Our team was presenting to leaders at one of my largest clients when one of the gentlemen in the back who had been with the company for three decades piped in.
“Look,” he said, “I had to do it this way. They should have to do it this way. They should just shut their mouths and do it the way I did it. I didn’t like my boss for fifteen years and I still did what I was told and…” I listened as “Angry John” went on, getting angrier and angrier as he went. I let him go a bit, and then calmly asked him to slow down and take a breath. And then I let him have it in a kind but direct way.
“How does what you did thirty years ago matter today? How is it relevant to anyone but you?”
He looked at me. He still looked tense. I continued.
“I don’t deny what you went through, but why do you want the same for them? We are talking about the present—today—and what we want to create for the future. What does what you did thirty years ago, when there were no mobile phones and you weren’t getting hundreds of texts a day, have to do with today and tomorrow?”
The room fell silent as Angry John looked at me and said, “I guess not much.”
Let’s be honest: What stands in the way of change are people, and too many leaders don’t include themselves as “people” complicit, let alone responsible for, the gaps between millennials and non-millennials in the workplace. Non-millennials see themselves as above it all. “Millennials are the problem and they should obey my golden rule: I have the gold; I make the rules—if you want my gold you need to follow my rules.”
I agree with that … to a point.
I am not about redistribution of wealth or egalitarian management systems, and I don’t want to change who anyone is. I just want us to create an impact and rethink the rules of the workplace for everyone. I want us all to be the best versions of ourselves, understand what that means, and leverage that to create better workplaces and results, both short and long term.
I’m not saying millennials aren’t complicit in widening this gap. Of course they are, but let’s be honest: What happens to us is principally because of us—all of us. If we want to get the best from our people, if we are to bridge this gap to create powerful relationships that take advantage of all of our strengths, we must accept that things have changed but we have not.
So how do we get started? We work from the inside out.
We must first know, understand, and manage how we are perceived in order to manage others. Trust yourself to be vulnerable, to work on yourself, to relish who you are, and then to share that with the world, and you will create the kind of relationships that deliver value to others and get results.
Simply put, the more you know yourself—truly know and care about yourself—the more you’ll be able to truly know, care about, and connect to the people around you and achieve the relationships you need and want. The good news is only five short steps are required to complete this work.
- Understand the power of RELATIONSHIPS (how you connect)
- Know your STRENGTHS (who you are innately)
- Recognize your SKILLS, PASSIONS, and VALUES (what you know and what you bring to the world)
- Define your PERSONAL BRANDSTAMP (how you want to be perceived in the world)
- Develop and deliver your STORY (how you present yourself to the world)
Successfully complete these steps and you will effectively communicate who you really are and articulate your value in order to connect with others on an authentic level to bridge the gap with millennials in the workplace and marketplace.
Need help getting started? Let us help you stop chasing relevance and make it happen. For more on working from the inside out, check out Part One of Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace TODAY.