Helping the Next Generation of Leaders
I have been seeing a lot of web traffic concerning how the Y generation, or Millennials as they are often referred, is different. I have read articles about how to interview them, how to hire them, how to treat them once they are hired, and even adult learning organizations are discussing how to provide them with training to achieve the results the organization needs.
What I have not seen a lot of is how we, as Baby Boomers, should coach, teach, and mentor these millennials into being leaders of future generations.
They are different, at least from the perspective of learning. This generation has a different set of motivators, they need to know “how”; they need to know when; and they need to know “why”, the latter being of the highest priority to them.
When my generation learned we tended to learn by rote, remember memorizing multiplication tables, the names of the states, capitals of those states, important dates in world and United States History? We were taught in primary and secondary school in a manner where the teacher was the sage on the stage and when the teacher said it was so, well, it was so. This continued into our adult learning experiences. Mine adult learning experience was in the Army, memorizing equipment nomenclature, characteristics, and capabilities. Memorizing what a leader had to Be, Know, and Do, memorizing the values of the organization. And since this was the way I was trained it is the way I trained my Soldiers, perpetuating an inefficient learning process. At the time we did not know any better. It worked for the most part, but over time I began to see Soldiers accomplishing tasks in a certain manner because that is the rote they learned. They did not understand why they did it in a certain way. It then led to the “That is the way we have always done it.” response when asked why. Soldiers eventually become a member of the civilian society and take their learning with them.
This generation was raised in a technological environment facilitating immediate response. It is too easy to find the how and the when to do something. Simply Google®, Bing®, Yahoo!®, or Ask ® it, or use the search engine of choice. What they have a hard time finding is WHY they are doing something, perhaps because that information is lost to history because we never, or very seldom asked, why we did things a certain way.
Now we must become a quasi-Millennial to anticipate this question and prepare an adequate response, adequate being the operative word. We have to start asking ourselves the “why” question and preparing an answer in which we truly believe. If we don’t buy it, don’t expect a Millennial to believe it. This can be a frightening experience as it brings into question the “facts and assumptions” we hold to be true, sometimes exposing what we thought was true is at best only partially so, at worst a convenient misrepresentation of flawed logic. However, we must accomplish this to facilitate the Millennials taking the lead in leadership our future depends on it.
Remember this, the mind is like a parachute, it works best when it is open.