Food for thought

Managing Millennials: How They Make Me a Better Leader

By May 10, 2017 No Comments
Managing Millennials in tech

A lot has been said about managing Millennials; they are flooding the workforce and challenging leadership to rethink everything from social media policy to a company’s involvement with charities and social change. While Chronos is certainly not an HR expert, we do work with a global talent network to deliver upon our promises to our clients. That means working with a heck of a lot of Millennial technology engineers across all areas of technical expertise and business verticals. Given this, we can’t resist throwing our two cents into the conversation to talk about how those experiences have made us better leaders.

When we were young…

First, a bit of background on where we’re coming from. The leadership team at Chronos falls outside the Millennial bucket by a solid five to 10 years. We came straight out the gate from undergrad with the mindset that “you work hard” and then “you work even harder.” In our junior years in the tech industry, we churned through the tasks given to us with a near robotic discipline; knocking one thing off the list and plowing through the next. If you don’t have a next thing on your task list, you ask for more. The idea is that you work and you get your shit done.

We’re not saying this is necessarily the right way of doing things, it’s just one way of doing them. It was the environment we came from. It drilled into us a drive for completion, and gave us the chops to create what Chronos is today: a technology consultancy that churns out rapid-paced innovation for our clients.

We moved forward and worked hard (okay, we played hard, too!)—however, we didn’t often stop along the way to ask “Why?” Our satisfaction derived in the completion of our work. Again, this isn’t right or wrong; it’s simply where we came from. It’s a critical difference between our generation and the Millennials, one that has the potential to drive wedges between the two generations.

Millennials want to know why.

Our learning process with managing Millennials began with a research assignment given to a young member on our team. We’ll call him Todd. There wasn’t any magic to our request; we asked him to do some routine technology analysis. Pretty straightforward stuff. But here’s the catch: Todd dragged his feet. He didn’t seem interested and I became more and more frustrated.

Now, we realize this wasn’t sexy work, but it also wasn’t brain surgery. So, at a regular one-on-one catch up, we put things in reverse for a moment and took the time to explain that the why of the request—albeit simple—was critical to the business. We explained how we were going to use the information, why it’s important, why it matters, who was going to look at it and how it was going to be used.

And, just like that, Todd was a changed man.

Dramatics aside, it’s true. That one meeting turned the game around. Todd went from feet-in-the-mud to full court press. He came back with detailed information, proactively checked in and—get this—he even asked if he could meet on a Sunday to explore new ideas.

Our answer: Hell yes!

So, we grabbed an adult beverage that Sunday and talked through his ideas.

Why matters.

This is just one example, but understanding, and frankly glorifying, the why has become core to how we work at Chronos and with our customers. We see companies struggling with it all the time and across all types of roles. “Why” is important to Millennials because it shows a larger purpose, they see their importance in that purpose, and it acts as a spark to jumpstart their day.

It works the same way with our customers. Helping the larger teams, inside and outside of IT, all come together for the same purpose promotes a culture that wants to work together to accomplish something bigger than themselves.

Explaining “why” also serves as a massive catalyst for innovation. It opens a floodgate of ideas and enables Millennials—well, all of us—to rethink the status quo and come up with solutions that are fresh. The better we all understand each part of the organization, the better our solutions will be. The kind that truly solves problems versus slapping a band-aid on them. In this sense, “why” isn’t about productivity, it’s about getting to a new mindset that motivates and drives the business.

And that’s something we can all appreciate. Even old farts like us.