Knowledge Center


For managers of Millennials, mentors, coaches, or anyone focused on building the right corporate culture and employer brand, helping Millennials succeed and grow as leaders is good for business.  

Although Millennials may seem impatient and in a hurry to succeed, they also want to enjoy the ride. Rather than rebelling against authority figures, Millennials typically value the wisdom and seasoning they can gain from parents, teachers, corporate and civic leaders. Here are some strategies we have found effective for help Millennials build out and up. 

1. Link Capability Building to Critical Leadership Passages

Professional and technical skills are table stakes. Millennials need to expand what they know and build out their knowledge, tools and leadership competencies. Focused investment on leadership development is especially relevant at the critical and predictable passage points Millennials will face. We use a wide array of classroom-based and on-­the-­job development experiences to accelerate targeted capability building. Taking a multi­ method approach is important to respond to various learning styles. It also keeps the design fun and dynamic.  

Call to Action

Ensure your training is focused on the right leadership capabilities, and align training with critical leadership passages.

2. Put the 'Development Back into Development'

At this stage in their life Millennials have a strong bias for learning. Twenty years from now will they look back at their career and say, 'I've been stuck in a rut and haven't grown much'. Much of our multi­billion dollar training industry is focused on expanding tool-kits and content, and less is focused on changing mindsets and behaviours and helping people learn to think. 'Vertical Development' is about advancing a person’s thinking capability. This is particularly relevant  given our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, where adaptive, strategic and systemic thinking are required to navigate.

Call to Action

Challenge your leadership development investments to focus not only on knowledge expansion and skill building, but also on helping Millennials build their navigation and thinking skills.

3. Stretch Big   

One of the toughest and most creative challenges is to find opportunities to really stretch our rising star Millennials. Whether the opportunity involves leading a special task force, being sent to another geography, fixing a broken process, or serving in the CEO's office, these stretch experiences involve risk and leadership courage. One size does not fit all. Ideally, stretch assignments are tailored to each Millennial, and add the right level of heat. Many stretch assignments arise opportunistically, and they should be considered in the context of Individual Development Plans and a 2­3 year leadership 
development game plan ­ sponsored by senior leadership.

Call to Action

Get creative about how you help Millennials 'step into their bigness'.

4. Unlearning   

Listening to critical feedback about yourself is perhaps one of the toughest challenges any leader faces. Since leaders need to be masters of change, they must also understand the dynamics of change, and why it is so difficult to execute. Leaders sometimes pursue competing (albeit unconscious) goals that get in the way of achieving espoused goals. Millennials need to dig deeper to understand their derailment risks, and how competing forces may impact their leadership behaviour and ability to drive change. This work allows them to be more deliberate and conscious about the choices they are making. It allows them to unlearn some of the bad habits that are compromising their effectiveness. 

Call to Action

Use coaching and mentoring to help Millennials examine how they might be putting one foot one the gas and one foot on the break, and how they might break non­productive habits that could derail them. 

5. Peer Coaching   

Peer coaching is an excellent way of creating a high trust, safe and confidential space for Millennials to experience team work, deeper analysis, reflection and learning. Participants find value in having a forum to talk about relevant and current leadership challenges, stay connected, and feel less isolated. Peer coaching enables, support and encouragement, sharing of successes and failures, objective, non judgmental feedback, application of coaching skills and stronger accountability for follow­-through

Call to Action

Leverage the highly Millennial ­relevant method of peer coaching.

6. Re-framing

Turning up the heat also means deliberately rattling Millennial leaders' world views. We do this by getting them to walking in customers' and suppliers' shoes to experience their world; exposing them to 'unusual suspects' and stakeholders with contrarian and diverse perspectives; exploring 'wicked' problems;' engaging in constructive conflict; understanding the voice of the competitor; and leveraging the role of adaptive leadership and systems thinking

Call to Action

Help Millennials get out of their comfort zone by challenging them with new ideas, divergent problem solving, and tough conversations with a wide variety of stakeholders.

7. Mentors and Personal Board of Directors (PBOD)

The Millennial is the CEO of 'Me Inc.' Just as corporate boards play a variety of governance roles. PBODs can provide tough love, offer diverse perspectives, and sage wisdom about career and life choices, and hold the Millennial accountable for following through. Likewise, mentors (at various life stages) offer advice and experience to help Millennials expand their perspectives. We also get a great deal of feedback about the power of reverse mentoring, and the benefits gained by both mentee and mentor. 

Call to Action

Go the distance. Setting up mentor or PBOD arrangements takes effort, but when done properly has huge payoffs.

About the Author
Allen HirshAllen Hirsh is the founder of NextGenLeaders®, a collaborative network of Ontario-based management consultants, organization and leadership development specialists and coaches. 

The brand uses an action-centered approach to enable leaders to improve the quality and speed of execution, and in the process help the organization expand its capabilities in leadership, strategic thinking, change management, learning, team development and talent building.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.


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