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Millennials Who Manage

Drawing on extensive research, including a comprehensive, original workplace survey and in-depth interviews with Millennial managers, Millennials Who Manage, offers teaches Millennial readers how to overcome workplace perceptions and become great leaders.

Chip Espinoza and Joel Schwarzbart are the authors of the new book, and Espinoza was kind enough to share his answers the following questions about topics he covers in his book.

Question:  Millennials have been labeled as “the entitled” generation. What can they do to overcome such a negative perception?

Espinoza:  The best way to overcome being perceived as entitled is to show appreciation and gratitude. If your manager invites you to a meeting, send her a thank you card or e-mail detailing what you learned and your appreciation. Millennials have to be intentional about it because it does not come naturally. That is not a knock on them. They have grown up in a world in which authority figures are for them and are committed to their success. They expect authority figures to help them. Unfortunately for them, that is not necessarily how they will experience their first manager. So when someone goes out of the way to help you—don’t expect it, acknowledge it!

QuestionWhat advice would you give to a Millennial who has just been promoted into management?

Espinoza:  Two things are going to immediately happen when you get promoted, 1) your peers are going to distance themselves from you, and 2) you are going to worry about disappointing the person who promoted you.

My advice is to accept the inevitability of both. The relational dynamics with your friends at work will go through redefinition. It is not fun but it will not last long. Don’t react to comments like…you have changed or you are a brown nose. Also, if you are growing as a leader you are probably going to disagree with your boss and trigger disappointment or displeasure. However, if you don’t find your own managerial leader voice, you will be perceived as inauthentic to the people you lead. I am not saying that it is wrong to try to please your manager but when that becomes your primary concern you will lose the respect of your peers and ultimately the person you are trying to impress.

When we asked older workers who report to Millennial managers what advice do they have for young managers this is what they had to say:
  • Listen
  • Be respectful
  • Be patient
  • Be a learner
  • Treat employees as equals
  • Lead by example
  • Don’t take on too much
  • Be confident

Chip Espinoza

QuestionWhat are Millennials' strengths as managers and leaders?

Espinoza:  I will begin with what people managed by Millennials listed as strengths. 
  • They are relatable.
  • They have a fresh perspective.
  • They are open-minded.
  • They have energy and enthusiasm.
  • They understand new technologies.
  • They are helpful.
  • They are understanding.

Here are a few of the verbatim remarks that characterize the aforementioned list.
  • “Generally, the younger management tends to be less focused on micromanagement, and more focused on team building.”
  • “The person will probably have a different perspective and approach than an older manager and may know more about recent developments and newer techniques or technologies.”
  • “They are more open minded and willing to change.”
  • “They are more ‘with the times’ and can relate to using technology that can make work easier and more efficient.”
  • “They don't think you're stupid just because of your age or inexperience, at least they give you a shot to PROVE that you can do the job (or prove that you are stupid). They can explain things a little easier—training always goes smoother because they tend to understand what they are teaching instead of just reading out of a book.”
  • “Currently, they are a breath of fresh air and much more trusting of all members in our group, who are adults with a lot of knowledge and experience. The previous manager of my current workgroup was approximately the same age, but was a micro-manager.”
  • “It feels less formal. I can speak in my own vernacular and it gets across (and vice versa). My manager being close in age also means that she can identify with what I'm experiencing in my own career development more than older managers would be.”
  • “The positive about being managed by someone under 35 is their attitude and fresh perspective.”
  • “Energy, enthusiasm, energy, enthusiasm, energy, enthusiasm—to the 10th power.”

QuestionYou write that Millennials are poised to become the greatest generation of managerial leaders ever. What makes you believe this?  

Espinoza:  You don’t have to convince a Millennial of the value of emotional intelligence, empowerment, employee surveys, adaptive leadership, training, team building, or giving timely feedback.

Many organizations have manager expectation modules so we decided to select one and survey employees managed by Builders/Silents, Baby Boomers, GenX, and Millennials. We landed on the Google People Analytics Team’s eight characteristics of a “high quality” manager.
  • Good coach
  • Empowers the team
  • Expresses interest in, and concern for, team members’ success and well-being
  • Is productive and results oriented
  • Is a good communicator—listens and shares information
  • Helps with career development
  • Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
  • Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team[i]

Millennials have been socialized to work in teams to a greater extent than previous generations. Millennials see coaching as an important part of the supervisor-employee relationship, and they shun the hierarchical, power-oriented management role that is more typical of older generations. Assuming that they treat others in the way that they would like to be treated, we expect Millennials to manage with a low power orientation—that is, a more inclusive and transparent style of delegation and oversight in which authority is de-emphasized and constructive feedback is expected.

The survey results for Millennial managers exceeded our expectations. We anticipated that they would do well, but we were actually quite fascinated. The 25- to 34-year-olds were ahead of all other age groups in empowering their employees. Overall, 25- to 34-year-olds came out either first or second on all but two of the dimensions. Consequently, I believe they are poised as a generation to be great managerial leaders.

QuestionWhat can a Millennial do while in college to start to learn how to manage an older person?

Espinoza:  Great question. It may sound elementary but here is my first piece of advice—get comfortable initiating conversation with people older than you. Millennials are the first generation who has not needed an authority figure to access information. Therefore, they do not have a felt need to build relationship with people older than them. About one in five Millennials are comfortable relating to older adults and they happen to be the ones who get promoted first. It makes sense. We tend to trust people with whom we can communicate. If I were in college, I would join a professional organization in the discipline I wanted to pursue (or outside my discipline if one were not available). I would attend meetings and practice engaging older professionals in conversation.

No matter my field of study, I would take a leadership or management class as an elective. It can help shape or clarify the development your leadership perspective. I believe good theory informs good practice and good practice informs good theory.

I once asked the late leadership guru, Warren Bennis, if there were a concept in leader development so simple that he would be reluctant to write about it. Without hesitation he said yes, “Leaders are first-class noticers.” While in college work at becoming a first-class noticer. Leaders are constantly monitoring their environment. Pay attention to the manager-employee exchanges in the grocery store, restaurant, gym, theater, or even at school. Do people seem motivated and engaged in their job or the opposite? If you care, you’re probably going to be a great manager.


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