Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Generation Y: Tips for Taking on the New Year

With the new year approaching I am focusing the next few blog entries on potential "Resolutions" that any of us can proclaim. As a Generational Enthusiast (I have no idea what that means but some people like titles), I will focus this entry on Generation Y. Like a previous blog entry, "Tips for Managing Generation Y", I will once again stress that if you are looking for rampant proclamations about negative perceptions about this generation or any for that matter, you are reading the wrong blog. I want to help build the bridge connecting the generational gaps, not push them further apart.

Tips for Managing Gen Y focused on how we (older generations) can create a culture conducive to productive and happy Gen Y employees. I'd like to change perspectives here and make suggestions on how Gen Y can become a productive asset to today's modern business. For my Gen Y readers, this isn't about assimilation (so don't click to another site). To the contrary, this is about getting your way. It's about proving you are as valuable as you say. It's about priming and setting the right amount of powder to catapult you perhaps even beyond your career trajectory. These are tips to make you successful.

The following are 10 ways you (Generation Y) can increase your value to your organization and employer:

1. LEARN TO LOSE: What the heck is he talking about? Some of you may be reading that and saying I am a winner. That is where I should focus. My response to that is I have never met a person in my life who didn't lose. However, the truly great ones, are the ones that lose well. You won't win every battle you fight. Life guarantees that. If you lose poorly, your value is diminished but if you lose like a pro, you may even increase your value beyond the winners. Look at the Jamaican Bob Sled team. Who won the gold, silver, or bronze Olympic medals that year?

2. LEARN HOW TO EMPATHIZE: The Greeks designed the communication model, Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Pathos helps us to understand the other person. To often we try to understand the other person from our perspective. That couldn't be more selfish. Understand them from their perspective. Hold off judgement until you can do that. To judge before you achieve Pathos is not a reflection of the other person. It is a reflection of you and a poor one at that.

3. LISTEN: This couldn't be place any more strategically behind empathy. I once read an author (who's name escapes me) define listening as the act of existing solely for the person speaking. What a powerful statement. To me it means my mind is clear from assumptions and open to facts and perspective. Listening is not an agreement of terms but a tactic to help you understand and gain position. Listening is also a play of offense not defense as it is often mistaken.

4. VALUE EXPERIENCE: I had a conversation with a Gen Y employee who was struggling with this. She was 23 at the time and I asked her if experience doesn't matter would it be okay with you if I replace you with a 13 year old. She was insulted and said how could you think a 13 year old could do a better job than me. I made my point by explaining how do you think an employee who is 45 sees you. Experience is extremely valuable and usually that is a lesson learned once you get the experience.

5. PRACTICE POWERFUL PERSUASION: If no one agrees with you, it doesn't mean their naive, it simply means, you did a poor job of persuading them. The Power of Persuasion is a skill that is up there at the top for leaders and managers. Without it, you may find yourself leading a party of one, you.

6. MANAGER YOUR TIME: Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize. Time management is about decision making. You are deciding what should be your priority at any given time. Make no mistake, the time slot of NOW can only be occupied by one priority and cannot be shared. You are judged by your decision of what priority you place in the NOW time slot. Read my post "Multi-Tasking: Manager's Beware" to gain further insight.

7. KEEP THE CUSTOMER IN MIND: First, do you know who your (direct internal or external) customer is? If not that is the first question you need to answer. Everything you do, every task and decision should have the customer in mind. Keep the customer at the center of your work and it is unlikely you can go wrong.

8. BALANCE YOUR TECH BIAS: This is one of the greatest strengths of Gen Y but can also become your biggest obstacle. Your attraction to technology can isolate you from older generations who don't integrate it so willingly into their methodology. Its not right or wrong, its choice. You have to respect that to influence them. There could very well be a legitimate reason why tech may be the wrong option. Look at the film "Up in the Air" with George Clooney to open a great debate on this point.

9. BUILD YOUR REPUTATION: The accomplishments of your peers or predecessors don't belong to you. Your employers are judging you based on what you accomplish. This also holds true to the weakness of any generation as well. You should not be grounded or propelled by anonymity but by the thrust of your accomplishments. Build them and boast them to your employer.

10. INCORPORATE AGE DIVERSITY INTO YOUR NETWORK: What's the average age of your network? How many members do you have over 60, 50, 40, etc.? Gen Y seems to have an amazing tolerance for some traditional issues of inclusion (race, gender, religion, etc.). A need is for Gen Y to increase their tolerance of Age Diversity. Look to include the talent of these groups into your network.

11. ASK FOR HELP: (Here's a bonus point beyond the usually list of ten.) What I am not referring to here is asking Google, Yahoo, or Bing for help. Gen Y does an amazing job at that. Ask your fellow co-workers for help. This is an expression of the value you see in them. One person can instigate a difference but it takes a community to make a difference.

This list contains common themes of relationship, trust, collaboration, respect, etc. As I look back on it (despite being designed for Gen Y), I realize that these are tips for each of the generations. It makes me realize not how different we are but how similar.

You can follow me on Twitter @TerrenceWing or @LiquidLearn


  1. Terrence,
    This post is a total winner for GEN Y success - especially "Learn to empathize, Keep customer in mind, and Incorporate generational diversity". In fact, this is a success recipe for *all generations.
    I will RT this post on Twitter for sure. Bravo.

  2. Kate, thanks for the comment and the retweets. I agree with you. This is a recipe for all generations. Each generation has its nuances but we really aren't all that different. We simply want the same thing but we have our unique way of achieving it. Thanks again for the comment.

  3. Great read Terrence! - So many valuable lessons to take away from this post, I don't know where to start. The piece that got me the most was the paragraph about balancing our tech bias. I say "our" because I am a Gen Y entrepreneur and it is something that I struggle with on the regular. It reminds me of a post I read by Seth Godin a few weeks ago where he discussed how in the medical field, an oncologist always suggests the problem could be cancer and how a pulmonologist assumes its the lungs. It's important for Gen Y to make sure that we aren't becoming one trick ponies and the only concept we push is technology rather than the basics.

  4. Thanks "The Coolest Cool". Glad you liked the post. Not balancing the tech bias can create obstacles when a Millenial is working with others who may not be so enthusiastic about tech. Historically, tech has been affiliated with change. Many still have trouble accepting change. I like to remember to trust all paths to progress whether tech or manual. Look for results not necessarily methods (provided they're ethical)