The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennial’s, Gen Z. Enough! Whoever makes these labels needs to readjust and label groups as they pass through time, not as an entire generation. What do I mean exactly? Twenty somethings will always act like twenty somethings regardless of when they were born. They act like know-it-all’s, they defy authority at every turn, they don’t have their values in place yet, and they ask WHY? all the time. The same applies with traits that belong to thirty-something’s, forty-something’s, fifty-something’s, and on and on. Welcome to reality.
Since “Millennial” has essentially become a dirty word (if you’re older than a Millennial), here is what we need to do as leaders:
Get over the labels and start leading.
Young adults will always be outspoken, opinionated, and sure their way is right. Guess what? Their way might be right. And if you are dismissing millennials for any one of the ridiculous reasons out there today, guess what else? You’re the stodgy, close-minded-old-person you’re being accused of being. And you’re probably missing out on some good ideas.
I was a Navy SEAL back in the 1990s. The men we learned from were our great Vietnam Veterans. They were smart, hard core, and completely dedicated to passing their lessons of war on to the next generation. But the relationship had its bumps. The Vietnam Frogmen seemed to dismiss our ideas and didn’t always respect what we had to say…so said us. We were accused of being know-it-all’s, cocky, and disrespectful. Guess what? WE WERE TWENTY SOMETHINGS!! We were probably all those things and more.
But you know what else? We did have good ideas. We did care. We felt like there was a better way to do certain things based on updated technology. And we asked WHY? … A LOT.
Great leaders look at that youthful spirit as a positive attribute to be harnessed. They don’t judge, they lead. They let their young followers make mistakes, gently guide them in the right direction, and accept that as time advances so do ideas.
One final thought on that annoying WHY? Question: If you get bothered about why you must answer WHY, consider it may be because you don’t always have all the answers. Answering WHY? isn’t a big deal if you know the answer. Once questioning reasoning becomes a problem you’ve lost your team. Thank you, Millennials, for reminding us of this!
Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of teaching leadership and helping individuals and businesses improve exponentially. Errol provides executive coaching and leadership training to individuals and teams across the United States.
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