Leadership and the Generational Shift
By Brian Craig, Managing Director, European Operations, Indium Corporation
Our workforce is at a crossroads. The future is filled with fewer and fewer Baby Boomers, and more and more Millennials. And for those of us from the Baby Boomer era, the next generation—the future leaders—can be somewhat of an enigma.
I am coming across increasing masses of Millennials both in my work at Indium Corporation and in other industry organisations. When I sit back and reflect on my observations, I note some common characteristics that, when I compare, are somewhat dissimilar from when I was the “next generation.”
In my day (though I argue it is STILL my day), the relationship with my leaders was very much driven from the top-down. With some caution, I would approach or more likely be invited for an audience with “the boss”—which would come with some trepidation. I’d leave the meeting knowing what I had to do and would be expected to achieve, and that’s what I did. If I encountered challenges, it was incumbent upon me to deal with them myself, unless they were insurmountable. I needed to be self-motivated, driven, and resourceful. I was those things because I needed to be.
Millennials operate differently to the younger me. They seem to be automatically empowered to do things. They are creative and resourceful, and—for the most part—fearless. Some may see it as disrespectful when they seem to have no problem flagging me down, ignoring any fears about the job title, and telling me what they are doing. But I see it differently. Mostly they want to share what they have created, and on occasion seek some fine-tuning to the direction they are taking.
Millennials typically have strong views, but they are also willing to consider the alternate points and quickly change or adapt. They are trained by today’s broadband world to expect instant responses and action. That’s what they (and we) are experiencing today–answers, now! Delivery of goods, now! Updates on life, now! The concept of waiting and patience is alien.
These folks are amazingly capable. The ability to use the tools of today to help them is so natural to the way they operate, think, and create. Millennials have endless inquisitiveness and a drive to make processes efficient and productive using any technology they can access.
Because of the reliance on devices, one might think that their conversational skills are lacking, but I have not found this. They are brave, articulate, and knowledgeable on a range of subjects, both local and global. Millennials are connected to information and to people–some whom they will never meet, but still consider friends or close associates.
Millennials are aware of who and what they are—which is predominantly a group of abstract thinkers.
I have numerous examples of how they can quickly pivot to face and overcome challenges, which are frequently based on the system. As in, “We need this but the system is not capable of handling the request.” In these instances, the millennial will shrug their shoulders, disappear for a while, and produce a modified system patch that enables us to overcome the issue.
I have seen this in customer management, production planning, order entry, and statistical data capture. What’s even more impressive is that these “bootleg” programs work and get adopted by other parts of the organisation—sometimes even the global company.
Because of millennial ingenuity, we do not stagnate and we are not allowed to hide behind the thought that “we do it this way this because we always have.” Instead, we evolve based on their vision and creativity.
For me, the willingness of this group of millennial employees to learn, ask questions, and be coached is key to their overall success. They seek knowledge and remain eager to learn from the past experiences of those more seasoned around them, but apply their skills to a new solution.
So, how should we “manage” these individuals who are growing in our organisations? This new group of future leaders? We don’t. We lead them, but not with a top-down approach. We share our knowledge and experience with them through coaching and mentorships. We foster their natural, empowered attitude to develop new ways of thinking about new and age-old problems. Then we take a step back and observe. When we do so, we have an opportunity to learn from their skills and facilitate their self-beliefs to create new solutions.
While there are many dissimilarities between the Baby Boomers and Millennials, they are not entirely different from the current day leaders (us). We share the common goals of young people in business—to expand, thrive, and grow. But they operate with a much different toolset than we do. Mine was car keys and a face-to-face meeting with critical folk in my industry. A bond forged over time with people. Theirs is a phone, social media account, and a fast broadband connection. I can see the merits of both. So enjoy the differences and diversity. Diversity ensures survival and growth.
Brian Craig, Managing Director of Indium Corporation’s EMEA Operations, is responsible for the management of operations and activities throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This includes the company’s manufacturing facility in Milton Keynes, UK, EU-based sales and technical support team, and a network of 25 sales channel partners.
A native of the UK, Brian joined Indium Corporation in 1987. During this time, he was instrumental in the launch of the company’s European facility. While based in the NY USA headquarters, he served in several roles with the company, including Corporate Programs Manager and Director of Interconnect Products Business Unit. Brian has continued to manage numerous multi-disciplined global business projects and technology advancements during the company’s rapid expansion.