For the last number of years, I have felt, like an outsider when listening to people speaking about “Millennials”. When I would hear peers speak about them being lazy, too outspoken or not focused. Saying they have no grit or resilience.
I have always struggled with these labels, mainly because they are just that… a label. I don’t believe anyone should be judged based on age, sex, race, demographic etc. And every time someone puts down the youth of today they are doing just that, labelling. In the more recent history, I have been actively advocating for what we need to do to help support young leaders and blossoming professionals. I have made a greater commitment to learning how we can use their strengths to better our businesses, offices and lives! This week I am more inspired then ever to keep that message alive. I am inspired by the young people who are advocating for gun control after they bore witness to their friends being killed. Here are some of their words at the White House this week:
“No longer can I walk the halls, that I have walked millions of times before without fear and sadness. No longer can I walk the halls without hearing the gunshots. No longer can I walk the halls without imaging blood stains and dead bodies. All because of the damage that a single AR rifle caused.”
“We lose confidence in our government because we are told nothing can be done time and time again, and we are tired of hearing that, because we know there can be change in this country. Never again, should a tragedy of this caliber happen in this country. Never again! “
“Just because we are kids we are not allowed to understand. But trust me, I understand. I was in a closet locked for four hours, with people who I would consider almost family, crying and weeping on me begging for their lives. I understand what its like to text my parents, good bye, I may never get to see you again, I love you.”
This article is not about gun control. This article is not about taking a political stand. (Although you can if you want… its just not what it’s about). It is about recognizing the power of youth when they are passionate about something. These young people are creating a movement. These young people have kept the conversation going longer than previous advocate groups have. These young people have got people starting to waiver, on what were previously very strong beliefs.
Why am I writing about this?
Because these young leaders are showing us their strength, when too often we want to dismiss them as weak. I want to reinforce WHY we need to harness the power of the leadership in our young people and help them. I want to get more people rallying beside me about the fact that if we don’t like a behavior that is happening by young people in the workplace, maybe we should try and understand it in a new way. What will happen if we consider what the goal of their actions are? Potentially change will happen… and maybe that change is needed. Some of it may even be for the better!
Generation gaps are not new to society. Generation gaps are not something that we have never experienced before. The PEW research group found that 79% of Americans say they see major differences between how younger and older adults view the world today. In 1969 a gallop poll asked a similar question and found that 74% of respondents felt the same way. The main areas that the gap was seen?
Attitudes towards different races and groups
Sound familiar? Truly, what we are experiencing now, is what was experienced over 50 years ago. And we are all still here, and some pretty-awesome stuff has happened since then!
How can we help our young leaders foster this energy and passion and use it to create change, and have amazing impact in society and business?
Help find their passion
I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding, I am not saying that finding a passion for gun reform through the extreme experiences the youth I mentioned is in any way comparable to the average young adult you likely know.
I have been lucky to work with a group of amazing young people who have been the founding members of a local Cancer charity that is going to cross the $1 million dollar mark this year for funds raised… they are making history, and it is because of their passion. They have a shared goal of helping others have support in a time of severe challenge. This passion was leveraged by an amazing woman, and it has shaped the charity, and is now being spread to other local high schools, and the next generation of leaders. They took an idea and create a legacy! When we help young people find a cause they do incredible things! (www.onerun.ca if you want more info)
Ensure your work environment supports creating a positive identity.
Practise the GIVE model:
Growth- people need to feel they have the opportunity to grow and learn. As this opportunity increases creativity and allows young leaders the foundation to create new ideas. It also offers opportunities for everyone to learn.
Integration- people who can make the different parts of their life fit together feel better about their positive identity. When we can connect peoples work life in some way to what they are passionate about in their personal lives, it has an impact on their own view of self.
Virtuousness- people who feel virtuous have a positive identity. How do we help people feel this way? By ensuring they can work with integrity and honour and that their expected actions facilitate this. Help your young leaders understand the WHY of their role and the VALUE they play in your company and you will be able to harness their passion for amazing results
Esteem- people want to feel like they bring worth. This is especially important to young leaders. Help your young professionals see the worth they bring to you, and that you appreciate it. Simply, tell them and ensure your actions show them as well.
I have written about the negative impact of social media on self-image many times before. I have shared my views on the impact of us witnessing and judging our lives based on everyone else’s “highlight reel” and the impact that has on our sense of self. When we have so many young people living in a world where they are feeling less than and judged by, we need to foster hope. As “older leaders” (and I am going to put myself in that category), we have a responsibility to allow the amazing feelings that come along with hope to happen. Hope creates action. Hope helps you feel like you can accomplish your goals. Hope repeated often enough becomes actions and ultimately results.
Next time you are feeling frustrated by a young person, who may not be doing things exactly as you would, ask yourself 3 things:
- Is there anything REALLY wrong with the way they are doing it? Is it really harming anyone?
- What can I do as an “older leader” to help facilitate and grow the leadership of the person in front of me?
- How can I use this passion for cultivating awesome instead of feeling like I need to correct and change it?