360 Degree MillenniaLeader
As Sarah finishes up texting a client she receives an email. Her boss wants to talk to her in his office whenever she is free. She has done a great job at marketing agency her friend recommended to her almost a year and a half ago and she has loved working for this company. “I wonder what Mark wants to talk with me about,” she thinks to herself. As she sits down in front of her boss’s desk, he commends her on a job well done on a project that kept the loyalty of a long-time client. He then proceeds to offer Sarah a lead project management position, which oversees quality control and interdepartmental communication on big projects. Overjoyed, she accepts the new promotion, thanks her boss, darts out the door, and calls her Mom. Knowing how bad she wanted this position, her mom congratulates her and asks, “What’s next?”
Sarah has never been in a position where she supervises others, helps coworkers and also answers to her boss at the same time. She is not in an entry-level position, but she is also not in an executive position either. Sarah is in the middle of the organization. So she thinks to herself, “How do I lead from the middle?”
Many millennials are in the same position as Sarah, where they have to lead subordinates, lead coworkers and lead their supervisors or bosses. This is called 360 degree leadership and this aspect of leadership is a key concept to grasp as millennials in the workplace.
Not many millennials understand they can still be leaders in their organization even though they do not supervise or manage anyone. Did you know that you can lead your boss? It sounds like an oxymoron. After all, your boss is supposed to lead you, not the other way around, right? One year, after a frustrating meeting with my boss, I called my mentor to get some advice and he recommended to me the book 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell. I finished the book after two days and practiced many of the book’s principles after that. Here are some things I’ve learned in the subsequent months after implementing a new “Leading Up” attitude.
Follow your job description first. Nothing upsets your boss more than when you have ideas for future projects or you request to tackle additional assignments when you’re slacking in your primary job description. Why would he/she trust you with bigger and better opportunities when you’re not doing the job your were hired for? As millennials, we may get caught up in the next big idea or anxious about new opportunities, but doing your primary job will go a long way, especially in the eyes of your baby-boomer boss.
Listen. If you sit back and listen – not just hear, but listen – to your boss, you will often hear some repetitions. Those repetitions are what they care about, what their priorities are, and what their expectations are of you. Once you figure out what they care about most and what he/she expects of you in your role, you will be on your way to leading them effectively to ultimately build trust. If you’re stuck with a bad leader who doesn’t communicate well, listening to their language and what they talk about most will help you understand them. Job expectations may look radically different to a baby-boomer or a gen-xer than a millennial. Listen to them to gain clarity.
Utilize your strengths in their weaknesses. No one likes to be told that they suck at something, especially if it’s coming from your employee 20 years younger than you. Instead of pointing out their faults, utilize your strengths to lead them in their weaknesses. If your boss is bad at communication, regularly email them updates on projects that are important to them. If they don’t perform well under pressure, give them three possible solutions when you present them with a problem. If they’re bad at organization, make sure to send them recaps of meetings and remind them of important dates. Here’s something free that requires a lot of humility: trick them into thinking your idea was their idea. I’m sure this topic will come up in future blogs. Leading your boss will not only help them and the organization, but it will help you become a better leader even at a young age.
“No matter what our circumstances, our greatest limitation isn’t the leader above us—it’s the spirit within us.” - John C. Maxwell, 360 Degree Leader
Baby-Boomers and Gen-Xers have had difficulty answering the question of, “How can you lead your coworkers?” Luckily this is an area Millennials thrive in. But just in case you are struggling in this area, here are some ways you can lead your coworkers and/or key partners necessary to organizational growth.
Teamwork makes the dream work. According to a 2007 CIRCLE survey, Millennial participants were asked how much difference people can make working together as a group in solving problems. 92% agreed that teamwork will make at least some difference, with 62% saying it would make a great deal of difference. Through elementary school activities with friends, high school group projects and soccer team unity, millennials understand that if you want to get things done fast, do it yourself, and if you want to get things done more effectively, do it with others. Be careful though, all because you have a team, does not mean there will automatically be teamwork. Implement new strategies to communicate and use technology to brainstorm new ideas.
Get to know your coworkers. It’s really hard to be angry with a coworker for a project they screwed up on when you just had lunch with them that day. After establishing a friendship with those who are on the same pay grade as you, it can change unhealthy competition into mutual respect.
Respect your Key Partnerships. Key Partnerships are usually known to have good relationships at their conception. However, those partnerships will dwindle when communication fades. Set reminders to check up on your key partners. Having lunch with them at least once a month will build up the trust and will help both of the organizations represented.
Leading down is the typical kind of leadership everyone is accustomed to.
The Golden Rule. Our parents and grandparents were brought up in the authoritarian leadership style where fear and control contributed to faster and more loyal employees. However, this is one area where millennials have learned from the mistakes of their baby-boomer parents. While authoritarian leadership coveted faster and immediate revenue, it led to unhealthy work environments in the long-run, which limited future growth. It’s no secret that happy employees lead to better work environments, which lead to a more efficient work style, which lead increased revenue in the long run. Treat your employees as you would like to be treated.
Be patient. This links directly to the healthy Golden Rule. If you want healthy change, it won’t happen overnight. It will take time. Invest that time into developing them. They will fail, but use that experience to help them grow.
Lead with a limp. No one likes a narcissistic employer. When you primarily talk about how great you are and all your successes, it does not translate authentically. Show your employees your failures and things you screwed up on. When they hear this, they are more likely to be comfortable talking about their own failures, which can lead to discussion on improvements.
BONUS: LEADING INWARD
Lead the person in the mirror first. The very first step of leadership is leading yourself. Remember to be a lifelong learner. Seek opportunities for personal growth. Read interesting books. Stick to what you believe in. How do you expect to lead others when you can’t lead yourself.
This new type of leadership requires extreme humility. Many of these ideas may seem to threaten your platform or even your income, but investing in humility will lead to success in more areas than just your bank account. Times are changing. Leadership looks way different in 2016 than 1986. In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the Level 5 Leader saying,
“The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.”