Think like a Leader, not a Manager

This illuminating Forbes article opens with the advice, “Don’t even try to manage Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce. Lead them.”  Well, what does this mean?  What is the difference between leading and managing?  

According to the Harvard Business Review, the difference is that “Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.”  Millennials seek inspiration where they can make a difference that transcends a profit margin.  

Here are a few additional ways to shift from a management mindset to a leadership mindset to get the most of the Millennials on your team:

1.  Give Them the 'Why"

Millennials like to ask “why,” which has become a sensitive word for those leading them.  For Baby Boomers and Gen X, they wouldn’t dare ask “why” when their boss asked them to do something, they just did it.  Sure, it may be frustrating, but “why” is never a bad question.  Answering this question and articulating why a certain project may be beneficial to the team as a whole and will help bosses transition from managers to leaders.

2.  Give Frequent Feedback

Also, let Millennials know how they’re doing.  They need the constant feedback whether it’s positive or negative.  If it’s positive and they did a great job on a project, tell them what specifically made it great.  If it’s negative, keep it about the work and not the person, and let them know that this feedback is to help them with their long-term career development.  Take it as an opportunity to mentor and coach them.  If you think the work was sloppy, tell them how important proofreading is to achieve long-term career success.

3.  Play to Their Strengths

Lastly, focus on what they are naturally good at.   Leaders should know the key strengths of their people to enable them to reach their potential.  If someone’s key strength is their creativity and artistic ability, think of projects they should be working on that will leverage this.  And don’t be surprised if they get frustrated if they’re spending all day crunching numbers on excel spreadsheets.

When bosses make the transition from manager to leader, they will not only get more out of their Millennials, but themselves as well.

Following Your Passion...Sort of

“Follow your passion.” Many Millennials heard this cliché career advice so often growing up that it has become almost ingrained in the generation’s collective psyche.  Obviously, this advice came with a heaping pile of salt.  Follow your passion, as long as it’s realistic and can financially sustain you.  As Millennials have entered the workplace, the harsh reality has set in that their job may very well not align with their passion. 

This search for passion is the psychological foundation for the more tangible priorities that Millennials seek in their work.  They may not be passionate about what they’re doing, but maybe they can be passionate about other aspects of their work experience.  As this and many other articles indicate, flexible work hours, work-life balance, the ability to make a difference, and a collaborative culture are top priorities for what Millennials now seek in a workplace.  Mundane administrative tasks may not be so bad if the end product is helping people.  Another pointless meeting may be somewhat tolerable if colleagues enjoy being around each other.   Or maybe someone doesn’t believe in the product or like the people, but at least he or she has time to pursue interests outside of work.

Millennials have recalibrated how to find passion in their work, and it often has nothing to do with the work itself. For Millennials struggling to find their career passion, they should look beyond what they do at work.  Their passion may lie in where they work, with/for whom they work, how they work, and why they work.