THE BLOG
01/20/2017 12:17 pm ET

Why Simon Sinek's Video on Millennials Was Wrong

I love your books Mr. Sinek, but with all due respect, your answer on millennials in the workplace was wrong.

Unless you've been without internet for a few weeks, you've seen Simon Sinek's video on the millennial generation in the workplace. The short clip has been viewed more than 50 million times in a couple of weeks. If you missed it, here is the interview.

Obviously, the world is still trying to figure out the "millennial question." While Simon Sinek does make a few great claims, many of his interpretations were wrong. I can go into detail, line by line, but I won't for a reason. There's nothing gained by arguing my opinion about characteristics, behaviors, and tendencies over Mr. Sinek's opinion. After all they are just interpretations.

For the record, I don't only train, coach, and develop millennials, I am one as well. However, according to Mr. Sinek's wrong dates of the millennial generation, I am not a millennial. I have not found any studies citing millennials born starting in 1984, unless you are watching Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. Research collectively dates millennials no later than 1982 with a select few suggesting 1983.

Understand the Importance of Why Simon Sinek Was Wrong

It is important to understand why Simon Sinek was wrong. He made a claim about a generation that was completely generalized and isolated to his experiences, conversations, and some research. However, he never cited any research. I would be interested to know what research brought him to this conclusion.

With that said, there's no fault to an interpretation, but you CANNOT generalize an "entire generation," as he said, on an interpretation. You cannot even make the majority claim to most of his interpretations.

Whenever "experts" begin explaining the millennial generation, I want to stop listening. The explanations are an attempt to have an answer. The sense of obligation to have an answer is understandable. From Mr. Sinek's thought-leader position in the business world, he must especially feel the pressure to have an answer. I am sorry though, you cannot answer the "millennial question" in 10 minutes or even 60 minutes. There are too many variables involved impacting the "millennial question." To be clear, there are too many variables to definitively label any generation for that matter. Every individual, regardless of generational alignment, is unique to their experiences, characteristics, and talents. Generational insight can be helpful, but it still doesn't define an "entire generation."

When businesses ask me the "millennial question," I preface my answer with this statement, "I can give some key indicators to give you insight, but by no means does it answer the real question."

The Real Question About Millennials

The real millennial question needs more questions for clarity. Clarity gives more usefulness to the original question.

Here are some clarifying questions to help understand the meaning behind your "millennial question":

  • Are you needing better employee production?
  • Are you struggling to know how to lead millennials?
  • Are there communication breakdowns with millennials?
  • Are you needing to know how to retain millennials?
  • Are you wondering how to train millennials for leadership?
  • Are you experiencing a morale challenge with millennials on your team?
  • Are you looking to design a program with millennials in mind?
  • Are you wanting to know how they like to learn?

These questions can infinitely continue, but until there is more understanding behind the initial question, the world will not have a good answer to the broad millennial question.

The bottom line is you cannot characterize millennials by four factors to determine an entire generation of more than 75 million people. You just cannot do that, it's too restrictive. Admittedly, there are trends and tendencies, but no broad stroke characteristics for an entire millennial generation.

My best advice to people wanting to understand millennials better, get to know them as individuals.

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Want to know what's true about the millennials? Join me as a guest on a webinar hosted by Skillsoft in February. The focus will be on debunking millennial myths and helping businesses maximize the emerging talent in your workplace.

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