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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #38: From the Mouth of a Millennial About Leading Millennials

May 28, 2019
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #38: From the Mouth of a Millennial About Leading Millennials

One of the biggest questions we hear today is: “How do you lead millennials?” And, just like with the other four unique generations in the workplace, it requires an intentional leadership approach. In Episode #38 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Senior Director of Leadership Development at The John Maxwell Company Eric Corona joins us to explore some of the strengths and struggles that millennials have in the workplace today.

To further understand how to lead across generations, consider bringing a 5 Levels of Leadership Workshop to your organization this year.

Listen to all podcasts in this series and subscribe to new episodes on iTunes– or Google Play.

Read the transcript below:

Welcome to the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your level of influence, increase your reputation as a leader, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.

Today’s topic is titled ‘From the Mouth of a Millennial About Leading Millennials’. Exciting. We’re going to be, so obviously, you know we have a guest in the studio because of neither Perry or I – as a matter of fact, Perry made this statement on one of our recent podcasts. Go ahead. I’m a millennial. I’m just from a different millennium. I’m sorry. Go ahead. In the studio today, I have one of our team members, Eric Corona is with us. Eric is one of our consultants that works with organizations around the world representing John, his brand on the corporate side of things. Eric, we’re so grateful for you joining us today. Why don’t we just kick off and you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure, yeah, no, thanks. Thanks for having me in the studio, guys. Long time listener, a first-time guest here. So, yeah, no, Chris. Chris said, my name’s Eric Corona. I’m the Senior Director of Leadership Development at The John Maxwell Company. So all that basically means is I partner with organizations to get to learn a little bit more about their leadership culture and serve them well through our different leadership trainings, coaching assessments, etc. So let me give you a few dates that are going to frame things up on why I’m the local millennial expert here. So I was born in 1985. So that makes me 33 and a card-carrying member of the millennial group, I graduated high school in 2004 from Walton High School here in Atlanta and then college from the University of Georgia in 2009. Hey, go dogs. I did that for you, Perry. So you’ll notice if you do a little math there too. So now I’m now that, there you go. Well, if you do the math right, 2009, 2004, you could tell I capitalized on an extra year. And I got to stay for another football season. So, guys, I am the husband that my beautiful wife, Natalie, I’ve got three young kids, a six-year-old son, four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son as well. So just looking forward to being here with you guys today.

Well, Chris, that made me feel old. I feel the energy in the room. Like I feel like there’s a different energy. So let me just review before we dive in about being a millennial and what that means. So a lot has been written about this age group. It’s the largest age group in the workplace today, Gen Y as they’re known or better known as millennial, roughly born between 1980 and 2000. And some of the nightly comedy shows and a lot of negative written about the millennial or a lot of fun made of that age group. But I’ve been learning because I’m out there as a sort of Chris can attest to is that this is a very important, generation. They are forming things are actually moving now into leadership. They are at that age now where we’re starting to see that. There’s a lot of value that they bring to the workplace. They do have a different come from that the other generations that we’ve spoken about in the other four generations or five generations in the workforce.

The millennial was raised in a world that has included terrorism and school attacks. And September 11, it’s a generational group that has grown up more protected and sheltered by their parents, but probably because a lot of that they’ve grown up in a time of great economic growth. They are steeped in technology. They know how things work. They highly value diversity and other people’s personal beliefs, which is refreshing. They view themselves as part of a global community. They’re at ease with the multicultural environments that we talk about on this podcast quite frequently. And the millennial Gen Y is a generation of very self competent and independent. So after framing all that up, let’s dive in.

