Tag: young

The “Why” Generation

This is the third article in the Next Generation Leadership Series. Click to read the first and second articles.
Work-life balance: the millennial dream and the employer nightmare. I presented on the topic of millennials to a group of professionals at the Construction Specification Institute Phoenix Chapter. Their biggest struggle was trying to attract younger employees to their companies. The room was polluted with confusion about the trends of “work-life balance”. What is work-life balance? Who decides when work and “life” are in perfect harmony? Why is this new idea so pervasive among young professionals?

The Internet

A married couple boards a plane to Fiji with two kids ages 4 and 2. They don’t own any cars, they don’t live in house, and all their belongings fit within two suitcases and one carryon each. For 100 weeks straight, The Bucket List Family went on a perpetual “vacation” around the world. This lifestyle was made possible when Garrett Gee, the Bucket List Father, sold a bar code scanning app to Snapchat for $54 million. The real kicker is that Gee still hasn’t touched a cent of that money. Instead, him and his wife were inspired to sell their cars and belongings, so they could travel with $45,000. As they traveled, they shared their story on social media, gained a massive following, and soon started turning a profit.
The Gee family is living the millennial dream. They are the embodiment of work-life balance.
Twenty years ago, stories like The Bucket List Family weren’t shared worldwide at rapid speed. Modern media is like an IV drip of success stories streaming to everyone with internet access. The millennial generation grew up in a more transparent age. They heard all about the dreams that were coming true. They read about kids who became millionaires before they were old enough to rent cars. They watched movies based on the notion “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Their expectations were set on the top shelf, and now they’re looking for a career that gives them a ladder.
Millennials don’t want to settle for a job, they want to find careers that allows them to pursue their dreams. They want to work with a company that supports their ideals. Work-life balance isn’t about more time at home, it’s about career-aspiration alignment.

A Changing Workplace

Workforce culture is changing. This change has created two issues among employers: higher career expectations and a desire for more personal freedom.
High career expectations
Young employees want earlier advancements, greater upward mobility, and higher profile positions. Millennials want to know that they are adding value in a company that’s making a difference in the world.
More personal freedom
Many employers think that millennials aren’t prepared for more responsibilities. That they lack accountability. But we propose that millennials don’t take accountability because they don’t feel like a stakeholder. It’s a catch-22. Overbearing employers suffocate young dreams. Millennials want to contribute to a vision instead of being forced through a corporate assembly line.
Despite the popular narrative, millennials are flocking to leadership positions more than any other generation. According to a workplace trends survey, 91% of millennials aspire to be leaders. Currently, 50% of working millennials hold a leadership position. Additionally, 40% of millennials say that they want to stay with a company for more than 10 years in hopes of career advancements.
Many professionals worry that there aren’t enough management positions to meet the millennial demand. They might be right, but there’s an important differential between management and leadership. Many students don’t want to be managers, they want a career that affords room for big ideas, flexibility, and creative control. Any career field or job position can meet these parameters. In fact, many companies are finding very creative ways to make that happen.
If a company offered you a job; one where you chose your hours, your salary, and gave you complete freedom to do whatever you wanted, would you take it? Companies like SEMCO, Gore-Tex, Zappos are making this dream a reality. These companies have completely eliminated management positions. They have created more transparency and accountability throughout their organizations. Many organizations are taking similar approaches. They have started allowing flexible hours and incorporating leisure activities into the office. Most importantly, they are encouraging employees to take creative control over unique projects. By the looks of it, these trends will only continue to grow as more millennials enter the workforce.

Are We Prepared for the Change?

Many companies are responding to the demand for more leadership opportunities. But are students being prepared for this kind of workplace? The current school system is designed to prepare students for an antiquated work model. Students are taught based on standards and uniformity, not creativity and innovation. Students are rewarded based on their ability to follow directions regurgitate information.

