THE BLOG
09/17/2014 12:51 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

Mentoring Millennials for Management

In my last post, I wrote about the impact Millennials are having in the workplace today. Millennials bring a lot of passion and energy to their work and many are eager -- if not impatient -- to develop leadership skills and make an impact. So, how can companies harness this energy and enthusiasm and help prepare Millennials for leadership?

In a word: mentoring. If you're looking to bring out the very best in your organization's next generation of leaders, it's important to find creative ways to connect junior talent with more seasoned employees or leaders - both through formal and informal mentoring arrangements. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to be a better mentor to your Millennial colleagues.

  • Be mindful of the Millennial mindset. While it's an oversimplification to think of Millennials as a generation of kids who won trophies for simply participating, Millennials, by the time they enter the workforce, have technology to thank for a lifetime's worth of feedback and instant gratification. They grew up being able to go online and track where they were in their classes at any given moment, email their teachers and professors to ask questions, and network with peers from Peoria to Pretoria. For them, the world's always been flat, connected, diverse and democratic -- even though it may not seem that way in the office. When you're working with a Millennial, it's important to understand where they're coming from and the expectations they bring to the workplace.
  • Provide "face time" and feedback. Millennials value collaboration and want to work closely with people at all levels in their organizations. If you're mentoring a Millennial, try to look for projects that you can work on together. Not only will it help you connect with your mentee, it'll also make it easier for you to provide the specific feedback he or she needs. And when it comes to feedback, remember to say "yes" when the answer is yes and "no" when it isn't. The role of the mentor is to help the mentee grow into his or her role. While pointing out errors can be difficult, it can be easier when you temper it by also providing a positive solution.
  • Mentoring is a two-way street. According to a report that appeared in the Harvard Business Review, one of the benefits of mentoring a Millennial is the "reverse mentoring" that often takes place. While a senior employee can teach a Millennial a lot about the culture and politics of your organization, Millennials also have their own skills and knowledge to share - in technology and social media, for example. They can also give more experienced leaders a window into the best way to structure a workplace in order to capitalize on their passion, curiosity and creativity. The very best relationships - in life and in the office - are mutually beneficial. It's easier to connect when both parties have something to gain.
  • Connect the meaning to the matter. For Millennials, successful businesses not only make money, they also make the world a better place. Millennials want to work for companies that have strong values and make a positive impact on society. Indeed, a recent study conducted by Bentley University's Center for Women & Business found that 84 percent of Millennials view making a positive difference in the world as more important than professional recognition. When you're able to connect the meaning of what your organization does to what matters - the differences you make in the lives of your customers, your employees, your community and the world - you're more likely to inspire your younger employees.

Vince Lombardi, someone who knew a thing or two about developing strong leaders and winning teams, once said, "Leaders aren't born, they're made." The mentoring we do with Millennials today will help them develop into the leaders of our organizations tomorrow.