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60 seconds with Simon Barrington

Simon studied physics at Cardiff University, after which he had a successful business career becoming Programme Director at BT and then the Cabinet Office.  Simon then went on to lead Samaritan’s Purse UK as Chief Executive from September 2003 to May 2017.He is founder of Forge Leadership Consultancy. We interviewed Simon about his recent research on millennial leaders.

60 seconds with Simon Barrington

Q: Why are you interested in millennial leaders?

Millennials have been stereotyped, and stereotyped and stereotyped again – narcissistic, entitled, disloyal, disrespectful – the list goes on. You can read article after article about what is wrong with them, how difficult they are to manage and how quickly they jump ship.

The reality is that millennials are now reaching the age where they are leading and creating their own cultures. They are the leaders and workers of today and by 2020 will make up the majority of the global workforce.

So, how can you attract, retain, motivate and develop millennials? At Forge Leadership we’ve conducted first-of-its-kind research into millennial leaders. We identified 5 ways in which organisations can get ahead of the curve and reduce the guesswork involved in bringing millennials on board, and keeping them on the team.

Q: What are the 5 ways you Identified?

1.     Create a culture of high support / high challenge

Millennials confessed to having a “fear of failure” and also having a need for approval. However, they also see the potential of their generation, the depth of knowledge and opportunity they have been given, and their ability to see and grasp visions and to truly go for it. Therefore, they are likely to thrive in environments where they are stretched into roles and experiences that are beyond them, but are given the ability to learn through failure, and grow in a supportive and encouraging environment.

2.     Create a culture of bi-directional mentoring

For millennials, learning has to be on the job, contextual and focused and personal. They have access to knowledge at their fingertips but crave wisdom and insight and value the opportunity to be mentored by people older than them. They also love to develop others and, unlike previous generations, have a much stronger desire to create environments where the next generation are mentored from any early age. Therefore, cultures of bi-directional mentoring that allow for a flow of wisdom, knowledge and coaching are highly desired.

3.     Millennials thrive on purpose

Having a shared purpose with a millennial will enable you to keep them and develop them. Millennials desire to be involved in developing shared purpose and are strong on ethos and values. Therefore, including them in understanding why your organisation does something, and also listening to the sense of purpose they find in your organisation can be highly beneficial. Millennials have a clear view of their “personal brand” forged on social media and therefore think very carefully before aligning themselves with a corporate brand that has different values.

4.     Help millennials deal with conflict

Millennials declared conflict management to be the biggest single challenge that they faced in their organisation. Be that conflict with peers, conflict with older people or conflict over work approach, they felt extremely under-equipped to deal with conflict in all of their relationships. Organisations should therefore focus on teaching how to deal with conflict, how to facilitate conflict transformation and how to deal with the anxiety caused by escalating conflict.

5.     Relationships are key

For millennials the best places to work are because of excellent relationships, teamwork and collaboration. Organisations need to put a higher priority on determining the health of the relationships within their teams, dealing with bad behaviour and addressing relational conflict. Millennials said that the worst places to work were due to poor relationships. They expressed a desire to see more done to have difficult, intentional conversations where relationships are poor.

There is much more to mine from the research, but the five key steps above are a critical starting point from which to future-proof an organisation.

Q: Which of these findings surprised you the most?

I’m not sure if it was a surprise so much, but certainly something that has not featured in any of the research we have seen published before, and that was the realisation that dealing with conflict is such a massive challenge for millennials. It literally rolls off the tongue as the “top of mind” issue that millennial leaders are finding it extremely hard to deal with.

Q: Finally, what’s on your summer holiday reading list this year?

You can purchase Simon’s book “Leading the Millennial Way” on Amazon

Twitter @simonbarrington
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