Does your family have a “kids’ table” at family gatherings? You know, the table set off to one side where all the little ones sit together, play with their food, and giggle at their own silly talk? All the while, the “grown-ups” are gathered at the formal dinner table, immersed in their meal and adult conversation.
At a recent family gathering, an impromptu “kids” table formed, composed of the Millenials in our extended family. Traditions die hard. They just wanted to sit together.
These “kids” are now in their late 20s and early 30s – Millennials – and all fully-employed adults. Some are parents. I am a boomer, but I infiltrated the table just to socialize because I don’t see this group of young people nearly enough.
Unlike the conversations of yesteryear, when their talk may have centered on school, princesses, and video games, this year’s conversation was about parenting, careers, and houses – you know, the “grown-up” stuff.
While I always enjoy their company, I had no idea that our table conversation would provide such great leadership communication insights, too. Some of their thoughts had a very familiar ring to what we’ve been hearing about Millennials in the workplace. In fact, here’s a recent article from Inc. that I read that really stimulated my thinking about the conversation they had that day.
Leadership communication lessons I learned at the “grown-up” kids’ table
They told each other – in their stories about work – that they like bosses who listen and they don’t like the bosses who don’t listen. That was pretty clear. This is not a new leadership communication thought. We should really listen to employees and their concerns. I mean – actively listen without interruption or pre-judgment. I think people are willing to tell us what they need to succeed, or how to make things better in the workplace if we listen. Millennials, like all of us, have something to say, if we actively listen.
Lesson: Leaders really need to hear from their employees. Listen first.
They want feedback. And training. And if they need to improve, “just tell me what I need to do, I’ll do it!” This sounds an awful lot like “be clear with expectations” doesn’t it? Frankly, I hear time and time and time again, supervisors, managers, and leaders don’t train employees nearly enough. We expect them to come in ready formed to work in our organizations. (I’m guilty myself.) It just doesn’t happen that way. Clear communication does take time. It takes time to learn how to effectively communicate and it takes time to effectively communicate as a leader, too. It takes time for people to learn the job. No matter what our age, we all benefit from clear, respectful feedback that helps us learn to do our jobs more effectively.
Lesson: Feedback is a gift we can learn to give and receive.
They are not going to willingly and happily work every minute of the day, and weekends too. A flexible work schedule, as it turns out, is a key finding in the Deloitte Survey of Millenials too. Unlike some of the older people in their lives, who apparently work morning to night (yes, I’m guilty), these young people don’t want that lifestyle. They want to have fun on Friday nights! (Hey – I remember fun!) And yet, when they don’t work those long hours some said they were made to feel guilty by their bosses. Wait a minute! Clear, open communication should be risk-free too. I personally resent guilt trips because guilt trips cause me negative stress about not working long or hard enough. That’s not good for the quality of my work, either. Flexibility is a key priority of Millenials. No surprise, but really important, too.
Lesson: The goal of effective leadership communication should be open, two-way, risk-free communication. Guilt trips don’t work, while flexibility it seems, may. There is a caution about flexibility too: Expectations should be mutually understood for that to work well! (Communication – again.)
They want to work hard at jobs that ignite their passions. Yet again, that has a familiar ring to the research about Millennials. They want to pursue work that they love, not just a job, but one they believe in, too. Again – a key finding in the Deloitte Survey is that Millenials do want to contribute to the social good.
Lesson: People do want to contribute so ask yourself: How can you find out the interests of the all the people on your team? A tip from the leadership communication text book is to take some time to know people on a human level to build professional relationships. You’ll learn more about their passions and perhaps learn new ways to engage them in the work of your organization, too.
Not surprisingly, if you are in a leadership role, you may have heard these lessons before, especially about the Millennials. Are you applying the lessons? Do your managers know how to communicate, too?
It seems that according to recent Pew Research, the millennials are sticking around in their jobs. I don’t know about you but I want these young people to succeed and stick around. In fact, we need them to succeed! I think leadership communication is a part of the equation.
Thanks for the conversation, kids. It was fun!