A hot topic of conversation at the moment are the perceived differences between millennials and older generations, particularly when it comes to work. I have come across countless articles revealing tips and tricks on how to make a business more appealing to millennials and how to use their young work ethic for good. Tips usually include things like rearranging the office layout to create an open desk plan, establishing flexible working hours, allowing casual dress in the office – the list goes on.
What’s interesting to consider is the two-way-street aspect of this dynamic. Older generations should embrace the millennials’ work ethic, but at the same time millennials need to put effort into gaining the skills needed to grow into effective leaders. They need to become worthy of their future roles. So what skills do millennials need to develop and how do they ensure that they are ready for a leadership role?
This question was addressed during the first day of Marsh & McLennan’s (MMC) Rising Professionals Forum. The forum saw many seasoned insurance and non-insurance leaders review their journey to the top, touching on the obstacles they had to overcome and the lessons they learned along the way. Dan Glaser, CEO of MMC, kicked off the event with a speech about what it takes to become a good leader, and from this I came away with three simple tips for millennials…
#1: Do not be afraid to disagree, but be sure to offer a valid alternative perspective when you do
“Leadership is either protecting the status quo or railing against it.” Glaser said that he would prefer to rail against the status quo. He believes that it is vital for a company to make constant improvements and changes, and how can this happen if leaders follow the status quo? He discussed hiring senior executives and revealed what he looks for during an interview. He wanted people on his team that disagreed with him, but were also able to provide creative, valid points of view. Disagreeing with someone’s ideas is no bad thing, if it’s done in a constructive way. Indeed, it can actually benefit a company significantly.
#2: Have purpose
Glaser went on to talk about the importance of purpose. Why do you go to work? Is it for the money? Is it because society tells you to? Do you actually enjoy it? He advised the audience to figure out what motivates them to get up in the morning and come to work. Few people go to work with a goal and this can affect their productivity. Setting a target, whether it’s small – like finishing a report by the end of the day – or more substantial like getting a promotion by next year, is likely to motivate you to work harder. Think about what motivates you to be productive and work towards the goals you set for yourself. And remember, mistakes will be made, but they will build upon your existing knowledge.
#3: Be a good team player – commit, contribute, collaborate
“The age of ages in the age of possibility,” (a mouthful, I know). Basically, millennials are in the age of possibility, meaning nothing is sacred, safe or set in stone. Glaser introduced the acronym VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) to refer to the mobile state most insurance companies are in in terms of employee movements within the market. Tenure doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is an employee’s contribution and commitment levels as well as their collaboration skills. Are they dedicated? Are they dependable? Do they work well in teams? Glaser said he looks for employees who embody all of these skills.
Simple, I know, but these tips are the tools any individual will need to advance in their career. Of course, a certain amount of industry experience will be needed to reach a similar role to Dan Glaser, but, that will come with time. These tips can be used every day and will make you an admirable employee who will be seen as worthy of a future leadership role.