February 24, 2017
Esther Cameron is founder and co-director of Integral Change, a consultancy based in Bath which specialises in supporting leaders who are facing complex change. She is also an expert in leadership education and the author of several books on the subject.
A huge part of her work is helping people to become the best leaders they can be – to support their employees, be able to lead in times of crisis, and build strong, dependable networks and teams which can help companies transform and thrive.
Generation X have been in leadership roles for several years now – but how are Generation Y coping with the pressures and complications that come with entering the world of work? Esther’s determined to find out. Her new research project, Exploring Millennial Leadership™, investigates the leadership potential and experiences of young, working, Millennials aged 20-30.
“Millennials have been receiving a lot of bad press over the past few years,” Esther explains. “They’ve been called self-centred and impatient and it’s been suggested they can’t cope with the rigours of workplace after the cosy, ‘safe’ nature of college and university.
"I don’t think this is a very fair or full picture – and now that Millennials are starting to take up leadership roles, it’s important to discover how they are doing.
"Previous research has also suggested that Millennials are good at spotting trends, understanding networks, mastering technology, working collaboratively, and dealing with multiple inputs. I want to find out more about these capabilities, and how they need to be supported in order to bring the best of this to their work. So far, there’s very little understanding of the true potential of this generation and the things they need to get better at if they are to make the considerable, transforming impact I believe they have the potential to make."
What challenges do you think they face?
That’s the point of my survey – I need to know more. At school and at university, young people are given a lot of support. When they join the world of work, that seems to diminish, and it can be very confusing for young people used to a lot of good quality feedback and help. Some graduate schemes are doing this well, but may are falling short. Line leaders also have a lot to answer for.
Many of the Millennials I’ve spoken to have had what sounds like very patchy, irregular support from their bosses. This tends to mean little feedback and coaching, and poor quality direction.
Do you have sympathy for Millennials?
I do. I’m very interested in their side of the story. However, I also think that they will need to do some growing up – and toughening up! If you can understand the different perspectives – Millennials, their bosses and their senior leaders – you can help everyone to do better. There’s a lot of information on Millennials out there, but it’s difficult to pin down what their stumbling blocks are in terms of learning and growing.
I’m trying to nail down what they find difficult – and then help them develop accordingly.
So, what specific challenges do you think they face in the workplace?
Initial indications are that some bigger organisations aren’t focusing enough of their energy in supporting Millennials to settle in and start to contribute.
However, I can already see that a few organisations are doing very well at supporting Millennials. It’s good to notice though that Millennials are actually remarkably forgiving about lacklustre support. They’ll say things like, ‘My line manager is pretty busy, and doesn’t always make our regular performance discussion.' I always ask, ‘Is there anything stopping you from having that conversation? How about you ask for some regular, high quality feedback?’.
Millennials need to stop worrying about disrupting others, and start asking for what they need from their managers.
What are you hoping to achieve from the survey’s results, and how will it help Millennials joining the modern workplace?
Millennials are a hugely interesting group, particularly the younger end, those aged 20-30, as not much is really known about them as leaders. These children of the 80s and early 90s have been through several stages of political and economic upheaval, and they are the first generation to grow up with the internet and mass, multi-platform media.
To them, the world’s a fast-moving place, technology’s there to be embraced, and they can often be frustrated by what they perceive as structures and people/organisations ‘stuck in their ways’.
I want to help both parties – older people and Millennials – to forge trusting, fruitful working relationships, and to make sure that Millennials are prepared to be the next generation of leaders. They’ve had some unfair press, and I’d like to let people know that Millennials are hugely important to our institutions as they bring a uniquely focused, transformative quality that we’re going to need - they just need a bit of support, feedback and openness to change from their managers.
The research project is open until the end of August. If you’re aged 20-30, in paid or unpaid work and interested in the subject of leadership at work, you can take part here.