Being a Team Leader (at any level / function / department / industry) can be a challenging role. You constantly have to balance performance and requirements from management above, deal with employees, plan, manage, motivate, track, appraise performance, train, develop, sometimes hire or even deal with clients. It is certainly a complex role, and it can sometimes be difficult and exhausting. But it shouldn't be! Let us see what we can do to make it easier and more effective, especially focusing on leading millennials (born between 1980 and 2000, give or take).
Struggle Nr.1: Unhappy middle managers
Why do we think that there is a problem? This is because Middle Managers are UNHAPPY! This is the result of a study1 conducted on 320000 employees by Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy company. They found out that, out of all employees, middle managers had the lowest scores on engagement and commitment. Some of the reasons identified were:
They see no career or promotion opportunities
Their work lacks meaning and purpose
They don't feel valued or appreciated
Struggle Nr.2: Millennials have diverse needs
The kind of manager/leader millennials want differs from one continent to the other. More than that, individuals have different needs and expectations. Some prefer technical experts, while others want to be empowered.
These became very clear in a study2 that surveyed 16,637 people between 18 and 30 years old, from 43 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America. For example, in North America, Western Europe, and Africa, at least 40% of respondents said they wanted managers who "empower their employees." Yet, only about 12% of Millennials in Central/Eastern Europe and the Middle East chose that quality. Instead, 58% of respondents from Central/Eastern Europe believed that technical or functional expertise in a manager was important (in other regions, only a third or fewer respondents agreed).
Solution Nr.1: Be the leader they expect you to be
For example, in Central & Eastern Europe, it is paramount to be skilled in your field, to have technical or functional competency. Also, make sure that you set transparent performance criteria (KPI) and evaluate them objectively. More than that, help your members in their development. Offer learning opportunities and make sure to establish a development plan with each of your members (in a PWC report3, millennials considered "Training and Development" as the most valuable working benefit).
Solution Nr.2: Appropriate team culture (relationships)
Research4 suggests that the most engaging and performant relationship in the context of business should be …. NEIGHBOURS. It is a healthy balance between strangers and family. In a healthy workplace, neighbor-employees work hard, secure in the knowledge that the organization is looking out for them. The organization succeeds because its employees put in a reasonable amount of extra time and effort for each other.
Solution Nr.3: Stay interviews (instead of exit interviews)
Instead of conducting exit interviews, to find out why an employee is leaving the company, try conducting "stay interviews" (or one-on-ones) and find out why existing members of your team are staying. Find out what they like, dislike, what motivates them, what aspects they like and dislike about their job description, and how you can help them do their jobs better. This practice also helps you with solution nr.1: be the leader they expect you to be. You can gather valuable information about their needs, expectations and challenges. Remember: your role is to foster your team, so members become their best selves at work. Thus, you will achieve performance through your team.
DO's and DONT's (takeaway, or just read this instead of the whole article)
Assess your team members individual needs, and try to match them (one size DOES NOT fit all)
Conduct "Stay Interviews" instead of "Exit Interviews"; monthly or quarterly discussions should be fine
Set transparent performance criteria (KPI) and evaluate it objectively
Empower your employees, by offering the big picture about their role in the company and the team, and by focusing on their impact
Offer learning opportunities and make sure to establish a development plan with each of your members
Focus only on the job or tasks of your team members
Assume that everyone has the same needs and expectations
Meet only once a year with every member of your team (usually for performance appraisal)
Evaluate performance subjectively
Create a team culture where people are strangers or feel like a family
Why Middle Managers Are So Unhappy, HBR, 2014; https://hbr.org/2014/11/why-middle-managers-are-so-unhappy ↩
What Millennials Want from Work, Charted Across the World, HBR, 2015; https://hbr.org/2015/02/what-millennials-want-from-work-charted-across-the-world ↩
Which Work Benefits Do Millennials Value Most?, Forbes, 2015; http://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/11/12/which-work-benefits-do-millennials-value-most-infographic ↩
Coworkers Should Be Like Neighbors, Not Like Family, HBR, 2014; https://hbr.org/2014/10/coworkers-should-be-like-neighbors-not-like-family ↩
by Bogdan Bucur
by Andrei Bâcu
by Mircea Vădan
by Patkós Csaba
by Ovidiu Mățan
by Gelu Vac
by Vlad Șerban