Millennials aren’t the problem – It’s a leadership issue

Simon Sinek + Reggie Yates

Millennials, centennials, generation Z. Call them what you will but let’s all be clear on one thing, they are the future. If you were born any time in the last 30 years or are being born as I write this blog, it is you who will be shaping the world for further generations whatever we choose to call them.

The future belongs to our millennials and the next generation and the one thing they need more than anything else is strong, empowering and inspirational leadership.

Last night I had the great pleasure of seeing the brilliant Simon Sinek in conversation with Reggie Yates at Union Chapel in London speaking about millennials in the workplace. Essentially this was a continuation of an interview with Tom Bilyeu​ on Inside Quest at the end of last year.

Shortly after that original interview I wrote an article called ‘Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace: Truth, history or opportunity?’ I wrote the blog because as much as I admire Simon Sinek’s excellence as a speaker and author whilst I completely understood his perspective, it wasn’t one I could easily share. In short, it seemed to me that he was blaming parenting, impatience, technology and the environment for so many millennials allegedly feeling unfulfilled in the workplace.

My point was that the level of dissatisfaction and unrest he described isn’t exclusive to millennials. Whilst the addictive and all pervasive impact of technology in the form of mobile phones and social media is an issue, it’s a global one affecting all of us. We have 50 and 60 year old friends and family who come to visit and can’t leave their phones alone for 5 minutes.

For me, all of the elements of the changing world we live in play their own part in the way each new generation thinks, feels and behaves. What I took from last night’s conversation which I didn’t quite take from the previous interview to the extent that I would have liked to, is something much bigger

In fairness to Simon, he did cover it but I missed it through the smokescreen of the issues that I had focused on.

 It’s about leadership

What I previously heard through my own personal filters when listening to Simon Sinek talk a few months ago was essentially a barrage of blame. In other words, I heard him say that the reason millennials were often so unhappy was because of their parents, technology, impatience and their environment.

As a parent of a millennial I didn’t share that viewpoint. As someone who is definitely not a millennial who has felt the grip of social media I couldn’t isolate the issue to millennials. As someone who has spent a lifetime being impatient which for the most part has served me well I also struggled to relate to the harm it was causing others. As for the environment, that’s where leadership is a big issue.

In my previous article I quoted something that Simon said in his previous interview that very strongly resonated with me:

“We’re taking this amazing group of young fantastic kids who would have just been dealt a bad hand it’s no fault of their own and we put them in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than they do about the kids. They care more about the short-term gains than the long term life of this young human being we care more about the year than the lifetime right and so we are putting them in corporate environments that aren’t helping them build their confidence that aren’t helping them learn the skills of cooperation.”

That’s a leadership problem and in my role as a presentation skills and public speaking coach I see very clear evidence of it every week in the work we do at Mindful Presenter.

Mindful Presenter was born through a combination of feeling immense frustration, curiosity and passion about the way professionals in business presented to each other. Initially, I thought that I felt the way I did largely because most of us have never been taught how to present our ideas confidently, clearly and effectively. I soon realised that the problem had much deeper roots and when I dug deep enough to see them I saw what it often comes down to – leadership.

Frustration

Having spent years in the board room and senior management positions I could never quite understand why so many highly intelligent, creative, talented and responsible professionals were numbing their audiences into submission when presenting. Reading slides that were just smothered with text, bullet points, charts and graphs in a monotone voice with no eye contact and no energy was just the start. Incredibly gifted and very senior people were teaching everyone ‘underneath’ them how to present to put people to sleep.

From a leadership perspective it’s the way they had seen their boss before them present and it must have been good enough because they were the boss, so they did exactly the same. It’s been going on for generations and it’s still happening today in some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world.

Leaders everywhere are teaching others how to completely disengage with fellow human beings each time they speak. One of the reasons that I’m such an ardent champion of millennials is because at Mindful Presenter we work with them every day and one thing is crystal clear, they get it.

They understand completely and have seen and endured the pain of information being dumped on them through the noise of complex, boring and often pointless presentations. When we show them another way their eyes light up like children on Christmas morning.

When we teach them how to present and communicate in a way that is memorable, compelling and connects them emotionally as well as intellectually with their audience they can’t wait to leave the training room to get started.

Yes but…

Despite their complete agreement, understanding and zest in believing that mindful presenting will change the world of business presenting for the better we often hear:

‘Our leaders don’t present like that, they do the exact opposite’

‘I would love to present that way but my boss would hate it, that’s not how she works’

‘In our business they don’t care about connection, it’s all about information’

‘If only I had the courage to challenge the status quo’

‘Can’t you get our leadership team on this workshop they need to experience it for themselves?’

Sadly, the end result is these gifted millennials return to the work place to present in the same way their leaders do because the leadership culture stifles their enthusiasm to do things differently.

Just imagine the power our millennials hold in their hands to remove the pain and frustration of the mindless presentations in the workplace that we’ve suffered for decades. For them to exert their power it’s those leading them that have to show them how to use it and then help and support them to do so.

Curiosity

Having felt that frustration for over 25 years I often wondered whether there was another way.

A way in which you could still be professional but enjoy presenting and help your audience enjoy the presentation too.

A way in which you could still share information and knowledge but in a manner that connected with people emotionally so that they actually felt something.

A way to inspire action and influence change each time we present our ideas.

A way to tell stories to use anecdotes, metaphors and powerful examples to connect us with our audience.

A way to feel confident, calm, clear and focused while presenting.

A way to be truly present and be in the room with an audience rather than worrying incessantly about whether they will like me or agree with me.

We found the way, it’s called mindful presenting and millennials everywhere share our curiosity to explore its impact and possibilities.

The question is will their leaders take the handcuffs off and let them find, value and express their real voice.

Just imagine how we could transform the way we speak to each other in business if we inspired and encouraged our millennials to present in business in a way that we know is inherently right. All it takes is the courage and mindfulness of leadership to show them the way.

Passion

Simon Sinek expressed his view last night that he felt that passion isn’t something that any of us just have; it’s more of a result when the truth speaks to us.  It’s something you feel when you respond to the call that tells you that you just have to do what you do. It’s the why you do what you do.

When he asked Reggie Yates what his ‘why’ was Reggie responded by saying ‘to be the example that I never had’.

That’s a powerful driver to do something, the end result of which is to do it as best as you possibly can and the feeling you get from that is passion.

If we relate that to presenting in the work place, at Mindful Presenter we believe that one of the reasons so many presenters don’t speak with real passion is because they don’t have a clear why. That passion is fueled by having a clear and powerful message that you can share with conviction in the absolute knowledge that it will make a difference to your audience. That clarity and belief becomes the vehicle for the delivery of a high impact presentation which inspires change because your audience feels and shares the passion you feel.

Once again, the problem isn’t parenting, technology or impatience, its leadership by example.

One day someone will be writing an article about the next generation. We have the opportunity right now to influence its content by leading our millennials to a place where the people who work for them will feel far more fulfilled, stimulated, engaged and connected.

The future not only belongs to our millennials and the next generation, they will be leading it too and the one thing they need right now is strong, empowering and inspirational leadership.

I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please feel free to share it through your preferred social media channels below and subscribe to our mailing list so you won’t miss any future posts.

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

 

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