Leading Millennials

The Islander – February 2018

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Millennials need praise & recognition

So what is a ‘Millennial’ and what makes them so different and difficult to manage compared to previous generations?

Words that are often used to describe Millennials include ‘privileged, disrespectful, expectant and ambitious’. But aren’t these the same words that previous generations have used to describe the next? Think of the Baby Boomers who emerged into the workplace with a backdrop of Mods and Rockers, or generation X who surfaced through a clamour of Punks. Sorry Millennials, it would seem that being different is a generational right of passage, but let’ take a few minutes to explore what makes you unique.

Born sometime after 1980 and before 2000 Millennials are rapidly filling a range of positions on board. While the doctrine of good leadership means that regsardless of age, race or gender, we should treat each person as an individual, this has never been more necessary than for the Millennial generation. We should not assume that all crew of this cohort will confirm to the stereotype. However, there re idiosyncrasies concerning the environment that Millennials have been brought up in, and this has undoubtedly had an impact on their approach to working life.

The fast pace of life that Millennials have grown up in, means that they are eager for new experiences; so as leaders and managers we need to help them to find opportunities to develop new skills. They are ready to take responsibility sooner than we are ready to give it! Empower them and give them the opportunities to stretch and prove themselves. Millennials have been brought up in an environment where learning and development leads to progression. It’s important that they can see where their careers are heading; using short term goals, career planning and regular feedback will help maintain their levels of motivation.

Multi-tasking is what they do, technology has been an integral part of their childhood, a phone or piece of technology attached to some part of their body 24 / 7, ready to occupy them at a moments notice; they don’t do boredom. Find opportunities to challenge them and use the full range of their skills and education. Even if this means encouraging crew to develop each other in other fields, such as sports or hobbies, it’s important that they feel able to contribute and are valued.

Nobody likes to be told what to do and your Millennials are no different, what is different is that they have also been brought up to speak out. Millennials have had little experience of hierarchies; a good yardstick is to respect them as you would like them to respect you. Spend more time listening and supporting, rather than telling and commanding, get to know them as individuals. Lead them instead of managing them, encourage them to speak up and value their input and views. Don’t micromanage or be overly authoritarian. Obviously, there is a time and place when you have no option but to direct, such is in a crisis or a safety critical scenario. However, where possible be flexible, empower and involve crew in the decision making, maybe take a leaf out of General George Patton’s book “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Millennials need more recognition than previous generations, primarily due to the parenting and teaching styles that they have experienced. Much of their life (or at least the best parts) are played out through social media and they have a genuine need for approval from both their superiors and peers. If you hold performance reviews twice a year, it’s important to give them meaningful recognition regularly in between times.

Finally, find your cause. Millennials want to make a difference in the world, so what can you do to help them achieve this? Some may argue that the Superyacht world is one of decadent indulgence, for Millennials it can be hard to see the bigger picture or identify their purpose or “why”. However, many owners are also great philanthropists; finding a charity or purpose which strikes a chord with your crew, can be both motivational and uniting.  What about ridding our oceans of the plastic that is destroying the very environment we call home?

Most of our suggestions here are nothing more than sound management practice, the difference perhaps is that previous generations of crew were more forgiving of poor leadership, whereas Millennials are more likely to highlight your shortcomings. Sometimes, they can be outspoken, but quite often they will simply vote with their feet.

If you would like to turn good intentions into everyday great leadership habits, give Impact Crew a call to discuss the various ways we can support you as you lead your Millennial crew.