034 – Want to Motivate Millennials? Try Motivating Yourself First!
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Want to Motivate Millennials? Try Motivating Yourself First! There are three important questions asked during today’s episode about leading millennials.
- What’s Going Wrong?
- How do you Motivate Millennials?
- How do you Motivate Yourself?
That last one there is really the crux of the whole conversation because what starts out as a discussion about millennials and leadership… turns into some self-reflection and the reason why you’re not motivated – fear. Fear of the unknown and fear to find out that your potential may not be that exciting.
However, this isn’t a negative conversation. It’s honest, but it’s not negative. So there’s an important call to action that’s hinted at in the beginning and explained at the end of the show (Plus there is a video at the bottom of this page with more information)
Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Free 5-Day Leadership Challenge – Uncover Your Leadership Potential in 5 Days
Deloitte Research – Millennial Survey 2016 | Deloitte | Social impact, Innovation
WorkplaceTrends Research – The Millennial Leadership Survey
Gallup Research – Employee Engagement
Interview with Andrew Sherman – Welcome to the Employee Disengagement Party
Harvard Business Review Article – Why Leadership Training Fails
Episode 034 – Want to Motivate Millennials? Try Motivating Yourself First!
Recap from last week:
So if you were with me last Monday, you’ll remember that I shared a bunch of stats and opinions about millennials, particularly about millennials in leadership and I asked the question, “Do Millennial Managers Make Better Leaders?”
If you didn’t get a chance to listen to that episode, just hop back to episode 31 and you can hear my answer to the question as well as understand some of the conclusions I’ve come to after doing quite a bit of research on the topic.
Before we jump into today’s topic, I do need to admit something. I was chatting with John Baldoni last week for an upcoming episode, and if you don’t know John, he is currently ranked as #42 on Inc. Magazine’s global list of top leadership and management experts, so I’m super honored to have him join me for what will be episode… actually, he’s going to be on this Friday, so that’ll be episode 36!
Anyway, I mentioned during my conversation with John that I am one of the older millennials, and if you remember last week, I also said the same thing, that being a 30-year-old, I’m considered an older millennial.
Well, I thought that the millennial generation kicked off in 1984… but John graciously corrected me after we recorded the episode and let me know that millennials include people born as early as 1980-1981 and typically go until 1996-97 and then some research includes the early 2000’s.
So, I guess I shouldn’t really be calling myself an older millennial… because you could argue that since I was born in 1986, I am right in the sweet spot… and I’m totally cool with that… I only bring it up to share that, well, like you, I learn new things each day, I appreciate being corrected, and if you were born in 1981, 82, or 83… well, when I talk about millennials… I’m talking about you too!
And now that we are severely off topic, let’s get back on track. As I mentioned, last week we looked at the question of the potential effectiveness of millennials managers, specifically, do millennial managers make better leaders, or could the millennial generation bring about strong, more effective, more inspiring, more engaging leadership as they progress their careers…. Or is leadership going to get worse?
How do you lead and motivate millennial employees?
Today, we are going to talk about millennials in the workplace from a different angle. Because I’m asking a different question.
What I’m asking today is, based on the research we looked at last week, how do you lead and motivate millennial employees? And what do millennials want from their careers and their companies?
As a quick recap, let me share just a couple notes from last week’s conversation and then we’ll dive in.
According to a 2016 study by Deloitte, Millennials want businesses to focus more on people than on money. The same study also concludes that Millennials want to spend more time at work discussing new ideas, discussing new ways of working, developing their leadership skills, and receiving mentoring and coaching… and what that means is that millennials currently don’t think there is enough time spent on those subjects right now.
Also, a survey by WorkplaceTrends found that 91% of millennials aspire to be leaders and of that 91%, only 5% said they want leadership because of the money, while 43% said they want to lead because they want to empower others. That same survey found that the majority, and we’re talking 84% here, the majority of millennials feel that a lack of industry experience and technical expertise is what holds them back from leadership opportunities.
There were a ton of other stats and opinions that I talked about last Monday, but I want to focus on these few points because I think the data tells a story.
