I've been training millennials to be leaders for a long time and I'll let you know a few secrets that are key to turning a millennial into an effective leader:
1-Understand what drives them. No, I don't mean get hip to twitter or whatever's trending at the moment, I mean really understand their motivations. I talk to lots of millennials about their car payments, their rent anxiety, their concerns about job security and their future marketability as employees and leaders. You can't treat someone as a cliche just because they're a member of a generation, you have to get down to what's actually driving the person you want to mentor and if you don't understand them as an individual you're not going to be an effective mentor.
2- Work with them to build a vision. This is important. Once you understand what's driving them, it's time to talk about how to get there and how the things they're going to be doing for you will make that happen. Remember that bit about job security and future marketability? I'm straight with each and every person I've mentored that if I do my job right, they're going to find themselves too valuable to continue to work for me in the position they started in and I'll either happily endorse their promotion internally or help them launch the next phase of their career. I'm invested in them and their growth. Of course I'm going to benefit from that, but I want them to understand the long haul and the long haul is that they're going to be more marketable after a few years with me than they were when they started.
3-Demonstrate trust. For new leaders, this is vital and it's vital that you do it from day one. You trust them before you've seen proof that they're capable. You trust them because if they can't be trusted they shouldn't have been hired. Whatever the project is, whatever the scope of their responsibility is, you need to demonstrate to them that you trust them with an appropriate level of autonomy. No micromanaging, no excessively invasive oversight, and no treating them like furniture that's "shadowing" for extended periods of time. Get them engaged, give them decision making capability and let them make some decisions.
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4- Build trust. New leaders make mistakes. Lots of them. That's normal. New leaders should feel like they can approach their mentors with problems and you have to create an environment where they bring you problems early rather than hiding them. Help them clean up the mess if they make one but don't clean it up for them. Hold them accountable absolutely but don't cut their legs out from under them when they make mistakes because they will make mistakes.
All of this should sound really familiar. The reason it should sound familiar is because this is all the foundations of mentoring leaders and it's stuff that, as an experienced leader, you're probably doing anyway... which gets me to the next bit:
- Embody the kind of leadership you expect them to execute. This is one of the most important things for you to do as a mentor. If you tell your employee that you expect them to communicate regularly with their direct reports you better be communicating regularly with them. If you tell them that the most important thing they can do is to take care of their people than you damn well better be taking care of your new leader. Young leaders are seeking a mentor to model themselves on and their leadership will be a reflection of your leadership. If there's a disconnect between what you expect of them and what you deliver as a leader then you're going to lose a great deal of your credibility as a mentor and instead of being seen as a role model you'll be seen as yet another corporate cog spouting buzzwords without genuine belief in them.
Contrary to the narrative preferred by some that millennials are entitled or lazy, when you start mentoring young leaders in this age group you find that they're not that fundamentally different from young leaders of any generation. They're more connected to technology, sure, and they've got different social and economic pressures to deal with and you need to understand those things, but the fundamentals of teaching leadership haven't changed since Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War. Don't get distracted by the stereotypes, drill down into the individuals you're mentoring and learn what makes them tick as individuals and you'll have the keys to making them successful leaders.
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How would you train a millennial employee to be a leader? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.