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Millennial Leadership

Shoutout to Millennials

change leadership leadership Nov 07, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

Last week I came across an HBR article with the title: Gen-X is More Creative than Gen-Y, According to Harvard.

Being a Gen-Xer, naturally, it caught my attention. I didn’t post it anywhere because the article seemed pretty light-weight and the comparison definitely did NOT feel like Joy at Work.

That afternoon I had a client meeting with a leadership team that’s working on scaling their company. Our focus was about announcing a shift in the organization. After the team discussed the basics — messaging, sequence of events, anticipated questions — I asked the question, “How do you want everyone to feel, both during the announcement conversation and then afterwards?”

Their immediate, almost reflexive response was, “That’s a great question.”

They meant it. They talked about it in depth. They thought it through. They aligned on it. They made adjustments. It was awesome. The leadership team is made up of members of the millennial generation.

It’s striking to me because, in my experience, my own generation doesn’t have this reflex. The response from my generation is to immediately calculate exactly how much time they have to spend pondering the “feelings” question before moving on.

“How do we want them to feel?”

Options: Shut this down immediately? Is 30 seconds a suitable amount of time to talk about this? 5 minutes?

It’s just not how we were trained to think. It seems like a luxury, unnecessary. I remember years ago I was a featured speaker for a Credit Risk conference. The speaker just before me was an expert in the Credit Risk industry. During his speech he joked, “Of course, we’re not in the ‘feelings’ business,” which got a huge response of laughter from the crowd! Besides the fact that, ironically, they seemed unaware they were in that moment expressing their feelings, it didn’t bode well for the presentation I was about to give about change and people.

The business world and my generation are increasingly tuning in to feelings thanks to popular literature and studies, podcasts, TED Talks, etc. It’s not that the Gen-X generation doesn’t want to focus on this, it just hasn’t been okay until fairly recently and we’re recalibrating, trying out new ways to engage. It's exhausting sometimes but we're building new skills.

To the millennial generation I say, thank you for your influence on the business world. Thank you for making feelings okay to talk about at work.