As more and more members of Generation Z (born between 1997-2012) enter the workforce, it is becoming increasingly important for managers and leaders to adapt their leadership styles to better accommodate this new generation of professionals. Gen Z-ers have grown up in a digital age, with a unique set of values, expectations, and communication preferences. As such, they have different needs and motivations compared to previous generations, and require a management style that reflects their unique characteristics.
Effective leadership of Gen Z professionals requires an understanding of their values and expectations, clear communication, and the ability to provide meaningful feedback and development opportunities. By understanding how to better lead and manage Gen Z professionals, organizations can maximize the potential of this emerging workforce and create a culture of innovation and excellence.
Gen Z professionals make up 26% of the U.S. population. As they start to enter the job market, Gen Z professionals need your mentorship and encouraging guidance. They are considered more pragmatic than Millennials, having grown up during an economic recession with Gen X parents. Gen Xers, who lead and manage Gen Z professionals, say they feel like parents. Gen X supervisors say their Gen Z team members over-share their personal lives and their feelings.
As a manager of Gen Z professionals, prioritize these activities:
1. Teach them your preferred ways for them to manage up. Tell them how often you want an update and if you want it verbal or written. Tell them that when they don't hear a response, they need to follow-up with a text or another note. Tell them that you expect feedback regularly. For example:
"I need your help. Look for ways to take work off my plate. If you think I am dropping the ball on something, tell me. If you are not going to be able to get something done in the timeframe we decided, let me know. If I am moving slower than expected, let me know."
2. Discuss communication preferences. They like to be communicated to in a different
way - slack, text, email, call, in-person. Help them understand when to use which channel. Help them understand the power of a pre-read and a meeting agenda. If you want them to be more assertive or collaborative, tell them. For example:
"Always come to meetings with a point of view. Share problems and potential problems you see freely with me. When you escalate an issue, always have some possible solutions in mind. After you have received a task, send me a summary of the request in writing and when you expect to complete it.
3. Listen to their feelings supportively and appreciatively. When they open up about something being hard or disappointing, resist your desire to defend. Get curious. Thank them for the openness. Tell them you need some time to think about what can be done to help yourself not immediately direct them to a solution.
4. Flex between freedom and structure. Warn them that you will only enforce more structure if there is underperformance or the likelihood of underperformance. Structure is meant to help them improve work quality and efficiency. Once they show they can manage structure on their own, there will be much more freedom. If the person really wants freedom, ask them to describe what that would mean (e.g. work from home days, 2 hours of focus time per day).
Things you can do and say:
1. Ask about resources: "Do you have what you need to be able to do this within the next week?"
2. Ask open-ended questions: "How is the project going?", "What are your top three priorities today?", "If we met for an hour this afternoon to build out the project plan, what would you want guidance on with me?", and "What is preventing this task from getting done faster?"
3. Ask about the learning style: "I know this is a new assignment, how could we help you learn this fast and effectively? Do you want process steps, a video, and/or some shadowing time?"
4. Understand what motivates them - Play, Purpose, Potential
PLAY: Does your team member seek fun? How can can you make the work more fun? Motivate them with the feeling of experimentation and fun.
PURPOSE: Does your team member get more excited by adventure and creation. Motivate them with a quest or mission. This gives them purpose.
POTENTIAL: Does your team member seek personal growth and business growth? Show them this vision. What result will their work create? Articulate how the business will transform from this work, and how they will personally grow from these challenges and new initiatives.
When in doubt, prepare messages that motivate people on all three levels.
5. Delegate better: Sometimes we need to do a better job delegating.
a. Do they know what to do? Make it crystal clear. Write it down if you can, or have them write it down and send it to you to review.
b. Do they know how to do it? Have them do one example with you or a 10% version to ensure they have the skills to do this. Then, get them resources to help if they do not have the skills yet.
c. Do they want to do it? Make the task appealing and help them get excited about it.
As their leader, tell Gen Zers you support them and are there to help. They must feel like they are being heard. Validate their feelings and then remind them that there is a limit to your qualifications to help. Your ability to flex between freedom and structure will help them reach their full potential.
Developing communication skills is easy when you work with Speak by Design. We work with clients from around the world to help them master the art of public speaking and strengthen their presentation skills. We work with individuals, groups, and entire organizations. Your voice is powerful...if you know how to use it. Contact us today to learn more.