I’ll admit I was a tough sell.
I’d seen and heard many promises about how great life was going to become once I turned over control to another person. I’ve been told they will work out AMAZINGLY well. I’ve been led to believe the results would be AWESOME! I’ve even been advised that certain people were RIDICUOUSLY talented… whatever that means. When they let me down, I was the first to shriek, “I told you so!”
I always considered “old school” to be a compliment and assumed that these Kool-Aid hawkers were in cahoots for favors from the next generation. But lately, I’ve been of a different persuasion. I’ve experienced first hand that one plus one can equal five when the right folks get their hands on the wheel. And once they take you for a breathtaking spin into a mind-blowing sunset, it’s much easier to toss them the keys again and again.
How would you define Millennial Magic?
My definition as a business owner is simple. Millennial Magic is that unexpected moment when a person puts our business interests first, ahead of their own agenda and delivers excellent results far beyond anything I could have imagined or replicated. Typically, they achieve these results without constant supervision or significant direction. And when they present their deliverables to me with a sense of well deserved pride and humility, I’m humbled, too. I call that “Millennial Magic.”
Lately, it’s been happening more and more often. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve become more open minded about the probability for these events to occur. But I’d also like to think that we’ve stumbled upon some ways to spark this creativity and imagination in the hearts and minds of younger employees.
Here are three examples of Millennial Magic that I’ve witnessed recently:
Ashley has always been a reliable and trustworthy team member. Yet, there were many occasions when I avoided taking chances on her improvisational personality. I deemed the stakes were too high in our company. After all, I’ve been at this for a long time, I rationalized. Besides, I have a set way to conduct interviews and record the responses of potential alliance partners.
Ashley on the other hand took an audio file from one of our recent interviews and turned it into an excellent showcase of how we might better spotlight our capabilities for clients. Her vision for how cloud based technology could enhance our communication efforts produced a high-quality tool that I never would have envisioned. And she did it quickly, without much need for intervention and with remarkable charm. Her perspective was the leverage she applied that I could never have anticipated or expected. Her vision and technical acumen made it a reality.
Example two: Brian was a talented young professional with much unrealized potential. His biggest hang-up was a fear of committing himself to a particular role in his company. He felt he had lots of interests and was concerned this would limit his potential to grow and learn. After several attempts by his boss to woo him into roles that were in his view too restrictive, she changed tact and offered him some options to simply lead various projects. In other words, she got Brian into the right seat on the bus.
Brian’s collaborative nature manifests itself immediately. Soon one large project that had been delayed several times began to take shape. Cross-functional employees throughout the manufacturing concern became interested in contributing their discretionary effort to make the project work. Brian adapted his timetable to capitalize on the momentum generated by his colleagues. The project rapidly got back on schedule and turned out to be quite strategic for the future of his company. Brian is now leading a mission critical distribution arm and his direct reports are engaged and energized. Brian’s Millennial Magic is spreading like wildfire.
Then there’s Ruth, a young lady with a solid, trustworthy name and a spectacularly vivid imagination. Ruth doesn’t wait for her boss to come to her with assignments. She’s always two steps ahead and has found more resources for her company than her leaders can cultivate. Ruth has found new clients for her firm. She has uncovered referral sources who have delivered new clients. She has established a substantial database and continues to mine it for opportunities daily. And just when you think Ruth is done for the day, she pulls another rabbit out of the hat that could potentially double the size of her company. Ruth is too young to technically qualify as a Millennial, but we won’t tell her. She’s magical too!
If you’re still waiting to taste the fruit of the up and coming generations, here are five bold suggestions to improve your probability for success:
- Take a significant company initiative and describe the desired results clearly without prescribing the methodology for completion. Be specific about outcomes and the timeline.
- Forget titles. Offer it up as a “pilot opportunity” to the young professional you believe has the greatest passion and ability to accomplish the goal. Passion is key.
- Allow the person or people who most desire the opportunity to determine the tools, resources and teammates they would like to leverage to accomplish their goals.
- Ask for three updates per week. Use each feedback session to applaud the progress and reemphasize milestones. Avoid hovering.
- Applaud all meaningful collaboration by fellow teammates and reward successful progress at every measurable moment.
You will know within two weeks or less if the project is gaining traction. If you are seeing signs of tangible success, celebrate the wins and ask what you can do to help. If the project is languishing or begins to stall out, suggest other resources or discontinue the initiative.
Most importantly, win, lose or draw… ask the person or team to explain to their colleagues what they set as an ultimate goal. Have them describe the approach they chose. Ask them to share the results and lessons learned with the group. And finally, celebrate the success of the outcome or learning experience!
It’s taken most companies a little time and a few false starts to figure out how to best optimize the working relationships between baby boomers and the generations that follow them. The great news is that we are seeing exponential evidence of the Millennial Magic.
Don’t settle for an illusion! It’s real.
Keith Martino is head of CMI, a global consultancy founded in 1999 that customizes leadership and sales development initiatives. Martino is the author of “Expect Leadership“, a series of leadership books – The Executive Edition, in Business, in Engineering, and in Technology. He has also published three sales handbooks, Get Results, Results Now, and “Selling to Americans“. After more than 20 years and numerous awards at FedEx, Xerox and Baxter Healthcare, Martino and his team provide world-class counsel and proven web-based tools that produce consistent results.