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Making a Millennial Smile – Leadership

Did you know that by 2025 there will be as many Millennials (those born after 2004) in the work place as Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 & 1964)? As at late Boomer (I hasten to add) I am quite interested in this fact and its implications.  Generation X is the collective name awarded to those born in between 1965 – 2004.  This generation is significantly smaller and sandwiched in between the ‘lumbering dinosaurs’ and the ‘potential saviours’ of our planet.

Along with Blue Monday, and that yesterday was “National Employee Motivation” day I started to wonder how us Boomers pass on our collective wisdom.  What I mean by wisdom is not knowledge of course, but know how.  The things you can’t glean from a page on the Internet.  

There won’t be enough generation X’s to fill the empty leadership roles when the last of the Boomers leave the workplace.  This means that the Millennials will need to learn to steer the business helm long before any previous generations.  How might we bridge the gap, impart the wisdom of our years to a generation who we perceive not to ‘want’ a mentor?  Or don’t they?

I so love this graphic illustrating  The Great Divide with thanks to


Now, here’s a thing.  When I was in my early 20’s I’m pretty sure that, how the Millenials describe themselves now, is how I’d have described myself then.  What’s more, how the Boomers describe the Millenials is probably what my seniors thought of me and my generation. 

Don’t get me wrong, I went into a managerial role straight from college, but there were many people who I tapped into for advice as a when I needed it.  People who were revered.  They were not necessarily perfect nor always politically correct but they had their hearts in the right place.  Whether I knew that at the time or not I don’t recall.  As I write this, memories are flooding back.  They weren’t always my direct line managers.  There were men and women.  All of them were people who did not flap and all of them I highly respected. 

One such mentor was Ray Dukes, the Store Director at Debenhams in Worthing.  A crowd of us went to the pub one Friday night.  In conversation at the bar, I said “I don’t know what to call you outside of work?”  “Sir will do” he countered.  So ‘Sir’ it was thereafter!

My mentors, were chosen by me.  They were people who I wanted to please because a smile and a word of encouragement or praise really meant a great deal.  They let me make mistakes and were often not too kind when I did.  However, they never knowingly let me make a mistake that was disastrous to the business.  Disastrous to my ego perhaps, but not the business.

So the question I pose is how do we Boomers position ourselves so the Millennials can avail our collective wisdom? How do we integrate the following six essential behaviours in our every day, regular converse:

  1. Build connective relationships
  2. Offer further information
  3. Facilitate alternative focus
  4. Challenge assumptions
  5. Illustrate solutions
  6. Encourage initiatives

Moreover, how do we integrate these when the time is right for them? So they don’t know they have a mentor?


PS Why do we need a Motivate your Staff Day?  Aren’t we doing that everyday?  If the answer is no then perhaps today is a good day to find out how to make a millennial smile.

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