A culture of ‘Make mistakes, fail fast and iterate faster’ gets the best out of the young lot
You need to change your wardrobe, boss!”
How would you react to such a statement from a junior at work? This young girl from my team was brave enough to tell me that I need to dress more like a CEO of a fast growing company, than like a techie co-founder of a start-up. Moreover, she took me to the Zara store and got me to buy new jackets and chinos. Honestly, the new styling did help!
We are at an interesting juncture where there is a confluence of millennials, Gen Y and Gen X at the workplace. For most millennials, it is all about being upfront. They need to be heard, and that too instantly. And if we are not going to hear them, someone else (mostly the competitor) will! How do we then hold on to this talent, nurture them and retain them? Are we developing our HiPos - our future leaders, to manage these millennials?
If this generation has the courage to walk up to the CEO and express themselves without fear, are our leaders dealing with them with diligence or disdain? Do our front line managers, project managers have the competencies to understand and nurture a millennial employee?
I have had the opportunity at Jombay to be involved in various projects to design the HiPo Identification Assessments in this Millennial and Gen Y environment. In my opinion, following are some of the common competencies demonstrated by successful managers who deal with GenY and Millennials in today’s times.
Multi-potentialite: Today’s business environment needs you to be ‘Jack of all trades & master of many!’ And that’s the definition of being a multi-potentialite. Successful leaders demonstrate the learning agility to take on multiple responsibilities across different functions. And only a leader who is a multi-potentialite is able to understand & develop millennials who are used to getting their hands dirty with multiple things. Such leaders encourage the culture of ‘Make mistakes, fail fast and iterate faster’ which gets the best out of the young lot.
Active listening: The millennial generation has an opinion and wants it to be heard. They need a vent and an always-ready-to-listen platform. As a leader, you have got to be ready to listen to them. If you don’t open your doors to feedback, your team members will open GlassDoor (.com) to vent. Successful leaders understand the importance of listening actively (& sincerely) to others, and reflect on it.
Fueling constructive dissent: As important as it is to actively listen to millennials, it is also important that we mould them to share their dissent constructively. There are multiple avenues for this generation to vent without anybody questioning them. Hence more often than not, their thoughts and opinions may not be structured enough to take the feedback forward. Effective leaders not only provide a platform to express dissent but also help them channelize it in a constructive manner.
Dealing with ambiguity: We are living in a complex business world. Technology, business models, distribution models are getting rapidly uberized. Leaders who enjoy being in this ambiguous environment will thrive. They know how to deal with the fickle, evolving minds of the younger lot. Leaders of today need to know how to shed all the old paradigms and embrace the ambiguity.
Work-Life-Play: We wear golden handcuffs of technology today. We live in the times of ‘Being always on’. Work-life balance is a mirage. Smarter people have the potential to juggle their way in daily priorities of work and life - and with zeal. They see work as an opportunity to push themselves harder to extend their limits. They live by the ideology that great things are achieved when you push the equilibrium.
As organizations go about their talent hunt for the new leaders, it is critical that such a process of identifying HiPos to lead the millennial generation is fair, transparent and genuinely merit driven. This generation has little tolerance to manager biases and politics. You certainly want your High Potential (HiPo) programs to stand the test of VUCA times.