Hence Millennial Leaders should not hesitate to align expectations, and ask for advice if unsure. This will help them more than hinder them.
(7) Making sweeping changes
While it is the prerogative of a new leader to make changes to the way things are done in his unit, but making sweeping changes to "show who's boss" is very unsettling. Some things will need to change immediately because they may impact safety or operations, but one cannot come in and wipe the slate clean and start moving people and changing job descriptions. While Millennials know a better way of doing things - they learnt it in university - implementing it is a little different. There are usually many stakeholders involved, and there are undercurrents running within the unit, the department and the organisation, that require careful treading. Take a measured approach to change, even though we know that change is required.
(8) Not engaging the team
Sometimes youth is not on your side. When Millennial Leaders inherit a unit comprising contributors who have been in the company a long time, or who are more advanced in age, there may be a tendency not to engage them and use remote means of management. Fatal error! The key to leading is to engage with them as soon, and as frequent, as possible. Engaging them is more on an emotional level than on a transactional one. Your team needs to know you have their back, you will listen to them, you will understand them, and you will treat them well. You must go in with a genuine smile and a positive attitude. The key to a unit's success is resonant leadership, as shared by Daniel Goleman in his book The New Leaders. As the name implies, resonance is the collective vibration of energy to create harmonious music. Hence, resonant leadership brings the collective energy of all the members of the team to create a positive outcome. Millennial Leaders must remember that regardless of age, gender, educational level, they must inject that positivity.
Are YOU a Mllennial Leader?
So are you a Millennial Growth Leader? It will do you some good to heed these 8 advices so that you will get better at managing the expectations of all the stakeholders! I wish you all the best!