Millennial Madness: May Showers of Hope

I found myself waiting at the SLC Airport surrounded by twelve high school seniors headed to DC for a graduation trip and college visits.  They are well armed with their technology (as am I, so at least I fit in from that perspective).  They all have a handheld device of some sort – Samsung, iPhone, Droid, all the major brands are well represented.


Five have laptops – Mac, Dell.  Six have iPods plugged in their ears, while they are all multi-tasking.  They are also having very vigorous conversations (which bursts the myth that they do not know how to talk to each other.)  One young man is clearly obsessed with technology (the Mac guy) and he has rambled off the names of at least 30 different plug ins, apps, hardware, and takes pride in showing his female peer with the Dell all about it.  Twitter feeds, Facebook profile pics, and You-Tube clips.  They all talk about food too. Food is a universal language for us all, and this group of Millennials are no exception.They are also doing a fine job of keeping an eye on each other as their boarding time draws near.  Genuine concern for their friends.

As I lift up my head from my Inspiron-mini I see two large groups of young Millennials arriving from their location for a Rocky Mountain retreat.  A musical group maybe?  Their matching shirts actually look like the Mad Men logo although I know that can’t be true.  A plethora of diversity.  Young men, women, and numerous cultural backgrounds.  It warms this writers heart to see this as a normal condition.

I hear many of our leaders expressing concern about the Millennials ability to communicate verbally.  Many eye rolls at their ability to write in anything but text-ease.  But you know, I feel increasingly more confident as I am immersed in this Millennial moment that their parents raised them the best they could.  Exposed them to so many opportunities, and gave them an amazing start.  Just like any other generation, there will be some that thrive, and others that will not.  And I think we will see this generation thriving more than not.  I am happy to be a mentor to pass over the reigns.  I don’t need to lead any longer.  I am in the deconstruction of my career ego, and focusing more on how I can make an impact.  It is sort of a relief.

I had the opportunity to train at a large Military-base. My class was filled with retired military recently hired into a civilian federal agency.  Most were younger Boomers and older Gen Xers, with one lone Millennial. It was interesting to hear about those who ascended to fairly high leadership ranks prior to their retirement just wanting to get a job, keep their head low, and NOT lead.  But in reality, the real leaders stand out. They couldn't keep away, they want to be a role-model, a mentor.  As much as they wanted to fight the urge, and achieve the life balance, they can’t help but fulfill a calling to make an impact.  I related to them.  The word wisdom came up a lot.  This lone Millennial was very talented among the sage group.  And they showed her respect.  Wanted to hear her perspective.  And she THRIVED!

I think it is that simple.  To get the most out of Millennials, show them respect, that their voice matters.  That your HEAR them, not just see them.

Recent Comments
Guest — Barb
Super post Lori, As usual you put clear vision into your obsrvation.
Friday, 04 May 2012 19:09
Guest — ermigrp
Thank you Barb! It was fantastic to see you this week!
Thursday, 10 May 2012 19:52
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Just Another Day, Make it Count

One Friday morning...L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, DC...I am not native to DC, been here 10 years now though.  I was not an early adopter to the metro system, but I use it routinely now to see my federal coaching clients.  I am not sure I actually ever exited this station, although it is a major transfer station.  It is being remodeled with lots of shops and eateries.  I observe five generations of citizens, tourists, expats roaming the corridors at 9:30 am.

A young millennial gent in a spiffy suit grins while walking with his lovely counterpart - makes me recollect when I was starting out in my career, so much was new and exciting.  An energy I wish I could bottle.  "Why can't I have it now?"  Yes, the Generation Jones* that I am was screaming out then too!  I have been watching the classic late 80's series thirtysomething lately and episode 7 Season 1 featured the Home Shopping Network - "I need it and I need it now!"  Yup. That was certainly my mantra!  Although I wasn't necessarily aware of it, or even did I question it.

I do recall my wise Grandma Lorraine always wondering why I didn't just save up for it.

"Use a coffee can like I do!"

"But Gram, I have a credit card!"

Ugh, the beginning of the end.  And what were the creditors thinking when they unleashed a card to me at age 19 with a the $5000 credit limit in 1982?  I have more than done my part to keep the economy going and fund large bonuses for the banking execs.  lol.

I digress, back to the Plaza.  A Gen Jones man walking deliberately and focused, perhaps late to a meeting, but determined and happy it is Friday.  A Boomer couple on vacation sitting and scouring the tourist map to plan out their morning.   Mom and her young teen daughter heading somewhere as if on a mission; the Great Depression era represented as well, a woman heading to her job and I can only imagine she is celebrating 50 years there and she is proud of her service.

Another Traditionalist couple looking overwhelmed, I offer help.

A gentleman about 62 whistling and his gait almost a march as he breaks for coffee at Olympic Expresso, one of the only shops open while the facelift halts operations of this potentially bustling plaza.

