Millennial, why so sensitive…keep calm and listen

It is so easy to get offended.

Via Facebook and the numerous reposts from friends, I recently watched the video interview of Simon Sinek talking about Millennials in the workplace.  Now to immediately confess my bias, I am a business leader responsible for the performance of 120 individuals in my business.  I watched the video from that point of view.

I listened to the video and heard three messages:

  1. There is conflict between the current leadership of businesses and the younger workforce, and it is the leadership’s job to fix that.  They need to understand the problem, and fix it for the future of the business.
  2. We are loosing the natural situations where we build relationships, like the 10 minutes before a meeting starts, by not talking to each other but rather being on our phones.
  3. People want to make a difference, have a purpose and find fulfillment.  Young people (millennials) possibly more than any previous generation, but actually all of us.  I need to spend more time leading, highlighting and creating that purpose.

Watch the video of Simon Sinek here.

Two weeks later I read another post on this video (thanks Henk Kleynhans for the link to this).  This time it is a self proclaimed millennial, Mark Hill, slamming Simon’s views. Mark called his post “This Millennial Rant Deserves A Trophy For Being Most Wrong”. You can immediately guess where the tone of the post goes if he calls Simon’s talk a rant…

Reading the post from Mark I got the impression, above anything else, that he was deeply offended by the post.  I was watching the video from Simon, finding resonance in it and hearing messages that I could take to action.  Mark was probably watching the video from Simon, hearing an old guy talking about his generation and by extension talking about him.  He was insulted by the generalizations made, by being called lazy and entitled.  Mark and I had two very different reactions to exactly the same thing.

I think this is absolutely fantastic!  This is a wonderful play between two people not sitting the same side of the fence.  There are a few things to understand and learn from the interplay between the two posts:

1. To be popular you need to polarize

Simon Sinek is an extremely successful writer and very popular leadership consultant.  In social and other popular media, you do not create a large following by being neutral.  You can only become popular by having opinions that resonates with one group, which inevitably is going to probably offend someone else.

2. Know them and speak to your audience

Simon’s audience was today’s business leadership.  He is not speaking to or trying to tell anything to millennials.  In trying to get his audience to hear his message (which comes later), he first makes a few statements that resonates with his intended audience and which make them internally respond with “YES, finally someone is brave enough to say it like it is!”.  That makes them want to listen for more, and it opens them up to hear what he actually wants to say.  Those initial tidbits have to polarize to be effective.  So exactly from the start, his non-intended audience, the millennials, would be offended.

Mark does the same thing, from the start speaking to the emotions felt by any millennial offended by the video.

3. Sarcasm is funny, but does not win an argument

Mark uses a lot of sarcasm and emotional arguments in his post.  This makes his post quite entertaining.  Entertainment is his purpose, and that fine.

To win a debate on the other hand, emotional arguments easily convinces people feeling the same emotions as you – no facts needed.  To convince a neutral or undecided audience, sarcasm does not do the trick.

4. Do not try to change the world based on a single viewpoint

I absolutely love inter plays like the one between Simon and Mark.  There might be a few truths in what Simon says, but he is not perfectly, completely right.  Same with Mark. I found his post very insightful, and quite useful for me to learn how millennials think and how they experience the world.  Not perfectly, completely, but just a little more to help me understand a little more.

If you only saw Simon’s video without reading Mark’s post you might take an arrogant view that you now understand it all, that millennials are a broken generation and it is your job to fix these poor creatures.

The truth is in the middle, that the relationship between business leaders and millennials need attention and it needs to evolve where both learn from each other and change to create a better business going into the future.



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