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Making Sense of Millennial Mayhem

3 tips to help you maximize the next generation

By Josh Pelham

So much has been written about these millennial creatures. They are the generation that moves at microwave speed between normal life and the digital realm, occasionally poking their heads into the real world for some much needed air.

You can already picture him. He’s walked in to your office wearing knock-off Ray Bans and facial hair that lives on the line of barely acceptable, by design. Instead of heading directly to his desk to check his messages, he is chatting about his potential office-wide petition that would make everyday “flip-flop optional”.

Is it really that bad? No. And while many would like you to believe their pithy statements about today’s young people are original, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Different generations butting heads and learning to work together isn’t unprecedented. Sure, innovations like social media platforms, smart phones, and online televisions are somewhat new, but the concept of new technologies separating the young and interested from the frustrated old school horde isn’t new.

However, this still leaves many managers wondering how to best maximize their millennial employee’s productivity and help them realize their full potential. How does today’s manager, regardless of her own generation, make something of the scrappy kid down the hall responding to emails while drinking Red Bull and blasting techno through his headphones?

david josephenBelow is a list of three simple tips that will help you maximize your millennials’ potential and get on with what matters, the work. In order to make the most of this list and shed light on a few ideas I caught up with career coach and trainer David Josephsen. Josephsen has spent more than a decade helping people of all generations understand their true potential and achieve their career goals.

Let’s get to it!

#1. Blast yourself with your past self.

Do yourself a huge favor by digging up your high school yearbook or some old pictures from your college days. Look at you. You’re young, probably have more hair and are as bright eyed and bushy tailed as today’s generation.

What’s equally interesting is, at that time, there were probably some older folks who thought your generation was the most irresponsible to ever walk the earth. Or maybe they thought you were the most fortunate, having everything you enjoyed served on a silver platter.

That wasn’t the case though, was it? You may have been young and dumb, but you worked hard for what you gained and learned from your mistakes. You made something of yourself the same way the generations before you had, working hard and working smart.

Josephsen explains that millennials “can appear shy, disinterested, or in extreme cases self-absorbed, especially in scenarios when they do not see themselves as being able to have a say in a cause. The best approach is to take the time to explain how their role plays in the greater picture. Be willing to find out what motivates them and provide constructive proactive feedback anytime you can. Simply stating that you appreciate them goes far. However, when you think about it, isn’t that really true no matter who you are and no matter when you were born?”

As Thomas Sowell said, “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.” You must first remember that you were once a little barbarian with a cell phone the size of an El Camino. Once you come to terms with this truth, you will be able to better mobilize, motivate, and manage your millennial barbarians into something truly special.

#2. Do the math.

We are products of our environment. It is for this same reason you are becoming a little more like your parents every day (sorry for the reminder).

Sure, there are those of us who rise up and break the algorithm that is our preconceived destiny; maybe you have done that from time to time in your life. However, most of us are indeed products of the environments we are placed in or choose to live in.

Every generation, including the millennials, has moments in their environment that make gigantic imprints on its world view. When I asked Josephsen for some insight on his generation, this was his response: “I am a Gen-X as I grew up during the Cold War and the ‘end is near’ mentality. Our generation is also known as the latch-key generation because we were the first generation where both Mom and Dad worked. So as a Gen-X, I see our generation as being resilient, independent and leaders, as we grew up in a time of economic change and general uncertainty about our future.”

Again, millennials are no different when it comes to be shaped by their environment. As a millennial, I remember being a youngster at school when the teacher abruptly wheeled in a TV cart and made the class watch the final moments of the O.J. Simpson trial. I remember Saturday Night Live being funny. I also remember sitting in a northern New Jersey high school and hearing an announcement that a plane just hit the World Trade Center. These iconic moments, as well as many others, have shaped much of my generation’s worldview.

In order to maximize your millennials, you must first put on your anthropological hat and do the cultural math of their time. By understanding these elements you will be better equipped to communicate with and motivate your young stars.

#3. Lean in … to the new ways of working.

What frustrates many of today’s managers when it comes to millennials is their view on work-life balance.

When I asked Josephsen about this topic he shared that, “It’s not that they [millennials] don’t want to work, it’s how they want to work. They want to work smarter and have a life too.”

What Josephsen is pointing out, and what many millennials can’t stand, is the idea that work has to be done one way and one way only. Digital tools have enabled workers to connect to their jobs from all over the globe with a simple Internet connection. The ways of working and being productive in an organization have changed.

Whether we like it or not, we are increasingly connected to our work. Laptops get packed up and taken home to catch up on email and any outstanding work. In the past, you would have had to stay late at the office and possibly miss the family dinner to accomplish the same tasks.

sb10063521a-001Technology changes culture and work is a huge part of our culture, hence the cultural change in ways of working today. Remember when email wasn’t around? Enough said.

Maximizing your millennials requires you to lean into the new ways of working that may be different, but just as effective. If it helps, try focusing on the deliverable rather than the tactics used to get to that deliverable, and then work your way backwards. Who knows, your millennial just may teach you a thing or two along the way.

Undoubtedly, my millennial generation needs a lot of help. However, in order to do this you must position yourself on a foundation of understanding that maximizes your mentoring efforts.

A good place to start and end with all of these ideas is to remind yourself and your millennial counterparts of some key wisdom from Josephsen: “The key is to slow down and appreciate the older generations, as they have walked the path before them. So even though technologies have changed and the world seems to be going faster and faster, it is important that certain traits such as customer service, honesty, integrity, and the value of building long-term relationships with clients never go out of style.”

Now that’s something we can all agree on.

JPelham_Headshot(1)Josh Pelham is a local marketing strategy professional in the Jacksonville area. He enjoys investigating creative culture, innovation, and design. Currently, Josh specializes in building and managing digital communities that explore shopper attitudes and trends focused on the consumer packed goods industry.


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