A Lesson For the Ages From Millennials

Image result for justin thomasThere seems to be a lot of talk these days about Millennials and much of the talk is negative.  While we could debate the pros and cons of Millennials until we’re blue in the face, it’s not something I want to explore.  What I do want to look at is a lesson we could all learn that came from some Millennials at the end of this year’s PGA Championship golf tournament.

Millennials, the generational demographic arguably defined as those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s, are typically characterized by increased use and familiarity with digital communication, a liberal approach to politics and economics, heightened social consciousness, and  a focus on work-life balance with an almost selfish emphasis on individual advancement and job satisfaction.  And while these characteristics may or may not be true, they are by any classification gross generalizations.  As much as many might disagree and may be able to cite incriminating examples, I think, overall, Millennials mostly get a bad rap and it usually comes, in my experience, from the frustrated older generations that generally manage them in the workplace. What I witnessed at the end of the golf tournament taught me a lesson and it is one that those older generations, largely my generation, should learn as well.

You see, the winner of the tournament was Justin Thomas, born 1993, a Millennial by definition.  And other than such a young person winning with grace and style being inspiring, there’s nothing necessarily profound in his winning specifically.  Rather, the lesson came in what, or more accurately, who was waiting for him in the gallery on the 18th hole.  In the crowd were Jordan Spieth and Ricky Fowler, both Millennials, born 1993 and 1988 respectively.

So what?  What’s the big lesson here?  Well, think about it, waiting patiently for their friend are these so-called self-centered, digitally reliant, entitled, Millennials.  No, not the older generation, but these young guys, who, given what we read, should have been on their way home texting Justin.  Instead, there they were, fully present, supporting and celebrating the success of their compatriot.

What I took away from this was confirmation that we should never label people based on age, skin color, sexual orientation or myriad other generalized attributes.  And maybe more importantly, I learned that we should always stick around for our friends, whether personal or professional friends, to celebrate their successes and take time to lift them up.

Here’s a big thank you to these gentlemen.  They taught me that a much-maligned generation does have a lot to offer old guys like me if I keep my eyes open.  Best of all, they taught me to listen more carefully to my own kids, both Millennials, and to humble myself to the lessons they can teach.

Maybe that’s the biggest lesson for those older generation managers; don’t be so fast to dismiss the living curriculum around you, a little humility and willingness to accept that there might be better ways can go a long way to growing your mind and spirit, not to mention the mind and spirit of your organization.

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