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.