By Tracey Wik
The man (Jack Weinberg) who coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” is now 77. This may shock some of you who listened to Jack give his speech, or quoted yourself early on in your career. While those born at the end of the generation are teenagers, early Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are now part of that group. Does this mean we don’t trust what they have to say because they are now part of the establishment?
The sentiment of that statement dates back to an earlier time, but given the business press is filled with stories about the need for global leaders, we must find new ways to develop people sooner. By all accounts, leadership development is more art than science. A Millennial’s point-of-view on collaboration and organization offers practical ways to build our leadership pipeline.
First of all, it is time to examine our thinking on mobility. In the past, mobility was a key variable to leadership development and succession planning as it was seen as a pathway for acquiring the requisite skills to lead bigger and broader teams. Mobility is still important, but mostly for senior leadership. Today, mobility is more often seen by organizations as too time consuming and expensive for its return. With flatter, more matrixed organizations, employees are collaborating with colleagues across time zones in different business units from day one of employment. Their roles demand they collaborate with peers on projects without having the formal influence to direct and control the outcomes. Add to the flow of work the endless productivity improvement made available by technology. Quite simply, one doesn’t need to leave his or her desk to learn the skills of global leadership.
Millennials did grow up in prosperous times with many options available, but they are no longer new to the workplace. The early Millennials are well established in their careers, being over 30. This means they have been working for close to a decade. Consider the preferences of this demographic group as being inclusive and public, which merits consideration in your leadership development strategy.
Given the flat, inclusive demands of today’s marketplace, designing leadership development with self-selection criteria, rather than manager nomination criteria, allows more people to opt in earlier, giving you bigger pools of talent to develop. To breakout of a command and control thinking, structure leadership development as the development of skills needed by anyone, a portfolio of skills is needed regardless of title, rank, or geography. The criteria for selection into leadership roles can be the same, but structuring the roles to allow for an employee’s self-selection gives the responsibility for success to the employee. It is no longer granted by title, but by merit.
This degree of agency over one’s career is something Millennials, in particular, appreciate having. In fact, why not make the success criteria a public conversation managed amongst the pool competing? The notion that Millennials want a trophy for showing up is not only insulting, it is not accurate. They want to compete on merit for things that matter to them. Being part of a select leadership cadre is a game worth playing.