Editor’s Note: This article is written from a Baby Boomer’s perspective.
I facilitated a management class recently and the group lamented that they couldn’t find young people to work in their dealerships. In frustration one of the participants exclaimed, “These people just aren’t normal!” His statement resonated strongly around the room and sparked some lively conversation.
The group’s concluded that “They” don’t think like “We” do. They aren’t motivated by the same things that motivate us. And they don’t want to spend time on tasks where they don’t see immediate value. Thus, they question everything.
Of course, we were talking about “They” as Millennials and “We” as Baby Boomers & Gen Xers. While I generally loathe generalizations, this one is hard to avoid, and it raises the point — just what IS normal anyway?
The fact is the Millennial generation (born 1980-2000) was raised with a different reality than prior generations and so they often view the world differently.
Millennials: The New Normal
Millennials now comprise well over one-half of the workforce. That brings us back to the concept of normal. If more than one-half of all the workforce falls into a single group, does that not make that group the norm? With time, the demographics changed. Millennials are the new normal, and the rest of us are going to have to figure out how to deal with the differences.
I don’t normally quote Michael Jackson, but if there needs to be a change, maybe it is time that we looked in the mirror and started with the only person we can really control, ourselves.
And what are we really after? Are we more interested in how people get things done? Or should we be concentrating on creating a good customer experience within our dealerships, even if the how we get there is different?
Millennials differ significantly in how they view hierarchies, structure and authority, and these differences impact how we get work done. Millennials are much more concerned to do work that is relevant. They want to feel that what they are doing makes a difference. They also want to know that there is a plan for their organization and what their career path will be. They want to work for organizations that do good things.
Using Emotional Intelligence to Lead & Manage Better
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is more and more popular for managing and leading. While EI is based on science that has been around for many years, its application is more useful now because of the differences with Millennials entering the workforceand into leadership positions themselves as the new normal.
An expert in EI recently asked me to think about the best boss I ever had. How did that boss make me feel personally? How did I feel about my job? Did I want to work harder and was I willing to go that extra mile for them? What did they do that made feel that way?
Then the EI expert asked me to think of the worst boss I ever had.
For me, the good boss was a true leader — willing to get in the trenches with me and do what had to be done. He led by example and didn’t dictate. I felt like my opinion mattered. He treated me like a person. It wasn’t about doing it his way, it was about getting the job done with a focus on the customer. I could learn from that leader and I grew as an employee and as a person. To this day we remain close friends.
With the New Normal, recognize that what got you where you are might not be what you need to take you where you want it to go. Hard work isn’t enough. You need to have a strong team that gets things done and allows you to concentrate on strategy, on direction and on the future.
Would I Work for Me?
Ask yourself, “Would I want to work for me?” Do I let other people grow without constantly looking over their shoulders to focus on how they are doing the job vs. what they are accomplishing? Many dealership owners focus on action, on getting things done and not on people skills. They want to delegate but worry that if they don’t stay closely involved, then the job won’t get done right. But these are the same people who were busy all day, but at the end of the day didn’t get anything done. They spend all their time putting out fires.
Now is the time to recognize the new normal. Millennials (and Gen Z behind them) aren’t afraid of hard work, they just want to know why? And they are accustomed to getting recognition and a pat on the back when they do something good. Now that I think about it, don’t we all like that too? Maybe we’re not so different after all.