By John Lofstock, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Decisions
Famed management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker, but of the manager.”
This is especially true with younger employees who often lack workforce experience. This is where great leadership can have its biggest impact.
Setting expectations for your employees is the key driver to managing to a desired result. All too often, employees do not perform to their capabilities simply because they don’t know what is expected of them and lack guidance.
In discussing this issue with industry leaders, I heard quite a few people say that while training Millennials is a challenging task, it’s by no means impossible, but you have to have the right mindset and superior training protocols in place that foster personal and professional growth.
Consider the U.S. military. The military trains tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen to think as a single operating unit, and it doesn’t have the luxury of recruiting away top-notch employees; it hires every warm body that walks through the door. As such, all businesses can learn from the military.
Matt DiGeronimo, a former engineering officer in the U.S. Navy’s submarine force, knows these challenges firsthand. Getting a submarine crew to operate as one requires everyone to buy into a commitment to greatness.
DiGeronimo, author of the forthcoming book “Extreme Operational Excellence. The Culture and Principles of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Submarine Force” identified five lessons he learned about leading Millennials in the military that transfer to the business world.
They crave a sense of purpose. You don’t need a mission vital to national security to provide them that purpose. However, we must challenge them with well-communicated, accurately-measured and challenging goals, DiGeronimo said.
They must feel connected to the organization through leadership. On a submarine, most of the crew sees the commanding officer (CO) daily. “The best COs make themselves as visible and accessible as possible,” DiGeronimo said. “It doesn’t take much, but when the CO knows your name, your favorite football team and what city you grew up in, the itch to be connected to the organization through its senior leadership is scratched.”
Leadership that demonstrates the organization cares about them. Millennials are starved for real leadership. Leadership provides light in the darkness of professional uncertainty. “As we lock ourselves behind closed doors for hours upon hours of marginally productive conference calls, the future of the company stands on the other side of the door yearning for mentorship which often only needs to take the form of ‘How’s your week going?'” DiGeronimo said.
Access to information. Millennials have been conditioned to have a world of knowledge at their fingertips since they were children. Therefore, if they find themselves in an environment where they are disconnected to opportunities, their discontent should come as no surprise. Their desire to know more about the rest of the organization is a blessing, not a curse, DiGeronimo said.
They need to be heard. This generation does not subscribe to the conventional wisdom of ‘wait your turn.’ “In the nuclear submarine community, we honor a principle called watch team backup. This principle encourages everyone to be constantly listening and processing all that is going on around them, and if they hear something that doesn’t sound right or they believe they have a better way, they not only have the opportunity to voice their thoughts, but they have the obligation to do so,” DiGeronimo said. “But often the perceived validity of an idea is more related to the seniority of the person sharing it rather than the virtues of the notion. This must change.”
Having served in the submarine force myself for four years, all of these points ring true. I was challenged every day to improve myself, not just for me, but to help my crew. I encourage you to examine these five principle as you push your workforce from good to great.