Leadership for the Ages – Part Five

The future is a pretty sneaky thing. It just kind of creeps up on you and before you know it you’re actually living in it. Except that it’s not the future anymore, it has become the present.

Thirty years ago when I was preparing to write a workshop on cold-calling it occurred to me that I didn’t know that much about the subject. So I took a 3 month part-time job selling cellphones because at the time cellphones were selling for $3000 and up and most sales were the result of a cold call. I figured to learn cold calling in a hurry by selling phones. (I did)

The visionary owner of the company I was selling for predicted a day when people would be able to call you anywhere in the world, from anywhere in the world, whether they knew where you were or not. Just by having one phone number for you they could reach you anywhere. I have thought for years how amazing that would be if his vision ever became reality.

In January I received a phone call on my cell. It was from a friend from Minnesota who was in Phoenix for the winter. He was wondering if I could fill a tee time on the following Friday if I was going to be in town. I told him I was not going to be in town, in fact, I was standing in the middle of the ancient city of Pompeii. He called my Minnesota phone number, from Phoenix and reached me, instantly, in Pompeii. Italy.

The future had snuck up on me. I never saw it coming.

So it is with many of my “Middle” friends, the “Kids” generation has snuck up on us, they have arrived and are ready, well maybe not ready, but certainly willing, to take over and lead us all into the future. 

And one day, in the future, they most certainly will.

The “Kids” generation or as most people call them the “Millennials” are the group born after 1980. The “Kids” are the first global-centric generation, having grown up during the brisk growth of the Internet and the expansion of global terrorism. They are absolutely the most resilient in navigating change and they have a deep appreciation for diversity and inclusion. 

With remarkable gains in technology and an increase in educational opportunities during the 1990s, the “Kids” are also the most educated generation of workers today. They also represent the most team-centric generation since the “Dads,” as they have grown up at a time where parents scheduled much of their lives with sports and recreational activities to keep them occupied while their “Middles” parents focused on work. 

One of the characteristics of “Kids,” besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are prepared to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.

The “Kids” are not the most patient of the generations and are often surprised, disappointed, and even annoyed when the older generations, the “higher ups” don’t act on their ideas because they haven’t figured out that the “model is changing.”

The “Kids” NEED feedback, and whether positive or negative, the feedback needs to be structured in a way that leaves no room for misunderstanding. Feedback needs to be clear and specific in order to be effective with this group. 

To be productive they need to know and buy into their organization’s vision. To feel valued, they need to know their role in achieving that vision. 

More than the “Middles” and “Changers” the “Kids” are especially eager to progress in their careers and are seldom willing to wait three to five years for a promotion. Organizations and companies that want to develop this next generation of leaders need to develop in-between steps and titles, so “Kids” can meet their need for career advancement.

According to a 2012 survey by staffing agency Adecco, 68% of recent graduates identified good opportunities for growth and development as one of their top professional priorities. Assigning challenging projects and sending “Kids” to training conferences will be especially helpful for those “Kids” workers interested in learning and growing their skills.

This generation, more than any other, needs flexibility. With their technology skills they are essentially able to work anytime from anywhere. Let them! Let them if you expect to keep them. A 2012 study of this generation by Griffith Insurance Education Foundation discovered that “Kids” will sacrifice pay for increased vacation time and the ability to work outside the office.

To my fellow “Middles” leaders and even leaders from the “Changers” generation you should know that the future is upon us. The “future” looks pretty darn young, too young to be serving us hamburgers much less occupying the office next door. But nevertheless, the future is here. These “Kids” happen to make the future look pretty good too!

Leaders of today can work against the future and lose or work with the future and succeed beyond their time. It is a choice all leaders will have to make. Choose well!

5 thoughts on “Leadership for the Ages – Part Five

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