A narrative has developed over the past 8-10 years regarding the Millennials, or Generation Y. From my experience interacting, mentoring and just hanging out with the young people in this generation, I would have to say this narrative is inaccurate at best. One of the common themes regarding the perception of this group of people by us old fogies is the topic of entitlement.
I want to challenge every single person who has and continues to perpetuate this newly developed stereotype. There has been, and will continue to be an element of entitlement in nearly every generation. The Millennials don’t need to be singled out simply because they’re “new”. You see, entitlement begins where gratitude ends. When you cease to be grateful for what is, you feel justified in having a sense of entitlement for what isn’t.
When this happens in leadership, it can quickly unravel an organization’s momentum and inject toxins into your culture. Take for example, the lack of gratitude for the creativity and lateral thinking that seems to almost define the Millennial crowd (not to imply that doesn’t exist in the Gen-Xers or Boomers). Once the gratitude for this skill has been lost, there is an entitled-driven behavior of “I have the answers, so stop messing up my plan.” Sound familiar? Thought so.
Like most things, we hate most about others what we dislike about ourselves. It is a painful reminder of where we need to improve, but isn’t that a fundamental tenet of leadership – self awareness and continual improvement? As leaders, we look to what can be and work towards that, yet unrealized, new reality. We create new paradigms that facilitate achieving that and often times they fly in the face of “best practices”. Isn’t that all that the Millennials are doing? Isn’t it just our generation’s best practices that are on the chopping block, so we feel a bit threatened?
This group of people are flooding the workplace in unprecedented numbers (larger in population than the Boomers) and it will continue for the next 15-20 years. If our leadership is one of entitlement, and by that I mean lacking gratitude, then we will create a gap that will make it impossible to lead. Our sense of entitlement of being right and being respected simply because of longevity will be our undoing and gratitude will be even more difficult to muster.
Here are some tips to squash entitlement in our leadership.
- Listen more – Every single communication book ever written addresses the importance of listening. Listen to hear. Don’t listen to reformulate your words as a means to solidify your argument. This may be a shock to many of you, but you aren’t always right. Let a young buck teach you a thing or two.
- Congratulate often – Gratitude is the antithesis to entitlement. Tell people how well they are doing and how grateful you are for their contribution. Just experiencing genuine gratitude makes it very difficult to feel entitled to anything. Be authentic and don’t make it just lip service.
- Provide opportunity – Give people the chance to provide something that makes you grateful. When they mess up, coach them…don’t berate them and perpetuate some tired old stereotype. We are all human beings who have dreams, passions and potential. Our differing world views don’t change any of that. Lead accordingly.
- Lighten up – Sure you have to be responsible with the business, but you don’t have to be a bore about it. Laugh a bit. A bit of time enjoying a good 3 minute laugh will improve your productivity, not diminish it by 3 minutes.
So what will you do about your level of gratitude towards those who see life differently than you. I wrote this post to challenge my leadership and I’m hoping it will do the same for you. I would love to hear your comments about it!