I am hearing a lot lately about the next generation of young leaders in ministry—how to recruit them, how to leverage their talents, how to change organizational cultures to be more friendly to the demands of Millennials, Generation Flux , Gen Y.
Would you like a curtain-lift into the backstage activities of my affiliated group? Do you want the inside scoop on how to best handle managing this generation? I can tell you the secret, but I bet you already know it: Just manage us as individuals. Any demographic approach to management is a really bad idea.
Let me ask you two questions (hint: you can only answer yes to one):
Are you currently recruiting, supervising, or developing an individual from this latest generation of employees?
Are you responsible for overseeing the entire demographic of 20-34-year-olds?
The point is this: Generations exhibit trends; individuals exhibit behaviors. Manage your market as a generation and your employees as individuals. Don’t spend your energy understanding macro trends if your goal is to motivate an individual to a particular course of action.
We all have anecdotal evidence that supports our faith in stereotypes. “Oh, she’s definitely a first-born!” “Well I could have told you that, he works in IT, bless his heart.” Though usually a damaging reinforcement to our own inherent biases, this sort of guideline can sometimes be helpful, giving us starting points for interpersonal communication. Moreover, in some industries like marketing and sociology, it is considered best practice to aim for the middle of the bell curve.
There are interesting intellectual ideas around studies into various socioeconomic groupings of people. Studies that group ethnicities, genders, household incomes—and yes, even groupings based on what year they are born—all supply data about human tendencies. These data provide a statistical mean, a middle-marker by which we direct actions meant to affect that grouping.
These actions are effective when targeted to a very large number of people. But you don’t manage a very large number of people. You manage a small group of individuals.
David Ogilvy, generally heralded as the father of advertising, draws a parallel distinction for us: “Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.” Even in the faceless world of mass promotions, sometimes final execution can only be made in one-on-one interaction with a customer.
And when you interact with an individual, all of his or her group affiliations become irrelevant. Millennials are data points, not statistics. They may or may not have helicopter parents. They may or may not be addicted to Twitter. Only some of them value organizational mission over career progression. None of them have 2.5 kids.
If you want data on a single person, all you need is regular conversations with him or her. You will be deluged with information he or she is begging you to observe. In 30 seconds, you have access to a database of facial expressions and hand gestures, vocabulary and enunciation, rate of speech and length of attention span. After a few weeks you can add to the list that person’s stories of ministry and professional experience, some actual work product and reports, positive and negative personal habits. These are all behaviors, empirically measureable, and all adaptable to fit the needs of the organization, within the strengths of the individual.
If we are each truly God’s workmanship (his masterpiece, his poema), if we are each to take our rightful place among Christ’s body as an indispensable and distinct part, then we must each be esteemed and exhorted as unique individuals with distinct skill sets, characteristics, and motivations.
Not all orphans are encapsulated by the story of Oliver Twist. Not all Millennials can be managed by a list of generational tendencies.
Just like all of your employees, you must encourage effect behavior with Millennials by knowing them, talking to them about their performance, and demanding better performance and more production over time. Here is the only generalization about my generation I can champion; on this we speak as one: “Manage me as an individual.”
What generalizations have you heard about the generations? How have you found those to be true? False? We would love to hear about it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted November 12, 2012