If You Want to Know What A Millennial Leader Needs, Just Ask Three of Them
- How can we be more effective in guiding this next generation as they carve out their path to success?
- How can we help them maximize their own success and the success of their business?
- What do they need that is different from their parents and elders? And, even, what isn’t different for them?
Advisors who work with family-owned and closely-held businesses often help clients with various transitions—transitioning leadership to the next generations, exiting the business they founded, and others. One transition advisors may benefit from making for ourselves is to transition our knowledge—to learn what the generation of emerging leaders needs from us.
First off, it’s important to “keep in mind that many times, young leaders have others to convince others of the value of hiring a coach or advisor,” suggests Lisë Stewart, Galliard FBA Institute Founder and Board Chair. She recommends that advisors and coaches can help young leaders sell the investment to other decision makers by “helping to gain some clarity around what they can expect, what the cost will be, what the return on investment might really look like, and how to put together the value proposition.”
Millennial Leaders appreciate advisors and coaches as an objective third-party sounding board to test ideas, talk about feelings, and run things by. Coaching from outside their business provides an opportunity to be introspective in a safe space and also supports learning effective communication tools. One challenge particular to young leaders is that their ideas and knowledge are not always given the heft of their elders. Young leaders sometimes need the support of a coach to help them learn effective communication tools and to develop their own voice at the table.
During a webinar panel discussion on the topic, Ramie Schneider’s shared that her decision to join her father’s Cleveland, Ohio business, not only turned his company into a family-business but also made her one of the youngest workers. Now, as First Interstate’s Development Manager, Ramie says hiring a coach helped her develop and “use strategies to help people take me more seriously as a young adult and as a young female in a predominantly male industry.” Coaches and advisors can help hone their communication skills so that their voices are truly heard by the elders and others in their businesses.
Millennial Leaders have much to contribute in terms of fresh ideas, albeit sometimes untested. Ramie says that they “want to be at the table, want to accomplish great things” and appreciates when an advisor offers “encouragement, not squashing the dream or energy in our drive to contribute. Help us see why ideas might be off and help us find another path to meet our end goals.” In the process, it is important for advisors to remember to “learn things about your client and from your client,” says Justin Harvey, President and Co-Owner of A+ Corporation. He appreciates mentors who share relevant stories while also avoiding the pitfall of the conversations becoming “a one-way transfer of knowledge.” Lisë reminds coaches and mentors who wonder about achieving the balance between being a coach and an advisor to remember to “ask permission to change hats” so that it’s clear when you’re acting as a coach and when you’re assuming a different role.
Millennial Leaders also report appreciating mentorship, including not only wisdom from seasoned leaders but also peer support. Outside, professional organizations, especially of young leaders and entrepreneurs, are “extremely helpful…to discuss challenges and opportunities,” says Atlas Supply, Inc.’s, VP of Operations, Jessica McIntosh. She relates that one very important way that an advisor can help a Millennial Leader is to make “connections and introductions to people that they respect” who can “help shape their own ideas or process.”
We may not be surprised to learn that this younger generation, prefers a “loose structure,” which Jessica explained as “goals to work towards and formal monthly or quarterly business meetings but also the freedom to go out and get stuff done, to fail.” Having a sense of direction and purpose helps Jessica “carry on the family legacy and know she’s a contributor.”
Staying flexible and learning to adapt is not just for seasoned leaders. Millennial leaders express that because there seems to be a great deal of economic uncertainty, they counteract their lack of experience with events like The Great Depression by staying on top of changes—changes in the economy, their industry, and new technology. Ramie cites, “embracing technology and utilizing it to our advantage even though it might not be comfortable for some of the older generation to shift how they’ve done something in the past” like moving away from paper reports. Getting seasoned employees on board with technology is a common challenge—one that can negatively impact family relationships outside of business hours. So Millennial Leaders often ask, “How can I bridge that with my own family members?” according to Lisë.
Since this generation has grown up with technology, we could make the leap to believe that they are also accustomed to “the noise” of the Information Age and social media. Justin says, “If I read every book that people recommend to me, I don’t think I’d be able to do anything else.” He added that, especially when driving, “I really do like podcasts not only as a way to clear my head but also as a way to chew on problems.” So while “younger leaders are so comfortable with identifying a wide variety of resources,” Lisë recognizes that as advisors, “We’re trying to get better at identifying sources from multimedia that we can share with our clients.”
Finally, if you’re trying to reach these young leaders through social media, you may want to rethink your strategy. Justin says, “While I think that’s where a lot of people are heading, trying to push information through social media, I’m not getting much value out of it.” Ramie and Jessica agreed. Which goes to show that if you want to know what a Millennial Leader needs from you as an advisor, it’s a good idea to ask. Those questions will help you build trust with your new client and show that you’re ready to listen to their needs.
Millennial reasons for hiring a coach or mentor:
- Objective 3rd party sounding board
- Safe place to test ideas and feelings
- Learn to embrace resistance and constructive feedback from co-workers
- Develop own voice at the table
- Learn effective communication tools
Millennial Leadership needs:
- Support in conveying the value of hiring a coach
- Objective Third-Party Mentorship from
- Coaches who specialize in family-businesses
- Peers – other leaders from outside the company
- Experienced, seasoned leaders
- Ways to find their voice and bring their voice to the table
- Can be especially valuable for young women leaders
- Advisors who will be patient and listen and gently push for answers/decisions
- Loose structure
- Accountability through regular meetings (monthly, quarterly)
- Room to try new ideas, their ideas, and even to fail
- Support to bridge the technology gap
- Networking short cuts
- Introductions to knowledgeable folks
- Support sifting through information overwhelm
Sources of inspiration/information:
- Outside groups
- Business and networking groups
- Prefer to connect in person
- 2nd choice is video camera
- Move toward phone calls once trust is established
- “The fit is more important than proximity” ~ Justin Harvey
- Family members
- Industry publications
- Industry groups and associations
- Friends –
- One to one
- Especially those in the same business and/or in a family business
- Networking events
- Podcasts – business related and story podcasts like “This American Life” or “RadioLab” to spark ideas
- Online videos
A full recording of the webinar is available to members in the Videos section of the Resource Library. Special thanks to our panel:
- Justin Harvey, President and Co-Owner, A+ Corporation, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Ramie Schneider, Development Manager, First Interstate, Cleveland, Ohio
- Jessica McIntosh, VP of Operations Atlas Supply Inc., Seattle, Washington