3 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn from Gen Y
3 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn from Gen Y

3 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn from Gen Y
A third of U.S. employees feel chronically overworked. 52% of U.S. families say work interferes with their family or home responsibilities. More than 54% of Americans say they will look for a better job once the economy improves.

I could prattle on with statistics like the above. Let me first give you context for citing such disappointing numbers. The workplace is under siege by a growing sentiment that the way we're working is not longer effective. The Great Recession has catapulted the need to change how we work into our conversations.

The question is, however, what needs to change? The simplest answer is you. Me. We all need to change how we approach the way we work. And for those of us as manager leaders, we've got to show up as leaders newly, differently. The above statistics are warning signs of wear and tear.

And this is where our Gen Y employees come into play. This generation is heralded for many things – some good and some not. Of course both are value judgments. But there are kernels of truth hidden in those judgments. And if we pulled them out and evaluate them against the changing context that surrounds our organizations, we'll find keen leadership lessons any person from any generation can learn from and be more effective in their role as manager leader.

Collaborate virtually

Gen Y is the first generation to be raised with widely available technology. I believe it's too early to know exactly what the implications of this are for organizations. However, the number of tech startups is an indicator of things to come. The Millennials' tech-savviness can teach us that collaboration no longer needs to be physical face to face. Gen Yers are adept at collaborating via text, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, even instant messaging.

The lesson for all other generations is get comfortable with real-time collaboration, crowdsourced ideas that expand beyond the hallways and water coolers. Many of us are clinging to the outdated belief that physical proximity cannot be topped.

Forget about tenure

As a cohort, Gen Y is stereotyped to be impatient with corporate hierarchies. In my personal experience I've seen this to be true and not true. Hidden, however, in this viewpoint is an important lesson. Business demands can't wait anymore for managers to award the best opportunities to those with the longest tenure. The opportunities go to those with the skill sets. And skill sets and tenure are no longer equivalent.

Today's business problems are complex and need fast solutions. As more Boomers retire, tenure's reign will come to an end.

Rethink work

Gen Y is notorious for wanting more flexible work schedules. With mobile technology and cloud solutions widely available, resistance to alternative work schedules is becoming a barrier to progress.

All manager leaders must get to a similar understanding of why Gen Y looks at flexible work arrangements as a given. With globalization a force driving corporate strategy, allowing employees to choose to work nights and weekends over day shifts makes sense. Working from a cafe today and hoteling on-site tomorrow is smart business.

Those of us who grew up in corporateland believing work occurs 8-5 need to learn to rethink how, where and when work gets done. Millennials get this. It's time the rest of us do, too.

Top reasons employees stay with a company can be reduced down to two needs--make the workplace flexible and help make work meaningful. These two needs are desired by any generation.


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