Man, I’m impressed. That’s a sophisticated list of accomplishments or even I should say maybe perspectives or points that they have. I am excited about not only having Eric in the room and talk about this but really just to kind of unpack this conversation. Perry and I have been talking a lot about different cultures and leading different types of what we’ll call cultures, whether it’s race, whether it’s age, whether it’s experience, whatever it is. And John gets asked probably this question more than anything. How do you lead the millennials? Like what is it? Right? And John always laughs and has some thoughts to that. And so with Eric C in here today, he’s going to kind of speak right from it. Not only is he a millennial, but he’s involved in our culture and represents John and other organizations. So Eric, let’s start with from your perspective, give us a little bit of some of your thoughts on the strengths and then even some of the struggles that millennials have in the workplace today.

Yeah,  absolutely. Yeah. I think before we dive into that, I think, let’s start by saying we have to be careful not to be too general, right? These stereotypes, when you hear the word millennial, it often has a negative connotation. So just like any generation, there are exceptions to the rules that, and really were framed by, yes, our upbringing from a worldview, but also from different geographical regions, socioeconomic groups, our family dynamics. So we have to be careful about saying, how are millennials X, Y, or Z? You start throwing in blank just because of a date because it’ll be different. Now what we’ll talk about today is kind of the overall narratives of common themes of millennials. So when you ask about strengths and struggles, as a leader, anyone out our listeners out there leading, keep in mind they’ll be different from person to person. But for an overall theme, what I would say it’s good because of our upbringing, right? The experiences we had growing up in those pivotal, you know, early years at formed our perspective of the world of the workplace, which you start understanding is, you know, we were, technology was around very heavily for us. So we grew up with that. That was something we’re very intuitive with and leveraging technology, the efficiencies of it. We adopted it a lot quicker than you’ll see some of the older generations who even at times would use it as a sticking point for us. Say, man, you guys are always on your phone and you’re going to not be able to have those interpersonal skills. And you don’t make eye contact when you talk. And now, I mean, you can’t go anywhere. It doesn’t matter if the old, younger than the middle. Everyone’s glued to a screen and losing some, it’s an epidemic. But, technology, so we know how to leverage it. Right. You had mentioned some of the optimism of our generation. I think if you want to really frame it up, you’ve got to look back to our upbringing like I said, and who influenced our upbringing, which was the generation before us, our parents. So what I experienced in my family. Yeah. That’s what I can speak to personally. And then I actually, you know when I was going to be on this podcast, reached out to a few friends in the workplace is to get some other perspectives from other millennials is a lot of times what you see is a generation of parents that are now wanting to come in and make sure they are raising happy, healthy, young little boys and girls and you know, wearing helmets and knee pads, you protect him, you never put them anything dangerous. Tell them how special they are. Everyone gets to participate, get a trophy and it was all well intended, but that’s what led to some of what will be called, that entitlement feeling and whatnot. I would say that at the end of the day, the strengths that I’ll reference, what you’ll see is the struggles are going to be pretty much the flip side of those strengths, the buy side of it. And that’s it. You know, what did we talk about that at The John Maxwell Company is you’ll, you’ll see that your blind spots are usually on the flip side of what the strength is. And so I want to reference, you know, so our friend Tim Elmore, he came and spoke at an event we did a couple of years ago and I remember he painted this picture, used a word picture. And so I thought it applied so well.

We said the scene that we live in today, and he used that each of the letters to kind of frame it. As I said, the ‘S’ is for speed. We live in a world where everything’s fast and instantaneous, right? We have it accessed immediately. The flip side of that is that can lead us to believe that slow is bad, right? That anything that’s slow and takes time is bad. The ‘C’ is the convenience, right? So we’re sitting there and we want things to be convenient. We want it to be easy, we want it to help us and, and I, Hey, I love my conveniences in my world, but the problem is the flip side of that leads us to think that hard is bad. If it’s difficult, then it’s bad, right? Then the ‘E’ the first ‘E’ is entertainment. You guys, we live in a world full of entertainment at our fingertips, man. Everywhere you look, there’s media, something to entertain you. Great, it’s fun to be entertained. But the flip side of that is that boring can be bad, right? So we start to think boring is bad. The other end of the ‘N’ is nurture. And I think again, we just talked about are well-intended parents wanted to nurture us, tell us how special we are, love on us and protect us and set us up for all that success. But then the flip side, if we’re all nurtured, we can think that risk is bad. And then the last is entitlement. Again, we get that entitlement feeling, I should have this and then the world we live in that spewed at us every day. Right? You deserve this, this should be yours, you do you and make you happy. Well, the flip side of that is that that labor or work can be bad.

