Are Millennials under-achievers?

Millennials need leaders

Millennials often get a bashing for being narcissistic, snowflakes who expect success and opportunities to be handed to them. Wow, how harsh and judgemental is that. Now they aren’t saying about themselves, so I am guessing it’s their older peers who pass on these negative judgements. Yet these same peers can also be the people to encourage, support and mentor them. And X-Gen (born 1985-1970) are just the people to do it.

Why are they feeling like under achievers and how to help them?


Lack of autonomy #1

  • A character trait well developed and respected by GenX and the Boomers who are able to make decisions independently. The Millennials often struggle to make decisions by themselves because of the over involvement of their parents in their lives. Helicopter parenting meant that this generation were prevented from failing, always had someone else to fight their battles and stopped them from grappling with life’s big challenges. The parents probably had distant parents (emotionally and mentally) so they overcompensated with their children by getting overly involved in navigating their children’s and young adults’ lives. So much so that the millennials seek collaboration in all decisions. So now, as adults, when they are being asked to step up, make decisions about their lives or to take responsibility, they feel like failures. I read in the wall street journal how some parents even accompany their offspring to job interviews, still make their lunch or take them to work each day. No wonder they feel like underachievers when adulthood doesn’t start until they hit their 30’s.
  • So, we need to coach them to make decisions and develop autonomy – and if they fail, celebrate the fact that they tried. Confidence comes by trying new things and mastering them. Help develop their sense of autonomy and competence by encouraging them to take responsibility and supporting them. When they don’t know how to do something, rather than swooping in to fix, ask, “what could your try?” or “what have you considered doing but haven’t yet?”. Help them to discover that they actually have all the answers and resources if they tap into them.

Education becomes a leveller #2

  • Now a degree is the equivalent of a high school certificate - everyone has one. The focus of being an overachiever in outward measures of success (giving parents bragging rights) has set a generation up to peak too early. Being the best in sport, academics, music or whatever they were involved in as a youngster is brilliant for building self-esteem. They may have been the best in class in their class, but in the real world, they are now realising that they have no medals, no championing, no celebrations for showing up every day. This generation gets its confidence from praise and recognition.
  • So, we need to give it. Firstly, give them opportunities to develop new skills and then recognise both their output and their attitude in equal measure. You might not feel like you have the time or energy to constantly stroke their ego, but you are framing it wrong. By 2025, 50% of your workforce will be under 40. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to embrace praise, feedback, encouragement and collaboration. You need to invest time and money into building others up, developing them and exciting them. Balance the positive praise with areas for improvement but demonstrate that you believe in them. It’s a balance.
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    They compare themselves constantly #3

  • Social media, an Instagram life, has a lot to answer for. Of course, we only put our best selves forward on social media. Who wants to know about the normal, mundane after all? But this generation has not known a world outside of likes/shares/love hearts. They see others living the dream and compare themselves. Whilst a friend shares a post of them living the dream with a cocktail in hand, they are standing on the tube, like a sardine, living a nightmare.
  • As their leader, mentor or peer, you need to demonstrate what real looks like. You need to take off your mask, the one that pretends that you have got your shit together and be real. Tell them when you don’t know the answer, or when you need help. Share your stories, the stories about how you succeeded. This will help them to realise that success doesn’t come instantly, and life is a journey mixed with happy moments, successes, joy and misery, disappointment and failure in equal measure. Share with them that it is this mix that develops and grows humans. Help them see the value in what they do every day, and how even the smallest steps can move them forward towards a giant leap.
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