For this post I am highlighting a terrific new book by my friend and fellow Millennial workplace expert Lindsey Pollak. Lindsey's new book, Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders is a thorough and highly readable roadmap for the next generation that is flooding into leadership roles every day. I caught up with her to learn more:
BT - The subtitle of the book is New Rules for the "Next Generation of Leaders." Why does the next generation need "new rules?"
LP - First--and I am very clear about this in the book--there is absolutely no need to throw away all of the great leadership advice of the past. Much of it is still incredibly valuable and relevant. But, today's leaders absolutely need some new rules. For instance, Millennial leaders will likely lead global teams and virtual teams. They will lead through massive technology shifts. And they will have to lead in a 24/7/365 world in which the boundaries between professional and personal are fuzzy at best. The new rules are in addition to, not in replacement of, the longtime rules of leadership.
BT - You mention early in the book that there is high demand for information on generational diversity right now. We see that in our work too. Why do you think this is such a hot topic now?
LP - The recent global recession caused many Boomers to stay in the workforce longer than planned, so I think the generational shift from a Boomer-led world into a Millennial-dominatn one is happening more suddenly than anyone anticipated. A few of my speaking clients in the accounting industry already have a workforce that is over 75 percent Millennial, and other industries will soon see similar demographics. Experts predict the "tipping point" will be 2020 when the workforce is about 50 percent Millennial (and 50 percent all the rest of us--Traditionalist, Boomer, Gen X and Gen Z), so we are right in the midst of the build-up to that moment. It's a time of discomfort, but also excitement.
PT - One section I thought was particularly interesting was how negatively HR professionals perceive Millennials as employees compared with how Millennials view themselves as employees. What do you think is driving this disconnect?
LP - Millennials tend to judge themselves on their potential and ambition. (This is not surprising since Millennials are famous for receiving trophies for participation as kids!) However, companies judge them on results and professionalism. That's the key disconnect. I also think HR professionals have been working with Baby Boomers and Baby Boomers' professional style for so long that it's a shock to their systems for a new group to come into the workplace and do things differently. In many ways, this is because Millennials grew up with the Internet. They have always had access to all of the information and people in the world at the touch of a button. They tend to assume that they can move up the career ladder quickly and share their ideas with the CEO if they want to. "Paying one's dues" is not a concept that resonates with Millennials at all. That is often hard for other generations to appreciate.
Where I fall on this issue is I believe very strongly that today's young people have tremendous potential, but they do need some guidance on "soft skills," such as face-to-face communication, work ethic and profesional patience. This book is my attempt to provide that guidance and support this huge generation of out world's future leaders.
BT - You use the term "filling the tank" to describe how Millennials should prepare for leadership. Can you give some examples?
LP - "Filling the tanks" was a quote from Joss Whedon, who once spoke about how he is always gathering information, ideas and inspiration from everything around him. So, the advice to leaders (of any age) is to keep filling your tanks all the time. Read book, read blogs, follow people you admire on Twitter, go to lectures, visit museums, watch TV shows outside your normal viewing habits, talk to a diversity of people and learn from everything. I try to follow this myself and I can't recommend it enough. Leaders are always learning.
BT - You say that "part of your job as managers in the twenty-first century will be to help all employees see themselves as CEOs of their own careers and personal brands whichever career path they choose to follow." Is that pretty provocative advice to managers who are always desperate to retain their best employees?
LP - Most employers today acknowledge that it's unlikely they will retain young talent from college graduation to retirement. I'm not sure the majority of big organizations even have lifelong retention as a goal anymore. I believe the smart companies of the future will train their top young talent to find their best career paths, even if that path is at a different company or in a different industry.
One of my clients even provides free career coaching for employees (which can sometimes lead to leaving the organization). At the same time, smart companies are building and supporting robust alumni networks so that their former employees stay on as lifelong supporters--perhaps as shareholders, clients, vendors, brand ambassadors or even returning or "boomerang" employees.