Don't even try to manage Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce. Lead them. Yes Virginia, those born just before the turn of this last century are different. They cannot be managed the way other generations have been managed. They must be inspired and enabled through BRAVE leadership.
The BRAVE leadership framework is comprised of Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values and the Environment, building those from the outside in through context, purpose, strategy, message, and implementation. Applying those to Millennials:
Environment - Context
Millennials, born after 1980 and before 2000, are children of baby boomers. Their parents doted on them, heaping them with praise and building up their own sense of self-worth. Their childhoods were filled with structured activities. While that has certainly happened to some children before, this is the first Internet generation with all that entails.
What that entails is previously unimaginable access to data and information, connecting them with each other and the world. With the Internet, information is always available. But it is a raw, unfiltered, incomplete flood that needs to be assessed and merged with experience and skills to be practically useful.
Values - Purpose
Happiness is good. Actually it's found in the pursuit of three goods: good for others, good at it, good for me. As University of Pennsylvania's President, Amy Gutmann explained, Millennials are "primed to do well by doing good." For Millennials, work must have meaning. They won't commit to you or to the organization. They will commit to a meaningful, good for others cause.
Attitude - Strategy
As About.com's Susan Heathfield told me as she walked me through her 11 tips for managing Millennials, Millennials "have a wonderful 'can-do' attitude, and positive personal self-image". This can be utilized to everyone's advantage by encouraging them, being careful neither to squash their ambitions or put up artificial boundaries.
For Millennials, the line between work and personal time is one such artificial boundary. As one student remarked at a CEO Connection Forum on Managing Millennials, "What I do is incredibly convergent with who I am." It makes no more sense to them for you to worry about their doing personal emails and texts during "work" time than for them to worry about doing work emails and texts on their "personal" time. There is no work time. There is no personal time. There is no work/life balance. There's just life.
Relationships - Message
Any communication with Millennials must be wrapped in respect. You must say you respect them. You must act with respect. You must truly respect them. In general, they deserve your respect. They have knowledge and skills that other generations can learn from.
Carlson COO David Berg gets this. He has set up a reverse mentoring program so that his Millennial employees can mentor him to help him understand future guests.
Behavior - Implementation
Blur the lines. Blur the lines between you and them, between work and personal, between individual and group, between face-to-face and electronic, between inspiring and enabling.
- You and them. Treat Millennials with the same respect with which you want them to treat you. Give them access to information. Forget "need to know" limitations. They hunger to know what's going on and how their jobs fit into the organization's purpose - which should have a component that betters the world.
- Work and personal. Get over this historical divide. The two blur for Millennials. Accept it. Embrace it.
- Individual and group. Leverage Millennials' bias to work in networked teams. Encourage and applaud their joint efforts.
- Face-to-face and electronic. Leverage and let them leverage the electronic tools they are so familiar with. Text and chat are as valid forms of communication for this generation as were PowerPoint slides in darkened rooms for Baby Boomers.
- Inspiring and enabling. Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others. For Millennials, enabling is inspiring. Do both. And do both together.
Follow George Bradt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@georgebradt