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The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Leading Millennials


My friend Josh recently asked me what I thought about coaching Millennials, basically someone born in the Mid-1980's. I have been coaching Track and Field for close to a decade and the millennials are my people. In fact, I may even be one depending on how you define the Millennial generation since I was born in 1982. So, this is how you should coach/lead us:

THE GOOD

An athlete on the track team decided to quit basketball his senior year to train in Track for the year. Quitting basketball was a big deal because this was his chance to make the varsity team, a role he had worked for his high school career. Perplexed, his parents informed him, "Why are you quitting basketball? You are't event the superstar on the track team." To which he replied, "Coach Ayers makes every kid feel like a super star."  

Culture Of A Team

Millennials thrive in a family environment or in a culture that appreciates their individual values. They want structure and leadership. They hold onto positive affirmations and encouragement. They recognize their inability to stay focused with short attention spans and prefer to work in teams, they are used to it. They will work off each others' strengths and compliment one another's weaknesses.   

Authenticity 

Give them the real you when you lead. They don't want someone that does not practice what they preach. They are very good at picking out frauds. They will not respect you because you are in authority or in charge, you must earn this. The best way to do this is to be someone worth following. 

Freedom 

Millennials want freedom to be creative and not micromanaged. Give them clear expectations and see what they come up with. Rules typically don't apply when they don't see the reason. They ask a lot of "Why" questions. They need freedom to find the most efficient and effective way to accomplish the task. They are goal oriented and not task oriented. 

Want to Make an Impact

They have a strong desire to make an impact. They recognize that they are different and this generation celebrates those differences more than any other generation before it. They can handle change. Boring is bad. They want a challenge, always. They can multitask at an unbelievable rate and unless they feel they are making a significant impact, they will leave. 

THE BAD

A couple years ago a Football athlete at another high school held a press conference to announce that he had decided to sign with Arizona University, where he would be receiving a full ride scholarship to play football. Only problem, the Arizona Football Staff had never heard of him. This athlete thought he was good enough to play Pac 12 football and saw no error in telling Arizona that he decided to. 

Lack Of Patience

This generation wants it now. Waiting for something is so 1999. Buffering for wisdom and experience is not worth the time. Instant gratification is a must, at all times. If something isn't working for them, they will find another option. 

Trouble Communicating 

Technology is not just a tool for this generation, it is the way to do life. With that, they are hard to communicate with. My track team communicated with the team and individual athletes with: face to face conversations, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Text, Phone Calls, Letters Home, Remind.com, MailChimp Newsletters, Email, and yet, some athletes will still not be informed or might feel disconnected. To inform this generation, you are forced to use all modes of communicating.

THE UGLY 

"I am going to kill Ayers," a parent yelled in the stands after his junior athlete ran a bad race and failed to advance to the next round. According to this parent, I was the reason his son ran a bad race. Many people called me that night with their concerns believing this was no empty threat. The next day the athlete told me that his family was upset with me and his dad will be coming to practice, "to take care of me." I was forced to call the police and they took care of the situation. 

Lack Of Responsibility

This generation is very entitled and have been receiving trophies for participating since they can remember. Every idea they have is a good idea and they know they could do a better job then you. They have unrealistic expectations of themselves and your leadership. It is rarely their fault and they seem to all have a hearing problem because they are distracted and need constant reminders. 

Performance Based

There is an epidemic of stress, anxiety, and other psychological disorders with this generation. In the 2015 school year, I have had 4 athletes try (none successful) to end their lives for various reasons all related to performance.  There is constant pressure to succeed and perform better than someone else. Even their videos games rank them based on a list of criteria, and Facebook is filled with self posted achievements. 

Regardless of how you feel about this generation, ("kid's these days") they are here and you will have to deal with them. 75,000,000 millennials are preparing to join the workforce and are coming through school now.