High performing millennials have made it to where they are today by ignoring conventional norms so why should they listen to you?
Regardless of how successful they have been, they are looking for what’s next. Most know where they want to go and are trying to figure out how to get there. To date, they also have probably been rewarded for paving their own path against the grain and achieving large creative wins. After three to five years of this type of momentum, they will reach a level where leading with their strengths will not outweigh their weaknesses and their successes don’t mask their missteps. They will want to be coached.
Build Trust: First, know that they want to see you as a trusted ally. Also, know that high performers will eventually see through any falsehoods so you have to actually want what is best for them.Beware of touting the company line or standing on their shoulders to get ahead. Instead, figure out what is best for them and help them. That includes helping them find their way even if it is not on your team, company, etc.
Give Space: Second, realize they will decide for themselves on how to get to where they are going. They will listen although perhaps skeptically or not at all at first. If you create the culture where it is their choice to listen to advice, they will eventually come around. Intelligent people always reflect. So if they didn’t listen upfront then after some time they will reflect back on what you said and think through how helpful or not it would have been to listen.
Explain the Implications: Lastly, after some years most high performers know their weaknesses. Those weaknesses may still there though because they often don’t see the merit in changing their ways. When something breaks don’t jump on them. Instead, explain the implications of why it is helpful to improve those weaker areas. The nuance and the reason why someone should focus on an area of improvement always have exponential ripple effects. And, if it doesn’t have an exponential effect then maybe it is not a priority to improve upon. Or, maybe it is just your personal preference in which case that is always helpful to explain too.
In the end, successful startups need to learn how to coach and fully leverage millennials. Take advantage of their energy, their heavy discounting of improbability, and vision. Utilize their skills and coach them to round themselves out.