A 50ish jolly woman juggling a vente double whip something snacking on a high calorie treat.  A twenty-something woman, head hung low, could be her boyfriend forgot her birthday or her best friend went out with him.

So what do they call the music in the background these days?  It was Muzak in my day - a piano concerto of some sort.  Now it is Sirius/XM, Pandora, etc. are commonplace now.  Those Millennial geniuses like Zuckerberg and fellow Gen Jonser Tim Westergren, providing a constant evolution/revolution of technology and customized recreational luxuries.

And Gen Jones genius Steve Jobs, RIP.

As I wait to enter my new clients' office for the first time I marvel at what the slice of humanity I am observing today is challenged by, struggling with, elated about.  On the heels of finding out a long time dear friend has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, I can't help but be reflective, grateful, yet in abeyance. We all soldier through our days, hopefully lucky enough to use the gifts we have to make a living, a difference, to influence those around us and learn something new every day.

I see back packs everywhere - I wish I still had my square mocha brown leather briefcase I got in 1985 when I first entered the workforce.  It would be vintage!  It was exciting, and scary.  As are our times today.

Just another day, make it count.

*Per Jonathan Pontell, the man who coined the term of the in-between generation, the Ivy League's Yale University now teaches Generation Jones in a course called: Managing a Multiple Generation Workforce, which addresses: the three prevailing workplace generations: Baby Boomers, Generation Jones, and Generation X. Many Universities in the U.S. and abroad now include Generation Jones in their curriculum.

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More on the Millies - Gen Y or Millennials

Someone told me today that the Millennials are the Video generation.  When they are done with the game they can hit "start over" and begin a new game and forget all about the one they were playing.  This mentality apparently is spilling over into the workforce because leaders are complaining about the high turnover of this group, and anyone who is in the corporate world knows that the cost of turnover is 2 to 10 times the salary of that job.  I heard today about a big organization that is investing millions into their Millennial talent.  They are providing a leadership coach to all their high potentials and investing in them using tools, methodologies and mediums that are meaningful to them.  This organization is going out of their way to ensure that the skills and experience the coaches have are compatible with the Millies.  That they have an open mind and believe that they bring something truly positive and that once you connect with them and show you respect them for what they bring, they are in your pocket.  They want to exude a sense of loyalty to the talent and are optimistic about their loyalty in return.  It would benefit us to understand the future leaders of our world and this writer is passionate about learning more about them and helping them prepare to take on more.

In the book Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Neil Howe and William Strauss, they site surveys that show this group is optimistic, happy, confident and positive. Socio-economics taken into consideration, they worry less about violence, sex and drugs than previous generations.  Millennials are not the self-absorbed brats that some managers and supervisors claim they are, they were raised to be cooperative team players with community service and working with others and a collective power mindset.  They have a passion for the environment and believe it is their generation that is being raised to make a difference.  They are smart, too.  They grew up with computers before they could even pronounce the word. Health, preventative care and nutrition have taken a more important role than that of the Gen X group.  Their school fire drills are about preparing for attacks with events like  Columbine, 9/11, Oklahoma City bombing, the DC Sniper and Virginia Tech as benchmarks. Other influencing factors were the OJ Simpson trial, Rodney King riots, Clinton impeachment, Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Princess Di's death are all events the shaped this era according to a Class of 2000 survey.  Active military deployments in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan are commonplace.

I want to encourage our current leaders to embrace this emerging audience.  A bit of encouragement to nurture that optimism is not a lot to ask.  How we had to scratch our way up is not how they intend to live their lives.  They are here, and they do not have the propensity to be "here to stay" if the organizational culture is questionable.  We need to make that effort to give them a reason to stay.  Telling them "you're lucky to have a job" ain't it.  Game over.

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Generation Jones meets the Millennials

Jonathan Pontell - 2005

Welcome to the first edition of The Ermi Group Blog.  I am new to this great media phenomenon so I will be starting out with a combination of original posts, and also asking some of my amazing friends and colleagues to be guest bloggers!

Ever get exposed to a new concept and then not be able to get enough of it?  That is my new obsession of Generation Jones.  Jonathan Pontell  coined the term and it has been on TV and various news programs, but I apparently missed it, as have most of the “Joneses” I know.  I have heard a few versions of who is included in this new sub-generation.  But it makes perfect sense that the group I belong to has to have it’s own subset.  For years I thought I related to being a Baby Boomer, in fact, I recall proudly categorizing myself in this group of esteemed trailblazers when I was in my late 20s and early 30s.  It seemed to fit, sort of, and I always had a thing for being “the youngest” to achieve something, or receive an award, or be promoted or following in my dad’s footsteps, yet a few years earlier than he achieved milestones.  Then, I was no longer in the “high potential” up and comer group.  The Generation X crowd took over and they had a beat of their own.  They did not seem to want to work as many hours as I was.  They came in later than I did and had a life.  I was a little jealous at the life, but then a little bitter that I was putting in tremendous hours and seemingly being paid the same.  Then that was back in the day that the good ole boys tolerated having women because they had a quota.  Wow, we really have come a long way.  Women in the workforce is a given, but the data seems to support that we still are not paid equally.

