What Millennials Want

Boy Under a Bench

Gave a talk yesterday to a group of mostly millennials. One thing was clear in our interactive experience, what millennials want is:

  • Clarity
  • Balance
  • Epic

I’m sure there’s more to add to my list, but those 3 leaped out to me. I’ve read the data around what millennials want, versus what their parents wanted. It’s rare to see it upfront and close.

On the clarity front, it looks like many are overwhelmed by the pace and choices that make up existence. With so much screaming for attention, it’s not surprising. Keeping in mind that much of what screams is a complete waste of time. We know this in our gut, all the while the tracer bullets continue to fly.

You have to learn the art of saying no.

Balance goes hand in hand with clarity. With many employers demanding more and more, millennials (all of us) are fighting to not lose their lives, as they build a career. There’s a question mark hanging out there. Many are wondering can a career, as defined by the employer, live at peace with a great life.

Choosing a great life is the only way to find balance.

My talk yesterday was about leading an epic life. Some are disturbed by this because they want it and they know in their core it is the way we were meant to be, yet they find mediocrity all around. America has descended into a swamp filled with it. Others want it and are willing to do the work of finding an epic life. I know you see the difference. The choice between the two has always been in hand.

Your epic life was deposited into you in the beginning.


Are You Restless?

I heard a "motivational coach" once say that people need quick coaching.  In a sound-bite world like ours, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe he thinks that if it takes longer than ten minutes, people won't move.  Is this true for you?  Are you restless? In some ways it is true, but I think its more a matter of leaders not giving people substance and candor. Clarity goes a long way in the creation of energy. People rise or fall on the expectations of the leader. And certainly he or she's time spent in helping a follower matters. 

In my experience, nothing has come easy or overnight…no matter how much I wished it would have.  The truth of what the term "long run" means, applies hear. You probably get that reality is far different than fantasy and we avoid the ugly truth of waiting like the plague. 

We claim we're too busy to spend more than ten minutes to grow ourselves.  It's as if life is lived half-empty. What a mistake!  I think most are just lost and not sure where to go.  They've given up on their dreams and are accepting a poor imitation.  Titles, money, power and the like won't fill up the vacuum inside you.  Human beings were not wired to be fulfilled by the titles, money and power.  Titles, money and power were designed to be used for the benefit of others…that's the only way they can be held in check.

Think about the following:

  1. Is what you're chasing really that important?
  2. Are your relationships suffering or growing because of what you're chasing?
  3. Why can't you give more than ten minutes (if that describes you) to the gift of life?
  4. Do you really know what your priorities are?
  5. Do you realise that its not all about you (see A Note from Bosses to Employees post from Execupundit)?
  6. Do you know that all of us are terminal?

Candor and Clarity

I've written before about the importance of clarity on the part of managers. Most of that was directed at mid-level managers who are often tasked with leading individual contributors.

This post is directed at those who are steering at the senior level. It may be an obvious, but candor and clarity is important. Consider the following:

  • Every organization should be willing to be clear and candid about the direction of the enterprise. If you are a publicly-held group, then you may have some disclosure issues to navigate. That said, legal limitations on what can and cannot be disclosed should not be an excuse for a lack of candor and clarity.
  • Every organization should let their employees know what the value system is based on, even if it means the employee is not at the top of the list. Avoiding this discussion/communication could be fatal. So many employers and employees operate under assumptions. Assumptions that go out the window when the storms come.
  • Every organization should be clear about how the organization makes money. This places a shared accountability and education.
  • Every organization must understand the life-cycle of and employee and give those employees the room to move on. So many organizations live in fear of employees leaving. Turn-over (internally or externally) due to terrible managers is bad (really bad), turn-over due to an employee completing the mission and moving onto a new dream is a great thing. By the way, the latter example might make your company a highly desired place to work.
  • Every organization should be able to communicate when the end is near. I know it sounds morbid, but don't tell an intelligent adult things are good when collapse is not far off. By giving them the tough reality upfront you give an opening to prepare. Every good employee deserves this kind of candor and clarity.

If you work for an organization that finds candor and clarity nearly impossible, I would consider moving on because a lack of candor and clarity is usually a sign of decline. The irreversible type of decline.

Gaining Perspective

October 2011 007

Ah, the beauty of gaining perspective. I'm certain if we (including me) took more time to take a step back, our lenses would be clearer. The kind of clarity we long for in the midst of our daily madness.

I have gained much perspective in the these early days of 2012. Ironic, given my kicking and screaming in the last part of 2011. Forced perspective is a good thing too. I now have a peace about not just knowing, but of understanding. This needs to happen in-order to move to behavior change.

The following are some perspectives I've come to lately:

  • Clarity of mind is played before an audience of One. It doesn't matter if nobody else understands. Embrace the clarity and keep moving.
  • Money is important. But treat it as a soulless animal. It can't make anything better, it's just a tool for support and sustainability. 
  • There is no ending until you've breathed your last. Life is a series of chapters. I want my choices to frame a story that will flow into a great legacy, whether I get to see it or not. I feel good about this.
  • I am limited and will never be limitless. I operate under the reality that God is limitless and a bigger Freak than me. This implies that He will ask me to do things that will blow my mind.
  • In certain circumstances, I must stand still in the hurricane. No looking for shelter, no panic, just be there, even when it feels like the end is looking me right in the eye.

When Managers Are Vague-2011 Update

The following is a re-post of something I wrote over 3 years ago.  Had a conversation yesterday with a peer and we still see way too much of this:

Talked to a friend yesterday who works for a large organization with many deadlines and targets to hit.  She's a star in the company's eyes.  And like other "stars," she tends to get access to places and people that average performers don't.  She takes advantage of the opportunity-in a good way.  What's frustrating this star is managment's lack of clarity around directives.  Management has taken the approach of "need to know basis."  That might work at the CIA, but not in an organization made up of performance-workers.

Funny thing about star performers, they demand clarity.  It isn't given often with management.

Why the dichotomy?  A languishing leadership/management culture as far as I can see.  The company may have a viable product, long-standing customer base,  and a model that's effective in good times and bad.  But getting managers who understand how to lead great performers is tough.  Here are a few reasons:

  • High insecurity on the part of the manager.  Maybe they were taught (erroneously) that they were supposed to be the smartest gal/guy in the room.  The reality of this can be crushing to some.
  • The manager may talk a good game around diversity, but leading diverse people in real-life does not come through.
  • The manager has atrophied in their leadership and just wants people to follow orders.

When managers are vague, it creates an environment of vigilantes.  Everyone (star performers and bottom-feeders) wants to take control based on how they need to survive.  In many ways, the manager has become nothing more than a body in a suit.

Restoring (assuming it was there some time in the past) clarity is vital.  To not to do this would be organizational suicide.