Students should be being prepared for the workplace they will have. Graduates want leadership positions and companies are becoming more leadership-oriented. It’s about time that we prepare our students to be leaders. Children need opportunities to exercise creative control. They need free time to think about who they are and what they want to do. They need guidance from mentors to help them cultivate important leadership habits. These emphasize continuous growth, personal accountability, and learning to utilize others’ expertise.

This is the heart of our mission at the Leadership Society of Arizona. Students can learn how to become leaders through all aspects in the life, but they need guidance. They need opportunities to talk about their ideas and they need time to test out their ideas. We work with schools and teachers to create these opportunities in the classroom. We also hold summer leadership camps to give students a jump-start on their path to improved leadership.


Millennials want the freedom to dream. Companies are creating innovative ways to provide it. It is now time for the education system to respond.
In our next article we will answer the big remaining question: if everyone wants to be a leader, who’s going to perform the labor?

Out with the New and In with the Old

This is the second article in the Next Generation Leadership Series. Read the first one HERE.

Kids These Days…

Since our last article, I have done some digging to find out when the belief of “young people don’t work as hard” began.

I came across two quotes that aptly describe millennials:

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners. Contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

“[Technology] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories. They will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves… they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing. They will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing”

Here’s the kicker: both of these quotes came from Socrates [2,500 years ago] as he reflected on the youth of Ancient Greece. In the second quote, the “technology” that Socrates refers to is plain old ink and parchment. Even back then, people thought technology was ruining the kids’ minds. If you replace “technology” with “cellphones,” the quote sounds like it’s taken straight from a New York Times article about millennials.

Socrates isn’t the only one in history with the same opinion. Here are just few others that I found:

“I see no hope for the future…  for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.” 

Hesiod (800 BC)

“The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no respect for their parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint.”

Peter the Hermit (1200 AD)

“Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day. Increasing urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli…”

G. Stanley Hall (1904)

This story is as old as time itself; the young versus the old. There has never been a time in human history in which the younger generation lived up to the standards set on them. The profound truth is that young people and old people are different…

A Logical Proposal

There’s a fundamental human characteristic that separates the old and the young: experience. People with more years of experience know their limitations. They know when they don’t know something. They know their own area of expertise. They are quick to ask for help instead of trying to do something they don’t understand. They avoid unnecessary risks. People with less experience tend to take more risks, think they are very knowledgeable, and seek to be good at everything.
This difference creates tension in the workplace. It is hard to work with someone who feels highly qualified even when they are not. As we get older, we tend to forget what it was like to be young. We tell ourselves, “I should have known that when I was younger.” We project this same idea on the younger people around us, creating unrealistic expectations. We think that younger people should listen to us, the older people, and learn from our mistakes. But we tend to forget that we were even worse when we were younger.
The main reason why generational differences is such a big concern today is because society is becoming more transparent. Fifty years ago, basic human stupidity was not considered newsworthy. Thanks to advancements in technology, the ignorance of society is  paraded before us on a daily basis for the first time in history. Even more, between the flurry of news outlets, social media, and reality TV, we have started worshiping ignorance as a society. These outlets have caused a shift in how we view younger generations. It has created an illusion that there is more ignorance, violence, and negative traits today than before. In reality, the world has, and always will be, filled with ignorance, especially among the inexperienced members of society.

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Human behavior is governed by natural law. Environments change, technology changes, and social trends change, but people will always be people. The youth will always be a little ignorant, there will always be something new to blame, and there will always be contradicting opinions. The one truth that we can hold on to is that everyone is the master of their destiny.
Millennials are not doomed because of their upbringing.  As people learn more, they grow out of “ignorant” traits. The same thing will happen to millennials as it happened to the generations before. The world will continue to change as technology advances. Millennials will adapt and will usher in new industries and business models.
There’s a lot of “noise” in the media today. If you can filter through the noise, you will find that there are many young people accomplishing astonishing things (30 under 30).
Because many young people lack real-world experience, they tend to be under-prepared for the working-world, so what can we do to help? Next month, we will discuss the future of millennials in the workplace. How to find and attract bright young talent, and how millennials can find the impactful jobs they are looking for.

