What are the steps you can take to bridge the gap between you and millennials?
Millennials can sometimes get a bad rap. The truth is they account for a huge percentage of our workforce, with signs pointing toward further growth, so the benefit in understanding and encouraging their leadership skills is fairly clear. But how do we approach this generation in a way that speaks to them? And what do they need to learn to speak to GenX and Boomers?
Dan Negroni uses his experience as a CEO, attorney, and Senior Sales and Marketing Executive to help companies bridge the gap between managers and their millennials. His new book is Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next Generation Leaders in the Workplace. I recently interview Dan on the LEADx podcast to glean some insight into the next generation of leaders. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: Why is this millennial generation so important?
Dan Negroni: All generations are important. This one particularly is important for us in business for a bunch of reasons. Today, 40% of the workforce and most average companies are millennials. If you look at certain types of companies, like we work with the San Diego Police Department, real estate companies or high tech companies, you have as much as 70-80% millennials in the workplace. In the next ten years, 75% of the workplace will be millennials no matter where you are. They are certainly a force to be reckoned with. They're also the future. They are our kids, they are our employees, and more important than anything, they are also our customers. We must, must get it right.
There are 2.4 billion people in the world under the age of 30. I don't know any business in the most disruptive world we've ever lived in from a technology perspective that could dismiss that amount of people, and we do it regularly. We have a really negative soundtrack, and everyone talks about the problem, even Simon Sinek and his wonderful speech about why millennials are the way they are, has not given solutions of how to solve the problem. That's what our book focuses on. We got an issue here. We're not getting along. We have all these views and all these myths really about each other. How do we figure out a solution to attract, engage, and really empower both our millennial employees and our customers?
Kruse: Dan, summarize for us what is ‘BRIDGE?’
Negroni: ‘BRIDGE' is a six-step process that really connects any disparate groups or connects any type of people. We call it ‘connection currency.' With millennials, we want to teach them how to have the power to be the best personally and professionally with some real cool skills that they haven't learned in college, and with the BRIDGE method, we do that. We do it from the inside out, really focusing on who they are and who they want to be. We do the same thing with managers. Particularly… I'll run you through it as quickly as I can, as a New Yorker can.
BRIDGE is a six-step acronym for six things. ‘B' is the first part which is you need to ‘Bust The Myths.’ Millennials are not all ‘this,’ and managers are not all ‘this.’ The stereotypes of millennials are entitled and disloyal may be true in some respects, but really, when you look at the statistics, they're not. They're great young minds that need to be taught and guided on how to be their best selves, and for crying out loud, we as managers have a duty to do that like every generation has done this before.
We've been complaining about the generation before us since the time of Socrates and Plato. So what? Let's stop. It's compounded because of technology and all the noise. I mean, the noisiest. We're talking right after the election, the noisiest election season and the noisiest start of a presidency. The second noisiest thing is our complaints about each of the generations and why the other one sucks so bad. It's just not true. Let's get out there and assume positive intent and understand what binds us and brings us together, which are really great principles that you do at LeadX all the time.
‘R' is let's do it with a ‘Real Deal Authenticity.’ For millennials, the first thing they want is the ability to learn and grow, as we all should have. The second thing they want is authenticity because they've been bombarded through technology with a crazy amount of inauthentic things to just get them to buy things or get their mind share. Here's the deal: if you want to create a great relationship with someone, tell him the truth. Be authentic. You teach them how to grow. You tell them what was good. You tell them what was bad. Together you learn.
So often in the workplace, we forget that step because it is so hard to be honest and say, “You know what?” I just heard two people … I'll give you a quick example. Talking about they met someone at a trade show and they were a ‘close-talker’. The woman said, “He was in my face.” I said, “Well why didn't you tell him?” She said, “How could I tell him?” I said, “Well you could tell him nicely, like ‘Wow, I really love you. You're super dynamic. I love what you're selling, but you're kind of in my personal space. Has anyone ever told you that before? I think if you just drop back another six inches, every conversation you would have would be 20 times better and you'd get the results you're looking for.’” Well, of course, they said, “I should have said it.” No one says it. We have to have real deal communication and authenticity.
‘I' is owning your own stuff. Managers need to understand that their job is to create a legacy with their employees and to manage, guide, and grow people for the good of the business and the good of themselves and the engagement of the workforce. The millennials job is to do that as well as learn, grow, and contribute in a respectful way that respects the audience. Each side needs to completely understand what their responsibility is personally in doing those things. That's ‘I.'
Those are the three individual steps. The next three are group steps. ‘D' is ‘Delivering value’, and that's about what I talked about at the beginning about making it about the audience and making it about other people. You never fail if you are delivering value to other people and you have their perspective in mind. ‘G' is keep your ‘Goals’ in mind but remember that they need to be individual goals, team goals, and corporate goals, and you need to be discussing them all the time.
Finally, ‘E' is how do we all work to create a culture that ‘Empowers’ this real communication and this real ability to go and work together and create results without so much of the nonsense. The model's simple. We have all these exercises and each person needs to be coached on them as you take that person because everybody is different, whether you're a Gen X or a Boomer or a Gen Z or a traditionalist. It doesn't matter. We have to teach people on their terms the way they learn, and that's our role. We have to learn that way.
Kruse: Any tips for millennials on how to connect better with the older generations?
Negroni: The number one thing is that the most important person in any story you tell, in any connection currency, is your audience. Millennials, be aware that your audience is a little bit different than you. Some of them may have the view that they worked hard and did it all themselves. We know, Kevin, it's not true. That the world was different then and we had a lot of great mentors and we still do. Some of them may feel that way, and so my biggest tip for millennials is to really understand who your audience is. From a particular thing when they ask me, “What's the number one thing I can do to get along with my boss?” I tell them this: “Ask great questions that are not self-serving. Ask great questions that are smart and interesting, probing and challenging, that serve your audience and not you.”
For example, when I speak at USC and the whole audience is there and a millennial who is about to graduate the Annenberg School of Communications says to me, “Dan, how can I get paid what I am worth?” Well, my head about spins off my neck. I say, “How about this guy? How about this? How about delivering value and delivering worth, and then asking how much you can get paid for it.” How about actually doing that, and describing what that value is. Getting in the trenches and showing everyone what you can do. Be what you're worth. Live what you're worth. Demonstrate what you're worth and then you will be paid what you're worth.
Kruse: I like to challenge our listeners to get 1% better every single day. Is there something you can challenge them to try out today?
Negroni: I think it certainly revolves around questions. When communicating, instead of making statements, I think the best thing that people can do is to help me understand why. I just think that that changes the nature of the conversation so much that we can all then realize that we're on the same page to get together and to win.
The other thing that I love is, “Do I have permission to give you my opinion?” Ninety-five percent of the time, the person will say, “Yes.” Then when you're being authentic or providing value that's real, the power is shifted where you gave it to them to allow you to do it, and then they really have to receive the message much more boldly because they seceded the power by giving you permission. If the advice is great and the second follow-up question is great, you win every single time because you're really looking to understand what is that person that's listening to me, the receiver, looking to get from this conversation? One great question before I start every meeting in my sales capacity is, “What are you looking to get out of today's meeting and how can I provide you the most value in our time together?”
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.