It's the Long Weekend: Set Your Millennials Free!

You will thank me for this advice. It’s Friday of Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the summer.  All those projects that are piling up? They will just have to wait.

Just because you, as a Boomer, or an early wave Xer like me, grew up in a “Work Is Life” culture, does not mean Millennials feel the same way about work.

All Work, No Play?

In the 1980’s, Boomers changed the definition of work. Work used to be punching time cards from 9 to 5 in factory-like precision. Remember when the work whistle went off for Fred Flintstone—Yaba Daba Do! But in the Boomer world of work, it was in early, out late. Once they were through their rebellious adolescence, Boomer adult took work seriously, some would say too seriously. They shattered the 9 to 5 paradigm and put meaning to the term ‘workaholic’.

BOOMERS on work: Work-Centric

The Ends Trump the Means

In the 1990’s Generation X redefined the work environment once again with a pay for performance mentality. For a GenXer, it didn’t matter how long you worked, it mattered that the job got done. These techno-literates used their creativity and adaptability to find new way to solve problems. And still find time for work/life balance. GenX Google founders Larry Page and Sergi Brim personified this ethic and built their $50 billion tech juggernaut.

GEN-X’s on work: Work/Life balance

Ummm… I just want a Life

Now here come the Millennials and once again, they will be redefining the work environment (but probably not until over 50% of them are over 30 in the 2020’s, replacing GenXers in management positions). In the meantime, what are their priorities on work and what is best way to motivate them?

First, recognize that family and friends always come first for Millennials. Their parents are BFF and their friends are their lifeline to… life—companionship, entertainment, activities, romance, etc. This does not mean that work is unimportant, but it does mean you have to understand their priorities.

Second, meaningful work is a meaningful life. Millennials want to do work that has an impact on the world around them. Can you connect the dots between their work and how it improves the lives of others? Barney & Barney, a successful insurance broker in California, has a thriving Foundation that contributes to the communities they serve. This really attracts the Millennials and they will put in the extra hours if they know it has meaning.

Lastly, and this is my GenX voice talking, define the goals you want them to achieve, and don’t meddle in the means to get there. Be clear about the goals, check in frequently on their progress (be positive and constructive) and give them the tools they need, but don’t make them stick around on a Friday if they can manage to finish the work on Thursday.

Millennials on work: Work-life Integration

Don’t stress out you Boomers… there’s always Monday… or in this case, Tuesday.


Coaching is the New Managing For Millennials

I love Peter Drucker.  The father of modern management always cut through the complexity and got to the heart of that matter. I remember during the weighty assignments in finance and accounting classes while getting my MBA, I’d run across a Drucker quote like, “business has only two functions, marketing and innovation”. This inspired me to slog through the double-entry bookkeeping.

Drucker died in 1995 at the age of 96, so he never managed a Millennial, but if he did, he would be refining and tweaking one aspect of his management theory. He might say that to get Millennials to peak performance, manage less, and coach more.  Coaching is the new managing for Millennials. Here’s why

Millennials grew up to believe they were special. From an early age they were doted on by their parents, helicopter-hovered in K-12, and plastered with gold stars for completing assignments. They have been under the watchful eye of parents, teachers, tutors, and coaches all their lives. For the most part, these authority figures have been caring with their Millennials’ best interest in mind.  So when these Millennials enter the workforce, how will they respond to someone who doesn’t possess these characteristics? A distant authority figure doling out unexplained assignments and lofty goals without explaining how to get to those goals is not the way to get there. On the other hand, someone that will work closely with them, mentoring and partnering– coaching them to better performance will experience far greater levels of productivity.

The word “management” conjures up a faceless bureaucratic infrastructure, at worst– malevolent, and at best—indiscriminate: Rule-making and decision-making at its worst. Drucker himself even said, “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work”

Let me be clear. The principles of good management still need to apply—clear expectations, a means of tracking progress, and rewards for achieving goals. But how a manager manages should be more like a coach—developing his or her Millennial employee with close supervision and a watchful, caring eye.

Old habits die hard, and if you’ve been a manager for more than 10-years, I can understand the inclination to subscribe to the philosophy,  ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But something does not have to be broke in order to fix it.  Change happens, and the strong are those that can adapt to change. Millennials are different from the previous two generations. They are the change that is happening in the workplace, and coaching, not managing, might be the change that gets your organization to higher levels of productivity.

Take it from Peter Drucker when he says, “If you want to start doing something new, stop doing something old.” Coaching is the new managing when it comes to Millennials.

-Warren Wright