Who wants to be a Millennial-aire?

What’s the Deal with Millennials? 

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According to Google Trends, people have become increasingly interested in generational differences in the past few years. Every day, a slew of articles is published with some variation of the title: “This is how we’ve always done it, but how will Millennials do it?!” Back in 2013, Time Magazine published a special issue on millennials, which opened the floodgates of criticism. Zoom around the internet, and you’ll find that people don’t have the highest opinion of millennials:

  • Millennials love selfies, but don’t like themselves.
  • They want meaningful work, but don’t want to work.
  • Millennials want to take risks, but are afraid of loss.
  • They are addicted to social networking but don’t like social interaction.

Before we go further, let’s take a step back. A “millennial” is someone who was born between the early 80’s and mid 90’s (no one agrees on exact dates). A millennial is anyone old enough to remember cassette tapes, but young enough to have been raised on CDs.  Also known as “Generation Y”. By 2020, half of the workforce will be millennials. Despite this, many employers are struggling to find and adapt to recent graduates. Ironically, recent grads are still struggling to find employment.

In 2013, 89% of companies stated that millennials are not ready to enter the workforce. Another survey said less than 50% have desirable skill sets. McKinsey and Company identified that:

  • 61% of new graduates are unhappy with their careers.
  • 57% of employers agree that they cannot find enough skilled entry-level workers.

Another study assessed survey results of 2,322 students over a 4-year period. The results show that 45% of students did not improve in skills employers seek until the last 2 years of college (critical thinking, reasoning, and writing). In turn, recent graduates are struggling more with unemployment than previous generations.

Who Can We Blame?

Earlier this year, TED talk legend, Simon Sinek answered some questions about millennials in a live interview. Some are hailing this video as “The Interview that Broke the Internet”. Sinek reaffirms that millennials are entitled, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused, and lazy. He claims this is because of:

  • Failed parenting strategies
  • Addiction to technology
  • Instant gratification
  • Consumerism

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Sinek concludes his interview by praising the creativity and potential of millennials, but it’s about as comforting as someone saying  “It’s not you, it’s me.” Sinek isn’t the only one to hold this opinion of millennials. There is a lot of research backing up his claims, but I’m not sold on his premise.

After doing some of my own digging, I found many articles that support the opposing viewpoint. One article cites several research papers explaining how Sinek may be wrong. Another, by the Harvard Business Review, found that millennials share many of the same traits and trends as older generations. This article concludes that millennials aren’t an anomaly, in fact, they are very average. Millennials are what some scientists may call “young”. This sate of “young-ness” often comes with narcissism, entitlement, and laziness.

Who’s Right?

One side says that millennials are flawed anomalies, the other side says that millennials are average. So, who’s right?

Well, the conversation itself may be flawed. We can dissect the character traits of any group people into infinitesimal segments. We can blame parents, technology, vaccines, gluten, and the media all we want, but the real question shouldn’t be “What caused this?” The question we should ask ourselves is “What next?”

The Next Generation Leadership Series

For the next couple months, we will be addressing this question through our newest articles series about young leaders. Our goal is to help make sense of this situation to inspire better solutions. Much of our research comes 25 years of management studies and by working with over 2,000 students.

Our motto is “Make Life Simple”. Natural Laws govern everything around us, even the workplace. As you continue to read this article series we hope that you will something new about how:

  • Employers can improve relationships with young employees.
  • Parents can better understand their children’s career aspirations.
  • Young professionals can use their generational differences to discover their own success.
  • Students can improve their chances of finding work by understanding the older generation.

Next month, we will look at the simple natural laws that causes the majority of conflicts in the workplace, and how it relates to the millennial issue.