A Typical Story:
The story is, you’ve got a millennial employee who enters the workforce with ambition and a desire to do something special… to become a leader, to make a positive contribution, to inspire and empower others and have a significant impact on… something. Again, 91% of millennials in that survey by Workplace Trends said that they aspire to leaders.
As the story continues, something goes wrong.
And we know if goes wrong because employee engagement in today’s workplace is atrocious. If you’ve been listening to the show for a while, I keep coming back to this research by the folks at Gallup who found that employee disengagement is above 70%.
And if you listened to my interview with Andrew Sherman last Wednesday, you’ll remember that he pointed out that although you could say that 30% of workers are engaged, it’s really only 4% of workers who are HIGHLY ENGAGED! Which is like being in a room filled with 20 people and finding, maybe 1 person who would say they love their job and can’t wait to go to work the next day.
So something’s clearly wrong. Something happens between entering the workforce with aspirations and then settling into apathy or worse, disinterest and disengagement.
Three Important Questions:
So the question is, what’s going wrong?
And if you are a manager in today’s workplace, the question is, what do I do about it? How do I motivate these millennials?
And if you’re honest, the question is also, how do I motivate myself?
And I’m going to attempt to answer all 3 of these questions.
But I’ve got to give a disclaimer here. I’m not so arrogant to think that I’ve got the key to this whole thing. The topic of employee engagement, the topic of employee motivation, the questions that I’m looking at are deeper in some cases and more complex in some cases, so I recognize that there isn’t a one size fits all solution.
But what I’m going to do is lean on a couple fairly strong foundations. First of all, I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to chat with some very wise and very experienced leadership experts each week. But I’ve also been extremely privileged to have worked with some and worked for some very strong leaders and managers through my career. …and I’ve worked with and consulted with a number of managers who just don’t get it.
So I’m leaning on the expertise of others as well as experience as I try to unpack what’s going on in our workplace… and what to do about it.
So let’s go:
So I’m going to hit on 3 points here and then I’ll summarize and answer the 3 questions I referred to a minute ago and finally wrap things up with a nice little bow… and give some practical application, which is an extremely specific call to action… something you can do literally today to take action and become a more effective leader.
POINT 1: Let’s Listen To What The Millennials Are Saying!
They Want Training
First of all, to uncover the problem, I think we need to listen to what the Millennials are saying they want. And the research shows that they want more development and not just touchy-feely, ambiguous mentoring, but they want training. Industry training, skills training. Leadership training. And let me be clear here, I’m not just talking about formal classroom training, because for starters that’s expensive for organizations and often times that training doesn’t work.
I read an article in Harvard Business Review last year that talked about how American companies spend enormous amounts of money on employee training and education – $160 Billion in the U.S. and almost $356 Billion globally but for the most part the learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance because the classroom teaching doesn’t stick.
It’s a really interesting article –> Read it here
The training I’m talking about is shoulder-to-shoulder, manager and employee attached at the hip coaching. Most managers are promoted because of their technical abilities… so managers need to leverage those abilities and show their employees the skills necessary to do their jobs and give them the opportunities to gain the industry experience.
Millennials are saying it’s a lack of industry experience and technical skills that hold them back from leadership opportunities… so why don’t the ones with the industry experience and technical skills teach them?
It’s so simple, isn’t it?
We don’t have time to talk about the reasons why managers and leaders don’t do the things they know they should be doing, but there’s a great conversation that I had with Richard Rierson last Friday where we talk about common sense leadership and why it’s so difficult, so check out episode 33 once we finish here.
POINT 2: Get Specific!
Employee Engagement & Motivation Can’t be Fixed by Corporate
The next thing we need to look at is the motivation piece. We’ve learned that millennials have aspirations and desires to do important work and to become leaders… but, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this or not… but everyone talks about how millennials want to make an impact, and contribute to a better world, and do something significant… and empower others.
There is nothing specific or clear about that. How do you measure impact? How do you measure a better world? How do you measure significance? How do you measure empowerment?
It’s ambiguous, it’s vague… but it sounds really nice, doesn’t it?
