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Introduction to Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader

The authors of Millennials Who Manage introduce their book, which shows millennials how to transition more smoothly into management, including how to earn the respect of peers, "elders", and managers. Millennials will discover how to achieve success their way, without compromising who they are or becoming someone they are not.
This chapter is from the book

Before you entrust your career to our advice, it is important that we let you know the background for this book and our qualifications for writing it. A student once asked me, “What qualifies you to teach this class?” It is a great question and deserves a reasoned response—and you might want to know the answer since you have plopped down the money to buy our book, invest the time to read it, and contemplate our advice.

We have been studying Millennials since they entered the workforce. Chip’s doctoral dissertation was titled Millennial Integration: Challenges Millennials Face in the Workplace and What They Can Do About Them. He published Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce in 2010 and followed it with Millennials@Work: The 7 Skills Every Twenty-Something (and Their Manager) Needs to Overcome Roadblocks and Achieve Greatness in 2014. Millennials Who Manage combines years of research and experience that will give you insight into how older workers perceive younger workers, competencies that are critical to managing your peers, challenges you face when managing people older than you, and potential roadblocks you may face when trying to advance to the next level.

From the outset, it is important for you to understand that our work is not a conversation about Millennials but rather a conversation with Millennials. Our mission has been to help create work environments in which Millennials can thrive. We love Millennials! The love affair started while teaching a course called Management Theory and Practice at the undergraduate level. We noticed a difference between our students in the 1990s and our students in the early 2000s. We noticed several differences, but one that especially stood out was that Millennials entered the classroom with the idea that everything is negotiable; they expected to have a voice with respect to assignments, absences, and even grades. While other faculty members experienced their students’ desire to have a voice as off-putting, we recognized that Millennials wanted to succeed and desired to actively participate in the educational process. They wanted—sometimes even demanded—to be engaged. What more could a professor ask for?

It is one thing to notice a shift in student values and behaviors but quite another to commit personal resources and time to studying the phenomenon. The catalyst for committing wholeheartedly to the topic was one of Chip’s classes flipping an assignment on him. The course was an elective listed as Emerging Management Theory. The goal of the course was to get students to realize that the subject of management is sexy—meaning management is not a static subject. It is incredibly dynamic because of the constant change in people, organizations, and the work environment. Also, management is the study of many different disciplines, including, among others, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. The students were encouraged to identify and write about what they considered an emerging challenge in the workforce and what they would do about it. The example Chip used at the beginning of the semester was what he viewed as the challenge of managing a generationally diverse organization. At the end of the semester, the students inspired (some would say provoked) Chip to actually begin researching and writing on the topic. The unmitigated truth is that his students were the catalyst for the work that led to the creation of this book and the two listed previously, all involving managing a multigenerational workforce.

Our ambition is for the voice of this book to be conversational and an easy read. Admittedly, it is a challenge writing in both the academic and business worlds. Some see academia as being “out of touch,” while others argue that acting without critical systematic inquiry is “irresponsible.” There can be tremendous value in both, and we see them as interdependent: Good theory informs good practice, and good practice informs good theory. We strive to be true to both worlds.

Why Read Millennials Who Manage?

We believe this book will resonate with you because it invites your engagement with the subject—you. People sometimes say that young managers are blank slates because they have less experience than older managers. But we don’t visualize you as a blank slate on which we are writing. Nor are we concerned with convincing you to adopt our lens. You have a myriad of experiences and ideas that are already shaping your leadership perspective. Perhaps you have only recently hit the management ranks, but you have led in other contexts and also observed good and bad management. Those experiences are what Bruce Avolio refers to as the context of leadership learning—a person’s life stream. He defines the life stream as the representation of events you accumulate from birth to the present that shapes how you choose to influence yourself and others. He reasons, “Keeping in mind the concept of one’s life stream helps to keep leadership development in a state of becoming, until all of our streams, so to speak, run dry.”1 Hopefully, your leadership learning and development will be a lifelong process.

The intent of this book is to contribute to your life stream and ultimately to your effectiveness as a managerial leader. There will be some “how to,” but there will be a lot more “how to be.” Our hope is that while you are reading, you can immediately think of how to integrate your own thinking and person into what we are saying. It is through this process that your self-concept as a leader will become more defined and ultimately shape the framework for developing, organizing, and implementing your leadership skills.

A lot of early leader development literature placed the leader’s primary focus on the follower. The objective was to teach the leader how to get the follower to do what she wanted him to do. The challenges of leading in today’s world have caused, if not demanded, a shift in how we approach leader development. The primary focus of the leader is now on the self because it is the nature and presence of the leader that most impacts an organization.2 Technical skills serve as the price of admission to leadership, but leading effectively depends on how well you negotiate the emotional and relational processes of what many refer to as both science and art.

Frances Hesselbein, co-editor of The Leader of the Future, says, “The three major challenges CEOs will face [in the 21st century] will have little to do with managing the enterprise’s tangible assets and everything to do with monitoring the quality of: leadership, the work force, and relationships.”3 Hesselbein goes on to say, “The leader beyond the millennium will not be the leader who has learned the lessons of how to do it....The leader for today and the future will be focused on how to be—how to develop quality, character, mind-set, values, principles, and courage.”4

We are not interested in inspiring you to change the face of management. That is going to happen with or without our help. We are more concerned with helping you develop a perspective that allows for personal change, adaptation, continual learning, and the ability to lead organizations worthy of human habitation. We want to assist you in your efforts to deploy your best self.

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