I’ll be frank, I don’t understand the question that comes up so frequently in my circles — “How do we manage the Millennials?” To me, it seems really straightforward. Somehow, people have confused themselves. You manage projects, you lead people. Try leading Millennials instead of managing them.
Managing vs Leading
There are several ways of distinguishing between leading and managing. The one I like is that leaders make sure we are doing the right thing while managers focus on making sure we do it right. Few people and especially few young people I know want to be managed. They want to be inspired by enlightened leaders. These young knowledge workers are looking for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Not micromanagement.
Those who have read this blog before know that I am a huge fan of David Marquet’s Intent-Based Leadership model for today’s businesses. He advocates developing leaders at every level of our organizations. If we embrace Marquet’s model, we will have no issues with our Millennial employees. Nor will we have difficulties with any other group as long as we keep an eye on technical competencies, clarity of values, and clarity of vision.
No Abdication Allowed
Giving control away does not mean abdicating responsibility or accountability. In fact, the opposite is true. Managing people, rather than the project, allows the employee to put the responsibility monkey on your back! Requiring employees to take responsibility and hold themselves and their teammates accountable is the only way to ensure what Daniel Pink identified as full engagement. Marquet’s model and experience lines up well with Pink’s research: Give Control Away (Marquet) = Autonomy (Pink), Technical Competency = Mastery and Clarity of Values and Vision = Purpose.
I have worked with several companies to implement this leadership model. It is difficult to change the culture of existing organizations. It can be done if the leaders are willing to give up managing. It is fun and challenging to work with leaders to effect meaningful change.
The most fun I’ve had, though, has been working with young entrepreneurs. The concept of leaders at every level of the company, of giving control away and of a clear vision is second nature to them. They also quickly grasp how such a model allows them to balance their lives and ensures scalability for their company.