So if you think about all the words that we just talked about being the struggles of the bad, slow, give difficult, boring, risk and labor. Those are the things that build character and make you the person that you’re going to be equality, well-rounded person. So I like using that picture is to show a little bit about yes, the world we live in has some good, you know, just conveniences and the strengths. But the flip side of that is if we don’t keep aware of it, then we’re going to fall into the trap. And the other side of that.

Well, and I think why I love you sharing just even that perspective. And Tim’s a dear friend of ours aI love that word picture is it allows us that are listening, that are leading millennials, to have a different perspective, right? To understand the lens of which you’re seeing things through that’ll allow us to lead you better. So talk to us a little bit about as a millennial, from a leadership perspective, and that’s what you do on a daily basis for John and for us with organizations about culture and leadership development. What is it that leaders, you gave us a lot to be aware of, right? But what do we need to be when you think about being led or the other millennials being led in the organization, what is it that we need to know from you? Like how best can we lead you? How have the millennials that you’ve worked with from The John Maxwell Company, in other organizations, commented on or have successful leaders? What is it that they’re doing that we could share with our listeners that may add value to them from a leadership standpoint?

Yeah, no, no, absolutely. And I’ll actually give you a little bit of praise here. Chris, as my leader, I’m paying him under the table. I will say, so again, it’s definitely specific to the millennial generation, but it also is every generation when you’re leading someone, we all fall into this trap. We step into a relationship and we start to expect, and that think that everyone else thinks like us, right? This is the world I live in, how I think. And so we automatically assume that that other person probably has the same perspective, which any generation, those perspectives are going to be different. So I would say don’t step into your leadership with any generation, but specifically for our conversation day with the millennial generation thinking that they think like you about the world because they don’t go right?

And so how do you fix that? Right? So you’ve got to get to know your people. And that’s, that’s again, universal to all generations. But when we talk about a generation, my generation that we like to feel valued, we want to know that our work is appreciated, that we’re doing something meaningful. One order to do that, you’ve got to get to know your people, get to know their motivations. Have a high degree of Daniel Goleman, father of emotional intelligence, the way you connect with people. EQ. Yeah, exactly. His interpersonal skills and what do you do? You connect, you value, people develop relationship and when you do that you’ll start to get to the person what they value and you can help motivate them and lead them based off of your knowledge and that relationship there. I think I read a statistic the other day where 80% of your career success and not just the job is tied to your ability to handle EQ with your team, right?

Career success, 20% of it. They’re saying you’ve got to know what you’re doing, but you don’t have to be great at it. Quote unquote if 80% of the time you focus on the people. So I hit on it briefly, but again, as a leader just to be aware of, do not cast an assumption about somebody just because of an age, a date or a term millennial that you think you know how they tick. That goes into getting to know them because you step van and I got a millennial on my hands. Yeah. What do I need to do? I need to throw in open office space, beanbags, and gourmet coffee, avocado toast?. We actually talk about the stereotyping being one of the keys of unconscious bias on a previous podcast we mentioned that. Stereotyping can be a devastating thing to do and really hinder your ability to engage your workforce.

