Millennials now make up the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, and it won’t be long before they dominate the ranks of leadership. Some companies, in fact, are already seeing this generational shift. Ernst & Young, for example, reports that millennials make up 59 percent of its managers and 18 percent of its senior managers.
Given this sea change, it’s imperative that millennials be prepared to lead successfully. These tips can help you as a new manager, or you can share them with the rising stars you know and mentor.
1. Hone your skills.
While you may be a quick study, being a great manager isn’t something you learn on the fly. You’re now being measured by your abilities as a leader, not as an individual contributor, and that takes a different skill set. Check out management training opportunities inside and outside your company. Look for leaders who embody qualities you admire. Think about how to integrate aspects of their approach to fit you. Find a mentor who can help you navigate the nitty-gritty ins and outs of leading a team.
2. Make a connection.
Whether you’re managing people twice your age or directing fellow millennials, don’t assume that your work styles are the same. Have a one-on-one with each of your direct reports to discuss his or her thoughts on issues such as communication style, workflow and scheduling, as well as big-picture concerns such as career goals and professional development. Their feedback will help you understand how to adapt to and work successfully with the different personalities on your team.
3. Understand your team’s capacity for change.
You may be tempted to overhaul your department and immediately jettison all the workplace processes you find antiquated or inefficient. Don’t assume everyone’s eager for an extreme makeover, though. Make sure each team member is informed in advance of proposed changes and given the opportunity to process the news, share feedback and ask questions. This way even those individuals who are a bit set in their ways will be better prepared for the transition.
4. Focus on high-value collaboration.
You may like the idea of being a company of equals and always drawing upon the collective wisdom and experience of others. But there are times when getting group input and consensus can slow and even undermine your decision-making process. Don’t take a shotgun approach to every issue. Learn to identify situations in which drawing on multiple perspectives will lead to the best solution. Involve only those individuals who have the most relevant insights and knowledge to share.
5. Learn how to obtain buy-in from those at a senior level.
Working within a hierarchy isn’t always easy, but you’ll need to gain support from executive leadership at times. Do your homework. Understand your stakeholders and key decision-makers so you can present your ideas powerfully and persuasively. Crunch the numbers and demonstrate the financial benefits to the business. Anticipate questions and pushback so you can quell the doubts of any naysayers. Find an executive who’s willing to be a stakeholder or champion to help pave the way.
—Sara Hill, principal and co-founder of Hill, Barolet & Associates