Millennial Leadership Development should be your priority

Two million millennials step into first leadership roles each year, that number seems to increase with organizations expanding glocally, this first year is critical as these new people leaders have to grapple with two primary areas – learning people management and getting things done. Research by Harvard business professor Linda A. Hill shows that this transition is tough and failures aren’t surprising, tales of disorientation, overwhelming confusion, panic, and the monolith tasks proves challenging. But sadly very little attention is being paid to the experiences these millennial leaders face. The research further suggests the differentiator is the awareness of the qualities that contribute to credibility – Character, Competence, and Influence.

For the past 12 years, I have worked with developing and assessing leaders through leadership interventions and assessment centers. I have closely watched them making this transition, I have seen that it takes around an average of 3 years for the new manager to come to terms with his/her role. I followed 40 new managers over the first year to observe them on-the-job, it was part of the routine assessment as part of a long-term intervention. I wanted to understand, their challenges, what they learned quickly? What motivated them to learn? What did they struggle with for a long time? Who did they trust to converse with? And what resources did they use?

I realized that the first two weeks most of the leaders were excited as the role provided a psychological feeling of a reward, somehow they felt they deserved this role, but soon as the work seems clearer they woke up to a whole new world, where everything had changed – in their prior role, they were individual contributors in a team context however now they needed to extract work, deal with people’s productivity and performance issues day in and day out. Something they just weren’t prepared to do.

The insecurities started to creep in, they started learning and using manipulations to get things done, somehow this new found authority didn’t give them the support structure they needed. The biggest challenge – Understanding what this new role meant.

What I initially observed in this 40 managers, extended to the newer cohorts I helped and I observed similar characteristics. This was no longer restricted to an organization, sector, industry or region. This I believe is a truly global challenge.

Can this be averted? Why aren’t organizations orienting potential new managers, why do they have to wait till they transition or about to transition?

Interestingly the belief is a holdover from the past, training in the past had huge cost implications, investments in people had to be made with precision, the biggest criteria was loyalty and retention. However the business climate has changed, millennials have proven to show that they stay in an organization where they believe they are able to express what they want to express, and when the environment is non-conducive they are ready to make a job-jump, more so when the role in their minds becomes highly irrelevant.

The easier way organizations can make a huge impact on retention and development is to orient using non-conventional learning technologies and methods – Blending virtual learning, gamification and coaching. Creating awareness can help measure role-fit, adaptability, and retention (some will leave, and it’s better because they would have surely proven to be an irrelevant-fit in the long run).

This difference in thinking can directly impact 60% of new managers which in turn impact their direct reports and eventually the bottom-line.

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