There’s a lot of buzz today in Washington, DC – and across the country – about who’s coming to power.
We don’t need an election to tell us who’s coming to power in business and government though -- Millennials are. This generation is now the largest in the US workforce.
Harvard Business Review says managing Millennials keeps CEOs awake at night. It should - 70% of Millennials are already in leadership positions, but 65% report not feeling prepared. [Watch my recent talk at an Executive Leadership Forum on Millennial Power]
Why Should You Care?
Like generations before them, most Millennials have not been prepared for the demands of the business world when they land on the doorstep of your company or government agency. Unlike their Generation X predecessors, however – generally speaking – this generation is being thrust into high-stakes leadership positions early in their careers demanding a rapid and steep growth curve.
This is a good thing, because Millennials desire this growth. And your organization’s success and growth depends on more and more of the CORE able to step up and out competently into larger leadership roles with minimal to no “supervision.” But companies are incurring risk if they throw their talented technical and budding leaders into these higher-stakes leadership roles and are not simultaneously – and systematically – preparing them for success in these roles.
Undergraduate education prepares students to create quality products. It does not necessarily train students in thinking about what it costs to create those products (i.e., think term papers and group projects), or how to think about what a market may pay for the product, the value the product generates (which is one reason I am a huge proponent of exposure of all students to entrepreneurial experiences and education). Further, it does not necessarily teach people to balance the third side of what I call the “golden triangle” – balancing the quality delivery and cost of the product within the demands of deadlines that matter because a marketplace doesn’t wait.
These lessons can be instilled through one of two ways:
(1) the costly school of hard knocks on the job in the form of failed or “close call” projects that require extensive senior staff intervention to navigate;
(2) through an intentional leadership development where rising leaders receive targeted, relevant, expert coaching in highly collaborative, fast-moving forums.
The Investment You Can’t Afford Not to Make
In an age where organizations are striving to "do more with less" - the highest performing organizations need will aggressively develop leadership at all levels like never before. Industrial era models of leadership development that invest in a small percentage of subjectively selected "high potential leaders" are outdated and no longer enough. These models are flawed for several reasons, not the least of which being that they ignore - and worse, often insult - the legions of high potential leaders in your midst who are not selected for "development"; and they depend on the fortunate few staying with your organization.
To generate meaningful returns, your leadership development model needs to be able to reach the critical mass of your operating power base. Like picking stocks, it's risky to rely on a few people's ability to predict the future top performers. Better to institute a model that raises the sea level of competent leadership across the board with all demonstrated high potentials. This is how you create an in-demand culture that attracts coveted talent, cost-effectively account for the inevitable loss of high potentials to greener pastures, and still generate a systematic return on investment (ROI).
Instilling strategic acumen and executive mindset in all of your high performers frees your valuable senior leaders to focus on what they do best - customers and growth; creates an attractive culture for this generation of entrepreneurs; and cultivates a cadre of business development ninjas who - if you help them - can turn on the faucets of power for your organization and your clients. Bolstering Millennial power is the biggest investment you can’t afford not to make this year. #AHAInsight