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Millennials: 7 Ways to Overcome the "Slacker Generation" Label

  • Name
    Carey Nieuwhof
What about the reputation Millennials have for being slackers? It’s fairly pervasive. Do a quick Google search for the phrase “Millennials are…” and the autocomplete adds "lazy." Burn. Want to banish that label for good as a young leader? Great. Me too! Here are seven habits that can help you do that. Some of these I learned myself when I was in my twenties. Some, I’ve learned from other leaders: 1. Show up early.  Don’t just show up on time. Show up early. Leave extra time for traffic. Walk into the meeting early if you can, and at all times use the extra time before you walk in to compose yourself and get ready for what’s ahead. Showing up early is a great practice on almost every level. 2. Show up prepared.  Whether it’s just a day in the office, a critical meeting or a lunch, pre-think what’s going to happen. Show up with your head in the game. Have your homework completed, digested. Have all the tools you need with you ready to go (charged laptop or tablet, meeting notes, handouts—whatever you need.) Showing up prepared shows that you value other’s time. 3. Develop a system for capturing to-dos with 100% accuracy.  When you’re the low person on the org chart, you’re probably going to get a lot of "follow ups." It’s critical that you develop a system for capturing to-dos, follow ups and notes. Currently, I use Things by Culture Code across all my devices. Regardless of what you use, the system is key. Only eight-year-olds have a simple enough life to keep it all straight in their heads. You need a system you can rely on all day, every day no matter what. 4. Take notes.  Always walk into a meeting with something to take notes on. Chances are you will need them, but even if you don’t, you will have an opportunity to capture life lessons, ideas, approaches and perspectives that can help grow you as a leader and person. Plus it speaks volumes to the person you’re meeting with that you value their time. 5. Think productivity, not hours.  Believe it or not, long hours don’t impress bosses nearly as much as productivity does. When I was in law, I was one of two students in the firm that year. I decided to go home every day at 4:30. I never worked a weekend. The only time I was home late was when I was out of town in court. My counterpart stayed till midnight and worked every weekend. But I worked very hard during the 8-10 hours a day I was in the firm. I also won 98% of my cases that year. In the end, they fired the other student and offered me a job. I made the firm over $100,000 that year. Despite his long hours, he didn’t generate a profit for the firm. Think productivity, not hours. This isn’t an excuse to go home every day at noon—but it is a call to be productive. 6. Advance the mission.  Your job is not to fill a space, but to help your organization advance its mission. In the same way, in my year as a law student I helped make money for the firm, you need to think about how you can help advance your organization’s bottom line. In our case as a church, it’s not money we’re after, it’s life change. If you can come up with fresh ways to help your organization advance it’s mission (more baptisms, reaching more families, or in other fields, reaching more customers, solving more problems, generating new products) they will want to keep you on for a long time. 7. Ask for direct feedback. When I was in law, it bothered me that there was no feedback in the first month. So I made an appointment with one of the partners and asked for some. He gave me lots of feedback, and it helped me get better faster. Don’t wait until the year is over to figure out how you’re doing. Ask for feedback, and when you get it, don’t be defensive. Don’t justify. Seek understanding. Thank them and then act on it. You will get better faster—a lot faster. I’m so excited by the next generation of leaders. I hope these tips can help leaders go further, faster. I really don’t believe the next generation is consigned to be a generation of slackers. Some of the people I’ve met are among the brightest yet. What helps you get better as a young leader?