Eric, I hear it reported a lot and see it several places that millennial really wants to make a difference, that difference in their own lives and difference in the world. They want to work on meaningful things. They want to work on the purpose is bigger than themselves. I’ve seen these headlines. How does this show up for you at work in your day to day life? Sure. Yeah. You know, I would hope that to be true about every generation, right? Don’t you want to think that people out there want to feel like they’re doing something meaningful, making a difference and bettering the world? And so I know we get, we get the kind of credit for it, but that characteristic on us, but hopefully everyone’s doing it. But yes, it specifically to our generation, it’s, you know, we do want to make a difference. Now, a little side note here, we also want to make a dollar too. So you hear people talking about how do we motivate them? The salary is not the most meaningful thing. Figure out how to let them know that they’re making a difference. If we’re going, to be honest. Yes, we all want to have that job where if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. But if we’re going to step into corporate America right now, and I think about any generations now, specifically millennials, if money wasn’t an issue and they had all the money in the world, would they still be doing what they’re doing right there? Right? And so we want to make a difference, but I think it’s a both and want to make a difference. We want to get compensated for that difference as well. You know what it speaks to me about that, that desire to having a meaningful impact is that the millennials have this understanding or this desire for a transcending cause, right? That thing that’s bigger than them. And so as an organization or as a leader, which you need to be very, very intentional and aware of, is creating a culture that’s going to offer them that transcending cause that why, you know, how can you connect what they are doing with the ultimate business goals, success of the organization. Because then they start getting tied in the bigger thing. Because if not, we will default to what most humans will default to and making ourselves the cause. Yeah. And then that selfishness, how can I, how can I progress myself? How can we advocate for me to make myself great? When you have a culture with that transcending cause you can connect their work to, that’s what’s going to motivate and get them feeling like they’re doing.

I kind of agree with that amount being why is kind of important for everybody or simply the millennial? I get that a little different motivation, but I love that everybody in your team should know why the uh, the things you’re talking about. It’s funny, I’m sitting here and you started us out by saying, Hey, let’s not put a stereotype on the millennials. We’re still people, right? But people talk about the fact that millennials, as long as that, and even some, not even all of the things that you’re sharing to Perry’s point, are true core to leading any generation. Sure. You’ve just given us a little bit of a different perspective on what’s kind of important to you and what you guys think about. Right? And even back to, you talked about, you know, you’re better with technology. Eric and I have the privilege of working together, every day. And so from a technology standpoint, I will go to him first before some of my other team members. I’ll go to him first before I even tried to do something technology because he has just grown up with that.

And so when John talks about lead where you’re strong team, where you’re weak, man, there’s such an opportunity to partner with people from all different generations, right? Whether it’s older from a wisdom knowledge, whatever, a younger and more tech, whatever it is, right? There doesn’t need to be this stereotype of millennials like figure out how best to work together and what that looks like. Okay. So let’s change gears just a little bit from you’re moving from your kind of perspective, your personal thoughts, being a millennial to the fact that every day we get the privilege of talking to organizations, working with organizations. I know you’re on the road this week for us with some organizations and doing some work around culture and leadership. And inevitably all of these organizations have millennials and you hear challenges, you hear pain points, you hear opportunities every day. Talk to us a little bit about those pain points and maybe even specifically what you’re hearing around the world from Corporate America on leading millennials that may be different than something you’ve already shared with us.

Absolutely. And again, to your point, I get the pleasure of working with a lot of different organizations, different industries, different levels within those companies at the organization. So I do get that broad perspective. What I see is one of the biggest struggles, and we’ve already talked about it a little bit, is that assumption that if you’re having a millennial tag on you, that everyone automatically knows what kind of person you are, what your trouble you’re going to bring. But then also we can use them for their technology skills, right? So labeling right out the gate. Sometimes we get the call that’s, hey, got to figure out how to lead this younger generation. You know, they’re all entitled and they think they need a promotion every six months and you know what to do. I had mentioned earlier, do we open off this space and we put a ping pong table in? Is that how we’re going to motivate them? Right. And so again, what we’re hearing is just a lack of understanding of the generation as a whole.

