Matt Reiner Featured In Advisor Perspectives: My Guide To Leadership Of Millennials

They can be difficult. They don’t accept the old way of doing things. They can be annoyingly impatient. They are obsessed with technology.

And they are essential to your firm’s future success.

I’m talking about millennials, who are often maligned and misunderstood. Born between 1981 and 1996, they got their name because they witnessed the new millennium’s arrival in 2000. Properly led and managed, hey bring the promise of a new day to the workplace.

And there lies “the rub,” as Shakespeare famously said. Because what worked with baby boomers won’t succeed with this bunch.

But the situation isn’t hopeless. Contrary to misconception, millennials want to be valued team members. And despite what you may have heard, they also value productive working relationships with their supervisors. You just have to know how to approach them. Let’s begin with some basics.

For starters, the old approach to the employee-supervisor relationship won’t work now. Remember that old TV commercial from the pre-millennial days, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”? Well, this is not your father’s workforce. Effectively leading millennials begins with gaining a better understanding of them and their generation. All too often, managers try to push against millennials’ nature and try to change them into boomers or Gen Xers. But as we say in the South, “that dog won’t hunt.”

This conflict is hardly new; old folks have been asking the younger generation, “Why can’t you be just like us?” since the dawn of time. The difference is millennials aren’t buying it. They know who they are, like who they are, and are unwilling to change simply to accommodate someone else’s views.

The managers who have had the most success leading their younger team members did so by unlocking a secret. They found preparing the next generation starts with accepting their differences. Managers who accept and embrace those differences get the best results.

No matter how much you may want millennials to exhibit the characteristics of boomers or even the Greatest Generation, that’s impossible because every generation grows up with different situations, events, and influences. These forces mold and shape its members. Give up chasing the unattainable and accept millennials for who they are.

At that point, things will get easier for you. Once you drop your preconceived notions, you can begin understating these younger team members. Here are some insights to get the ball rolling.

Millennials like to be heard. Listen to them! They also long for an opportunity to let their skills shine. Give them those opportunities!

Their strongest skills are centered on technology and collaboration. Put that to work to your advantage. They eagerly look for a chance to apply their areas of interest. Work with them to find new ways to unleash their skillset and let it drive innovation, creativity and opportunity for your firm.

Taking a different approach to a long-standing task is not necessarily bad. Be open to their suggestions and be willing to try new things.

Of course, there should be limits. Letting millennials drive investment decisions solely based on what they’re watching on TikTok is not only unadvisable, it’s downright dumb!

The key is moderation. Don’t be reluctant to try new approaches, and don’t let your younger team members run wild on their own, either. You are a supervisor, so step in when an idea goes too far. But don’t fear new ideas. For instance, letting millennials drive some differentiated marketing and content initiatives may produce surprisingly beneficial results.

There’s another benefit you may not have considered. When you listen to millennials, they feel appreciated, respected and accepted. They take ownership of being a member of the team. And that leads to higher productivity, which is great for firms looking to grow their bottom line. (And who isn’t?)

Here’s another helpful tip: Millennials place a high premium on flexibility in their work schedule, responsibilities, and even their opportunities to grow within the company. To get the most out of this generation, be flexible with them in return. Don’t be rigid! Accept idiosyncrasies and see what that approach accomplishes. You will find that when millennials realize they are getting the things they desire, they will also become more engaged in their work.

As you give your millennial colleagues new opportunities and responsibilities, sometimes they will fail. It’s part of the learning process. Be supportive when they miss the mark. Discuss what went wrong and how they can avoid it next time. Stand back and let them take off again. They will respect you even more for being there for them when they flubbed it.

An increasing percentage of your customer base are millennials. When you try to understand this younger generation, you’re not only learning about your team members but gaining important new perspectives on the newer clients whose wealth you manage.

When managing Millennials, the most beneficial thing you can do is sit down with them over a cup of coffee and listen. This group is remarkably willing to share details about themselves and what makes them tick. Just ask.

Forget how you learned how to run a team when you were young. Those days are gone, and they’re not coming back. Accept the reality of changing dynamics. Instead of being afraid of millennials, embrace the changes they create.

Read the Advisor Perspectives article here.