What leadership competencies do newly minted Millenial employees need to develop, from the get go? And what strengths do they, as a cohort, bring to the workplace? We hear so much “gen Y bashing” these days. We hear the stereotypes: unfocused, texting obsessed, ADHD prone, the world owes me recognition and, BTW, I’m pretty well ready for the C-suite…now!
The Center for Creative Leadership set out to learn more. They conducted a study of about 500 managers and reported the results last year in Developing Next-Generation Leaders. What they found was informative and, frankly, affirming of what we at Fulcrum Associates have been emphasizing in our leadership development programs.
From a list of 24 leadership qualities, the top two–by far–that youth entering the workforce today need are self-motivation/discipline and effective communication. These are followed by learning agility, self-awareness, and adaptability/versatility. An interesting aside, twenty years ago the top quality, by a long shot, was technical mastery.
Now, what about leadership qualities needed in ten years time? Will these current needed ones endure, or will new ones take their place? Well, below are the top six and it appears that #’s 1, 2, & 5 endure. All six received fairly close ratings in terms of percentage of responders who included them in their lists.
- Communicate effectively
- Learning agility
- Multi-cultural awareness
The responders to the study felt that, overall, this new cohort brings great potential to the workplace, not the least being strengths in adaptability, multi-cultural awareness, and collaboration. The potential drawbacks they cautioned about, however, include an unrealistic sense of entitlement, an inability to communicate face-to-face (i.e. without a piece of technology placed in between), and lack of sufficient work ethic and drive.
Reading this, I’m pretty optimistic. I don’t think drive is really a problem and adaptability, especially around technology, has been part of their growing up. Any inflated entitlement will be tempered with experience about how things work in modern organizations.
So, in terms of skill development–either in training or through blended learning experiences on the job–I recommend relentless attention to three areas:
- Interpersonal communications – face to face, stressing reading the non-verbals and having curiosity about the context, situation, and perceptions that is influencing how the other person is communicating and what they are saying.
- Self-awareness – what’s going on inside themselves as they communicate, what feelings, perceptions, assumptions, beliefs, and hidden agendae are influencing their end of the communications, and how they suppose they and their message are being interpreted by the other person.
- Continually clarifying their purpose, career goals, and job performance objectives. In addition, challenging them to identify in what areas they need to develop and grow. Implicit in this is the fact that they have lots to learn before they will receive that recognition and rewards they seek.
If you read pages 13-16 of the study, you will find some worthwhile suggestions for using a mentoring program to (1) close the learning/experience gap more quickly and (2) inject some of that Gen Y enthusiasm and tech savvy into their mentors.