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Parenting — 3 Steps to Help Your Millennial Build Collaboration Skills

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What does your millennial tell you about their job or career journey? Does he or she complain that they are not progressing up the corporate ladder? Maybe they are frustrated that their boss isn't taking their ideas seriously. Or maybe the generational divide is just too big, and they are struggling to connect with their senior colleagues. Perhaps they seem to withdraw into a shell instead of dealing with difficult people or situations. Do they explode (or implode) with impatience when dealing with people who seem to think differently than they do?

As their parent, you will always be one of the most important mentors in your millennial's career journey. A foundation of love and mutual respect will create opportunities where you can use your wisdom and life experience to boost his or her progress up the corporate ladder. If you're like me, it seems that parenting our children or advising their friends never stops. It shifts, but it seems like there's always a new challenge they are encountering in each stage of life. I take encouragement from King David who said," Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come" Psalm 71:18 (NIV).

Yes, our millennials are now young adults, and our conversations take on a different tone, but they still need our wisdom, mentoring, and experience to help them navigate today's rapidly shifting work and life challenges.

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Millennials are often thought to be expert collaborators. They've been working in teams since the first grade. They have digital technology at their fingertips, so it seems they can collaborate on a global scale in a matter of seconds.

However, in mentoring up-and-coming leaders, I see that many need coaching on how to work in true collaboration.

It takes confidence, excellent listening skills, and tremendous flexibility to collaborate effectively with people. In our rapidly changing culture, this is a skillset that needs continual honing by all leaders, but especially millennial leaders. Life situations are filled to the brim with a wide range of perspectives and insights coming from the multiple generations in today's workforce. Plus, with our fast-paced lifestyles, there are ample opportunities to practice dealing with difficult people and conversations. Add conflict resolution, and our digital natives lose their edge.

Collaboration challenges are one of the key areas I address in my coaching and mentoring strategies to build emerging leaders. Successful collaboration is valuing the uniqueness of both self and others, so that teamwork is maximized.

Helping a Millennial Overcome Collaboration Challenges

The Different Dilemma: Millennial leaders are frequently confronted with ideas and concepts that are difficult for them to accept because they would tackle the project differently. It's hard for them to imagine another way is better.

Possible Reaction: They might withdraw or shut down. The thought of looking for another job will cross their minds.

Practical Tip: Encourage them to always respect others, even when they disagree with the team or their boss. They can show respect by listening and staying engaged with those who think differently. Our research indicates that over 50 percent of young leaders get too emotionally involved and do not really listen to others. We also see that 50 percent are too afraid to ask deep, business-appropriate questions. Model how good questioning skills can help them understand and learn from the other person's perspective. (Remember that open-ended questions will encourage more than a "yes" or "no" answer.) Model listening even when it's hard and uncomfortable. Ask questions that invite them to further explore the pros and cons of their own ideas.

The Digital Divide: The experience millennials had in high school with team projects usually involved collaboration via technology. This differs vastly from the face-to-face collaboration that they encounter in their work environment.

Possible Reaction: If your millennial is struggling in face-to-face interactions, difficult conversations, conflict resolution, or generational differences on the team, anything that does not involve technology will suffer.

Practical Tip: Create tech-timeouts when you are with each other so that you can model active listening. By modeling healthy etiquette when it comes to using our technological gadgets, your millennial will be able to carry these productive behaviors to office meetings and contribute to effective workplace collaboration. For example, when eating a meal together and during conversations, all technology should be switched off and out of sight (even your own)! Then, have a conversation where you're seeking to understand your millennial's perspective on a topic or recent situation. Really listen by asking clarifying questions. It can be hard to do, especially if their perspective radically contradicts your own. However, mentoring with curiosity and good listening will benefit them when they are in the workplace.

Desiring Direction: Millennial leaders are passionate about making a difference in the world but can be unsure where and how to do it.

Possible Reaction: They often become discouraged when they feel their ideas are not being heard or valued.

Practical Tip: Collaboration happens when your millennial's vision and values align with the company's vision and values. Jeff Pelletier from Life's Core Purpose has great advice. He suggests inviting emerging leaders to discover their core competence and core passion by asking:

"Is there something I am personally great at all the time?"

"Is there something I care deeply about all the time?"

In short, we are inviting them to explore who God has created them to be, what problems He's wired them to solve, and what gifts, talents, and strengths form their natural wiring. The hope is to apply what these emerging leaders do well and what they care about deeply so that performance can accelerate! These insights can then be used to guide your millennial to figure out which aspects of their job energize them. This knowledge helps them discover their Life's Core Purpose. Encourage them to become involved in small projects in your church or community. It will give them a better sense of how they want to make an impact and enable them to align their personal and professional goals.

As a parent of a millennial, your positive influence can help them deal with the frustrations they experience when it feels as if their ideas aren't valued. You might be able to offer excellent advice on how they can bridge the generational gap and build stronger relationships with their senior colleagues. Instead of allowing them to withdraw into a shell or explode impatiently when dealing with people who seem to think differently than they do, show them how they can make a positive difference in a way that only they are wired to do!

Copyright Danita Bye 2018. All rights reserved.


Danita Bye, a leadership and sales development expert. She is the author of the new book, Millennials Matter: Proven Strategies for Building Your Next-Gen Leader (BroadStreet Publishing, Dec 2017).

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