The only problem is companies take this ambiguous, vague, unmeasurable significance thing as well as all the other things about work-life balance, and flexibility, and confidence and try to solve employee engagement with corporate culture changes, social hours, compensation and benefits packages, feel good environmental policies, yoga at lunch, fruit baskets and monthly philanthropic events… and none of those are bad things.
But I’m going to challenge it all and say that employee engagement isn’t about how a company operates… it’s about how a manager leads his or her employee, and specifically, how each manager and employee, together, articulates what’s important for themselves…
Way easier said than done… but it is common sense, so don’t be tempted to over-complicate it.
Ask your employee, hey, what do you want? Ask them when you are in the initial interview! Ask them on their first day! Ask them after their first week, after their first month, ask them often… build a relationship, and find out what you employee is looking for in his or her career.
POINT 3: We All Want More, BUT
Ambition Can Fade Over Time
And finally, the last point we’re going to look at is opportunities. Specifically, what leadership opportunities are actually available?
The survey that WorkplaceTrends put together showed that 91% of millennials aspire to be leaders. And let’s forget the research and just use our brains for a minute. We all have aspirations. We all have desires and we all, at some point, have wanted to be people of influence. The fact that you are listening to this podcast tells me that you want to be better and more effective as a leader… and I want you to recognize that your employees have similar desires.
It even goes back to kindergarten, when you ask a classroom full of kids what they want to be when they grow up… you hear about people becoming astronauts, and pilots, and firefighters… you hear about children, wanting to become like their heroes.
The only thing that changes is that over time many people’s confidence is shattered and their aspirations become stifled.
So what I’m suggesting is that it’s not just a problem of a lack of training, it’s not just a problem of one-size fits all corporate employee engagement attempts… but it’s also a problem of confidence, self-worth, motivation and inspiration.
Three Important Questions:
- What’s going wrong?
- How do we motivate millennials?
- How do we motivate ourselves?
Well, what’s going wrong? There’s a lack of leadership training for starters, and I didn’t mention this yet today but I’ll bring it up… companies and senior managers and business leaders aren’t teaching their managers how to build relationships, how to inspire, how to coach and challenge, how to resolve conflict, how to build a team culture and a team identity… But specifically, managers aren’t getting their hands dirty enough and they aren’t working shoulder to shoulder. They aren’t inviting their employees into their offices to show them new things and they aren’t pulling a chair up to their employee’s desks to coach them through a problem. Their shouting orders or at best sending their instructions 20 feet across the office via email. So what’s wrong? There is a lack of true leaders who are serving others and continuing to develop their skills.
Question 2, how do we motivate millennials? This one is simple. Stop bucketing millennials and go grab a coffee with them to find out what they want… to build a relationship, so that they listen to your feedback and suggestions… to understand what their goals are … to help them build those goals and accomplish those goals. There are plenty of nice things and important things that your company can do to increase employee engagement but the direct manager has the greatest opportunity to make the greatest impact.
And question 3… and this one is actually the most important. How do we motivate ourselves?
Here’s why it’s important. Remember those stats about employee engagement? Let’s not be too quick to think those surveys are only referring to front-line employees. There are many managers who fall into that 70% of disengaged workers… there are many managers who aren’t excited to go to work each day, and you may be one of them listening today.
And it’s not because you are a bad person. Disengaged doesn’t mean bad people, it means there are people that aren’t excited and passionate about the work that they do.
I love what Andrew Sherman said during our chat, he said, “Nobody’s rolling around in bed at night at 2 in the morning thinking of creative ways to drive business growth and innovation at their companies, when they hate their jobs”
What’s Holding Us Back From Giving 100%
So if we want to answer the question of how to we motivate ourselves or to put it another way, how do we first ensure that we, as managers and leaders, are engaged… we should probably start with what’s holding us back or what’s preventing us from giving 100%?
What makes us afraid of committing? Maybe it’s a bad boss, maybe it’s a lack of compensation… you feel you aren’t paid what you’re worth and if you’re going to give it you’ll all you deserve more… maybe it’s a lack of confidence that you can actually do it? Maybe it’s a fear of failure.