I have in recent years shared with my coaching clients that while I worked ridiculous hours and climbed the ladder and won awards, there is not one person in my life that was around when I put in all those hours, ruined my first marriage, and took the verbal abuse of my senior leaders that were bigots and chauvinists.  Yes, we have come a long way.  My two daughters will have it easier potentially, and I had it easier than the women that blazed that trail before me.  Recently my husband purchased Season One of the classic drama thirtysomething.  It debuted in 1987, two years into my professional career.  I remember watching it every Tuesday night at 9 pm (or 10?)  Hope, Michael, Nancy, Elliot, Melissa, Gary and Ellyn were a part of our family.  It was the first show that really represented who we were becoming.

While I was really twentysomething, these were our role models.  The Don Draper of the late 80s.  And interestingly, ad men of 90s vs the MadMen of the 60s.  These two shows have really been weighing on me and my need to write and to describe the journey to ultimately help the Millennials get ready to take on their legacy.  Events and culture shape our lives, and this sub-set born between 1953-1964 had some influences that may mirror the Millennials (Millies-some say Gen Y, but my 18 year old Millie likes Millennials better so that is what I will call her!).  Korea, Kennedy’s, Vietnam, Man on the Moon, TV dinners, and a lot of expectations that we will attend college (if socioeconomically we were fortunate of enough to have this as an option) but once we came of age, the environment was very different.  Now we live a life of abundance and excess.  We are ‘Jonesing” even still.  My husband makes fun of me but I am always dreaming about the future, about home improvements, about vacations, about fun, about hard work, about what’s next.  While I do not think we have to keep up with Joneses because we are the Joneses, we are redefining ourselves, wanting to keep up and connect with the generation being poised to replace us.

People I train in performance management and consult with I hear complaining about how the Millennials are spoiled, they expect rewards and positive feedback all the time, and if they are not satisfied with their growth, they move on.  They do not want or need to pay their dues, which the Jonesers most certainly had to.  But we RAISED these people!  We gave them stickers for going potty, celebrated their every move!  Over-engineered their lives with soccer, basketball, pep squad, piano lessons, AP classes, and lavish birthday parties.  Of course they want to be rewarded.  We did it to them, and now it is hardwired.  They don’t know any other way.  And now we complain about it. We need to get over ourselves and embrace them, throw them a bone of praise when they deserve it and learn from them.  They know technology like no one’s business.  When I was in high school there was one mammoth computer for the entire school, in college there were a few in a separate classroom and we had to sign up to get time with it.  There was no email, there were not even answering machines never mind voicemail and text.  The Millennials have leveraged technology from the get go.  In fact my 4 ½ year old downloaded How to Survive High School and Tetris on my cell phone (before it was ‘Smart”) at 9  months old and actually figured out how to find it!  I didn’t even know I had it until my bill was $40 higher one month!  Now she wizzes through the iPad and programs and downloads her own Netflix movies.  I better learn how to use those parental controls with this one!

So what does all this mean about leadership?  What did Gen Joneses learn that mainline Boomers may not have?

What do Millennials seek that will keep them happy in the workforce?  What will the Feds do when the Boomers “bail out?” Will the Millennials find a career in the Feds satisfying and meaningful?  What does a heart for public service mean in this day and age and era?  What will the legacy be of the Millennials?  What will be their unique brand of leadership?

Some of my peers and older would complain about all the texting and lack of verbal and handwritten communication of this latest generation.  “They won’t even know how to interview or have a conversation.”  I am not sure this is true.  The Millennials I have met and coached are eager, and want to contribute.  Perhaps their written communication skills look a lot different than mine did, I am not sure it really matters as long as the message comes across as intended.  In my early email days, more conflict arose from the written word and our little voices/gremlins inside reading it in the wrong tone.  Maybe some needless conflict would have been avoided with a LOL or J icon.

The days of the “my way or the highway” boss is dwindling.  These Millies watched us take our beatings, get laid off with and without severance, and line up in the unemployment line.  The job market now is not unlike that of the early 80s before those memorable Reagan years of prosperity.  They are not going to take it and we need to just deal with that.  “You’re lucky to have a job” does not resonate with this group.  Their needs are different, they had everything growing up, they lived a life of abundance, and they really are looking for simplicity.

My next post will be more on this topic and what I have learned about leadership!

Recent Comments
Guest — Crista
Maybe it is because I am part of this younger generation, but I totally agree. Each generation has their own set of skills/experti... Read More
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 15:46
Guest — Renee Charney
Great post, Lori! I wanted to comment on the blog, but couldn't find where. I think I need a Millie around to help me ;-). So here... Read More
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 16:28
Guest — Nancy
Much appreciated for the information and share! Nancy
Thursday, 22 September 2011 02:50
  4031 Hits


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