5 Skills Millennials Can Develop to Become Better Leaders
The popular characterization of Millennials often ignores the unique skills they bring to the workplace. These assessments are hardly fair, though in most criticism there is a kernel of truth. No, Millennials are not lazy. But yes, they may have been raised to rely on others, like an overbearing parent or an app on their phone, rather than solve their own problems. With that in mind, here are 5 skills Millennials can develop to further upset stereotypes about their generation.
Millennials want to have an impact. And to affect positive change, you’ll need problem-solving skills. At the same time, you may have grown up with helicopter parents—parents who seek to eliminate obstacles for their children, and don’t allow them enough opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. Give yourself the opportunity to build these skills, even if your parents didn’t. The best way to learn is by doing, so while asking for help is usually the right move when you’re truly stuck, resist the urge to ask for help without giving yourself a chance to think critically and begin to solve the problem independently. To demonstrate true leadership potential, you’ll need to both take the initiative to find solutions on your own, and know when to ask for help and communicate your progress so you and your team can cross the finish line together.
Millennials have a reputation for being job hoppers with short attention spans, too impatient to see a project through to completion. That assessment puts the blame on Millennials, rather than considering how the modern workplace contributes to employee dissatisfaction and lack of purpose. Still, patience and follow-through are skills any leader needs to learn. To challenge your own impatience, focus on following through on every task you’re assigned, including the small ones. Leadership means taking responsibility for a team—both the people and the work—and every follow-up email or menial task completed is a chance to demonstrate responsibility and earn the next opportunity.
Older managers may fear giving feedback to their Millennial employees based on the myth that Millennials require constant praise. In reality, negative feedback is more motivating than no feedback at all: one Gallup study found that employees who receive negative feedback are more engaged than employees who received no feedback from their managers. When you’re given feedback, it means someone is invested in your success and values you enough to help you build your skills. If you’re not receiving constructive criticism, ask for it. Letting people know you are open to receiving criticism can help them feel more free to give honest feedback without fearing how you’ll respond. And, when feedback is given, you actually have to listen.
Negative stereotypes of Millennials suggest that this generation wants a lot of credit for very little work. You can demonstrate that that is not the case by giving credit where credit is due. Be eager to share credit on team projects, or to identify team members who have gone above and beyond. Giving credit where it’s due builds trust within your team and shows true leadership potential.
Disconnect from technology
Tech addiction is a problem with our culture, not just Millennials. But if you find yourself tethered to your devices, try to resist the urge to be connected at all times. Turn your phone off and keep your laptop closed during meetings to show your teammates they have your full attention. When you are fully present and engaged, you show that you value your team and their time more than the fleeting rush we get from checking our phones.
As frustrating as it may be to read negative takes on your entire generation’s work ethic, know that you have the power to subvert negative stereotypes about Millennials by building your own skill set. The more Millennials exercise their natural leadership abilities and move into leadership positions, the more everyone will recognize that this generation is an asset to the workforce, not a liability.