I think it’s a combination, but really I think it boils down to this.
I think there are many managers… many supervisors… many team leads… many business leaders… many entrepreneurs… many top performing front-line employees who don’t know what they’re capable of… who underestimate their potential… but maybe more importantly, don’t know which direction to go… or if their even in the right spot right now.
It looks like this… or at least this is how I’ve experienced it… and to be honest, this is what has held me back the most in my career.
I can think of multiple times over the last 9 years where I was uncertain. And I was asking myself questions like these…
- Am I in the right job?
- Am I working for the right company?
- Should I have really committed to this?
- Am I capable of doing this?
- Do I have the right people on my team?
- Do I have the right manager?
- Do I have the skills necessary?
- Do I have the energy to do what it takes?
- Do I even know what it takes?
- What’s next for me?
- Where do I go from here?
- Can I get promoted? To what?
- Should I take a new job?
These are questions of uncertainty and they happen for two reasons.
First of all, they happen because of fear. I was, and you may feel this way to, I was afraid of asking a dumb question, I was afraid that I wasn’t ready and if I spent time exploring the answers I wouldn’t be doing my job, or I was afraid that I couldn’t spare the time to figure out the answers… or I was afraid that I might not be good enough to do more and I didn’t want to find that out… it’s sometimes easier to sit back and complain than it is to give something 100% effort and have the chance of failure.
The second reason for this uncertainty is because you genuinely don’t know where to look, where to find the answers… or you don’t even know that you have these questions.
For me, the whole leadership development thing always seemed overwhelming… like I’ll need to read too many books, or trying to find a mentor is going to be too difficult and who do I even ask, …but often I knew something was wrong and I knew I needed to figure it out, but I didn’t take the time to look into what the problem was.
But let me get specific here so you can understand what I mean.
I spent a couple years (yes years) just going through the motions because I didn’t know what job I wanted to do next. And I didn’t know I needed to figure that out! My philosophy was this; I’m going to work hard, do my job and good things will happen. But it was draining, it was exhausting and I wasn’t getting ahead. And then I realized (I didn’t do this on my own, someone pushed me) that I didn’t have anything that I was working toward.
But really, I can even trace that back to fear.
Imagine that we were in a room together with a bunch of other people, let’s say there are 100 people in the room and I say this, “What if I told you that I could predict your future? If I told you that I know where you will be in your career 15 years from today.”
Then I ask everyone in the room to put up their hand if they are afraid of the answer.
How many hands do you think would go up? Probably quite a few, because many people are afraid that the answer might just be that 15 years from today… well you aren’t much further ahead than you are right now.
I said earlier that I’ve got a practical call to action today that will help you become a better leader. This is it.
I’ve put together a free 5-day leadership challenge that’s starting next Monday. It’s called Uncover Your Leadership Potential in 5-days. What I’m going to do is spend 5 days teaching you how to evaluate your current circumstances and identify what’s possible for you in your career, for you in your business, for you as a leader.
And so what’s going to happen is that each day, you’ll get an email from me with a short lesson and 15-minute daily challenge, and then I’m going to hop on Facebook live and spend 5 minutes unpacking that lesson and answering any questions and encouraging you to complete the short challenge.
- Day 1 is going to be about evaluating your career opportunities, your leadership opportunities… and really finding out what’s out there, what’s available to you… from your company, within your business or market, or potentially at another company.
- Day 2 is going to be about evaluating your team and figuring out if you’ve got the right people on the bus with you… and that includes evaluating your boss.
- Day 3 is going to be about evaluating your skills and understanding your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to leadership.
- Day 4 is going to be about identifying your why and finding meaningful purpose in your work… and setting priorities for your life.
- Day 5 is going to put it all together with a plan to evaluate and uncover your potential and see what’s possible for you.
You will literally be able to do everything within this 5-day challenge in under 45 minutes a day.
So, your call to action is… join me. Take the risk, register for the challenge and in 5 days you can find some clarity as a leader…