Yeah. And all of that takes on, man, all it takes is investing a little bit intentionality and getting to understand that and connect, right? Level 2 foundation is connecting to your people. That is 100% because once you do that, and I know we’ve, you guys have talked to her, you on the podcast, talk about the 5 Levels a lot. Once you start deploying some of that methodology level to being foundational to the relational connection, what happens is, you know as a generation, as a person, you feel valued, you feel understood, you’re connected through communication, you’re establishing trust with your leaders. Yeah. When those things happen then all of a sudden you start to get the best out of your people. You get that discretionary effort. That’s it. You stick your right out of my mouth.

The ability to connect and we talked about John labels Level 2 as where people want to follow you in his subtitle word is relationships. And a lot of times I’ll mention that but I quickly go to the word connect cause there’s a lot of things, there are leaders right now, senior leaders that are like, I don’t want to build a relationship with Eric, right? Cause we don’t have anything in common. But there are different ways to connect versus just building relationships. And I think leaders need to keep that in mind that, that, you know, they don’t have to be buddy-buddy, but there are great ways to connect all kinds of things connected, adversity, projects, values offering itself. So Perry, hump in right there. And yeah, it was just a, we mentioned a bit earlier, millennials are now getting to that age where you’re becoming our leaders, taking leadership positions, first line, second line managers and you’re affecting the workplace. When all our leaders are with Gen Y’s come from and how you see these millennials becoming leaders what can we expect massive world domination?

Yeah, no. I love seeing this, right? This transition into my generation stepping into those leadership roles and some of my buddies are in that now, some are on their way. Some of, you know, that started off, took on leadership roles pretty early in our well, into a career of leadership. There are a lot of things that will apply to any generation when it comes to developing your influence and leadership, right? So there are those foundational pieces. What I’ve seen that this generation that I think we need to be aware of as the millennials, it takes two to tango, right? So we can sit here and go, man, they just don’t understand us. You know, whether it be the next generation down or the generation above us, why aren’t they working harder to get to know us?

We have to do it too. So we need to step in and take the initiative, say, well, I need to, A, help them learn how to leave me. And B, how do I lead them? How do I lead up to my people above me? And then as we emerge into these leaders, sometimes we’re leading people that are older than us, generations above us, and we step into that leadership role. How are you connecting to those people? And I think George Orwell said every generation thinks that they’re more intelligent than the generation ahead of them. And they’re much wiser than the generation

behind them as he was correct by the way. So I would just say it’ll awareness as we move into the leadership roles, not make some of them the same mistakes that we complained about with the leaders above us not understanding us because you know what, the next generation behind us going to be looking at us the same way that I think that that’s key as we kind of wrap up here and talk about some takeaways and in conclusion move forward. Two things that that you said that I think is spot on with millennials becoming more prevalent in the leadership space and organizations and that first one is is that if you are a millennial and you’re beginning to take on those roles, everything that you wish your leader had done with you to connect, I would encourage you to do that with everybody that’s older and younger than you and so change the mindset it says Eric had said, whereas, hey, now you, you’ve got to own responsibility. The thing I would say for those that maybe aren’t in the millennial quote unquote year range, I would tell you to go back to what Eric talked about from Tim Elmore with this scene and understand that each one of those is very accurate and the organization and the culture is going to have a bent towards that and you need to understand that and be aware of it and it’ll make you accept it, appreciate it, and it’ll increase your engagement level if you understand where your leader is coming from. The pace is going to be faster, and each one of those things is going to happen with the millennials moving more and more into the leadership space. Absolutely. This has been fascinating and I’m kind of smiling knowing that you’re going to get the lead Gen Z. Yeah, so thank you, Eric, for joining us today in our world studios. You didn’t mention how impressed you were. Chris, always great insights.

Just as a reminder, if you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps even have a 5 Levels Workshop, please go to, you can see more information there. You can also leave us a comment or a question we always love hearing from you. That’s it for today. Thank you for joining us. This is the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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