Coaching Millennials

written by Tina Dias

As each new generation enters the workforce the dominant generation tends to think they are different. Are Millennials fundamentally different than prior generations? I don’t think they are. It’s simply that we are comparing their values and choices to those of Gen X and Baby Boomers.

What makes coaching Millennials different? I believe coaching is coaching, yet as a Baby Boomer coach (1963), I need to have a more open mind, use more powerful and provocative questions and respect the differences in values and approaches that Millennials bring to the table. Most importantly, I need to be non-judgmental and leave my own beliefs and values aside. Coaching Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers is easier as I can relate to their challenges, having experienced them myself. Having said that, coaching Millennials is empowering and helps me as a coach assess my own views and practices.

Millennials and Coaching

Coaching Millennials requires coaches to be aware of several differences in how this generation shows up and what they need to do to be successful at their workplace. Here are four areas where Gen X and Baby Boomers may differ from Millennials and how knowing these differences can help you coach Millennials:

1. Customer Focus

When I worked for large multinational organizations we worked with the 80/20 rule and believed we needed to focus 80 % of our time on 20 % of our biggest revenue-generating clients. We focused most of our time on ‘major accounts’. Millennials are focused on all customers and ensuring products and services reach as many customers as possible. They will find the most effective digital means to service all customers.The need to keep innovating to best serve them and ensure customer loyalty is a priority for Millennial leaders.

2. Communication

We worked with limited knowledge because management gave us only the information they thought we needed. Information was power. Power meant rank, status and prestige. Millennials want to know as much as possible. From the get-go they want to be included in idea generation and remain fully engaged. They need maximum information. Millennial leaders want to include everyone in their communications. Their mantra is, Information is only power when you share it, and they are not as worried about rank and more focused on getting results collaboratively.

As a Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer walking down a corridor and encountering the company CEO passing by, chances were you would nod, and try to take the least intrusive path, not wanting to bother him (usually a him). Perhaps your CEO doesn’t even know your name. Imagine now a Millennial walking past the CEO: S/he will stop them, say hello, most likely ask a question about some project they are working on and engage in a conversation. Millennials expect the CEO to know who they are and what they are working on, and take a direct entitled path. There is no tip toeing for this generation. Millennials believe they play an vital role in their company’s success and need to be aligned with the company’s values. They demand to be heard.

At a recent family visit, my Millennial nephew informs me that he sent an email to the CEO of Apple letting him know what he liked and didn’t like regarding a new Apple product. His mom and I were stunned initially and then impressed with his initiative. One of his hobbies is creating apps for Apple. In his email, he added, that he will help fix these flaws as he will only work for Apple and described his process to get there: “I am 15 years old and will work part-time at the Apple store during University and once I graduate I will move to California to work on your design engineering team”. I found his focus on possibilities, innovation, customer satisfaction and doing what he loves refreshing and typically Millennial.

3. Organizational Culture

We worked within a pyramid of hierarchies. Each level had its level of authority, decision-making and accountability. We were often told ‘it’s not of your concern’. Or ‘this is all you need to know’. Millennials need to be part of the entire process. They want to understand the why and what and have the freedom to figure out the ‘how’. They prefer to work on projects where there is a collaborative effort, and they want to work smart. They reject punching a clock 9 to 5, particularly when it’s seen as unproductive and as an expression of control from their Gen X and Baby Boomer manager. Millennial leaders create more inclusive, open and engaged cultures, putting more emphasis on collaborative project teams, with limited hierarchy.

During a recent coaching sessions, my client and I were talking about Millennial and values. He stated,
“I told the (Millennial) employee that he should tuck his shirt in so that he will look more professional and after his awesome presentation, I asked myself why tucking in his shirt was important. I came to the realization it was my values kicking in. The value of needing to look prim and proper to be truly accepted and respected.” This brief dialogue brought it home for my client, – how he now needed to focus on what really mattered and alter his views of acceptable behaviour given changing generational norms.

4. Speed

For our generation, improvements in technology created anxiety, and though we may not have admitted it, we were not that open to change. We were the generation that starting using computers at work so, “please don’t come and change the software on us, we just learned how to use these things.”

Millennials have always been used to everything happening quickly. They anticipate the arrival of new technology and are comfortable with ever changing systems. and they play an intricate role as creators and innovators. Millennial leaders see efficiencies and opportunities for continuous improvements that allow organizations to keep up with the speed at which technology and customer demands are changing.

In Conclusion

In terms of basic personality, Millennials are no different than we were when we entered the workforce. What is different is how we need to work as a result of the rapid evolution of technology changes. Coaching Millennials is all about supporting this generation in their desire to have freedom to innovate and create customer satisfaction, while respecting their value system of working smart and not hard.

These ideas were pulled from my personal experience as a coach and inspired from the book When Millennilas Take Over – Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic – Future of Business by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant.


image00Tina Dias is is a professional certified coach, leadership trainer, facilitator and guest speaker. She is a member of NextGenLeaders®.

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