Many parents, teachers and other leaders of the next generation can often observe young people and be encouraged by the abundant opportunities available for today's millennials. On the other hand, the number and types of obstacles that seem to plague this generation like none before it may be disheartening. These obstacles can be educational barriers, how social media connects and disconnects people, cultural and financial burdens, the rampant expansion of technology, and dozens more.
If you're a leader who works with young people, here are four ways to develop the next generation to greater capacities.
1. Pay Attention to Distinct Hurts and Obstacles
Leadership is about helping people get from point A to point B, and helping them overcome obstacles. Sometimes these are roadblocks carelessly left behind from the previous generation; sometimes they are caused by the neglect or apathy of present-day leaders.
A leader's job is to realize the distinct difficulties of the millennials, and provide wise guidance that helps these young workers develop solutions. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to simply have candid, one-on-one discussions with them where there is a mutual level of trust and respect.
2. Keep Equipping and Adding Value
"Adding value" is a phrase you hear in leadership and business circles from just about everyone. To add value to an individual's life is to increase their understanding of and capability to make meaningful decisions. The best leaders are constantly challenging themselves by looking for new ways to add value.
Equipping this new generation in the workforce requires more than simply stacking their arms full of DVDs, apps, and online learning opportunities. Exemplifying great leadership involves helping them ask themselves tough questions about what motivates them in life, and how to make these motivations clearer. It involves raising their level of emotional intelligence, and how this skill can be used to communicate desires and conflicts more clearly with others.
3. Give Them Opportunities to Fail and Succeed
Many people grow up in educational and domestic environments that only support success and reprimand failure. Failure is painful enough; being scolded for it only adds insult to injury. If young people aren't given clear guidance about how to navigate both success and failure, they will fall into cycles of doubt and lack of confidence that keep them paralyzed from any kind of growth.
Most people don't know what they're capable of, or even who they are, until a leader who cares about them makes them aware of their potential. Young adults in the workforce must all be shown that failure is OK, and that this is the No. 1 way to learn.
Failure is beneficial because it changes how an individual grasps a subject. When a task or challenge doesn't go as planned, the individual has to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Only through re-examining the problem can new answers be seen. It is OK to celebrate success, but success almost always means nothing if there was no battle of learning and improvement to be waged beforehand.
4. Listen Carefully and Listen Often
Leaders are learners and leaders are listeners. A leader's greatest asset is his or her people, and in order to learn about those people, a leader must listen. Youth are often far more perceptive of relationships than adults may realize, and these perceptions can be a goldmine for the discerning leader. Informed and humble leaders can learn a lot about how to better guide youth by asking them about their closest relationships - whether good or bad.
Listening carefully to the way someone is speaking, not just what they are saying, is the fast track to gathering the entire message. Expert studies show non-verbal communication comprises the vast majority of a message, so it pays to listen attentively. What's more, listening often allows leaders to remain in close contact with their group, to maintain tight bonds of trust, respect and camaraderie.
Leaders are responsible for guiding millennials through obstacles that no prior generation has ever truly dealt with. Through adding value, equipping strategically, paying close attention to your group and fostering the best type of learning environment, you'll be a leader whose impact is valued.