This week continues with Part 3 in a brief exploration of what leaders can do to lead millennials in the context of also leading the entire team (click to read). So far we have looked at the first and second of the three core requirements in fulfilling our responsibility to those under our authority: to lead (click to read) and to provide (click to read).
This week we briefly explore the third core leadership function: to protect.
When dealing with millennials, there are several areas where leaders can help shepherd them into effective work-related functions while protecting them in the process:
Protection from unrealistic expectations. Much has been written about the generation where everyone “wins” by the universal granting of “participation trophies” to each person on a youth sports team. Of course, life is not like that. There are winners and there are losers. The wise leader will protect the millennial worker by providing a realistic depiction of the work environment for every new millennial team member.
Protection from unclear performance standards. The leader will also be wise to outline the consequences for achieving – or failing to achieve – the requisite benchmarks tied to job expectations. Without such clarity, millennials may falsely anticipate that they will be rewarded for simply “trying.” While effort may indeed be acknowledged, results matter in business settings that include data and performance requirements. And, try or not, rewards and consequences are meted out correspondingly.
Protection from Deception. Millennials have been raised in a media-intense environment where skilled actors portray roles on television, videos, and in cinema that are carefully scripted and expertly captured on screen by highly skilled production companies. Yet these portrayals are not real. Rather, these created stories are for the most part fabrications designed specifically to entertain. As a result, many millennials entering the workforce can easily be misled because of what they see or “read on the internet” (it must be true!). They are not as prone to thoroughly confirm data in order to elicit factual conclusions. The outcome is a generation that is light on the ability to discern truth from error and where the unguided compassion of some (if not many) can lead people to experience unnecessary difficulty in both their personal and professional lives. From my chair, this is a serious issue - and one that could pose somber consequences for our society.
Space does not allow for further expanded exploration of the leadership responsibility “to protect.” That said, the above starting points may help the reader to ponder it further, to the benefit of those being led.
This much is certain: protecting millennial workers – largely from themselves – will require the most valuable asset possessed by senior management. Namely, the Courage to Lead.
Photo Credit: Caleb George