Millennials. Listen to your elders.

IMG_0420Organizations have begun to flatten the hierarchy of leadership. Instead of clearly defined structures with team leaders and project managers, people are being placed on teams with common goals and overall objectives. Sometimes, there are no official “titles” when working on a group project. A first year employee may have a better idea than a senior manager with 20 years in the business. This can actually work to “over-empower” a younger employee, causing cockiness. As millennials enter the workforce, this situation can cause a rift with the older generations. Not because the ideas are different, new or better. At times, some millennials can come off as dismissive towards older generations. Some feel entitled to the same pay as a senior member whose been doing it for 20 years, because their title is the same. Right or wrong, they have been labeled as the “instant gratification generation”. They want it now and it’s not fair if they aren’t getting it. Raises, promotions, corner office, etc…. I will say this as a generation X’er, trained by baby boomers, who has 20+ years left in the tank. Slow your roll.


The words Jesus uses in Luke 6:40 illustrate the fact that there are different levels of people and that’s just how it is. The key, is to nurture a culture that develops leaders. Let’s face it, if you aren’t developing the next set of leaders, your company may as well shut down today.

The Student (millennials) may have good ideas, energy and ambition, but they are not as experienced as their predecessors. It doesn’t matter how many books they’ve read, classes they’ve taken or seminars attended, nothing trumps experience. It’s different when it happens to you, as opposed to learning about it. Teachers (Generation X’ers) will continue to carry the torch of hierarchy and decisions based on wisdom and experience well into the year 2040 and beyond.

Some people, who want to wear flip flops to work and play ping pong during meetings, may have a hard time in an organization run by a Gen X’er. Millennials should learn how to learn from their predecessors and at times, go with the flow. Learn to listen. Learn to ask the right questions. We already know you’re smart, you don’t need to prove it all the time. Relax, you’ll have your turn to change the world. Books can’t teach you the intangibles. You never know your true “emotional response” to an event, until someone is screaming so close to your face that you can feel their spit flying into your eyeballs. Try staying professional in that setting. It takes patience, which can be taught. Application is the hard part.

But, that’s the thing about patience. You can’t develop it overnight. You need a mentor/coach/teacher and experience. Then, you’ll be ready to lead. You’ll get to a place where you won’t have time to worry about salary and status. You’ll be too busy developing your replacement.

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