The summer hiatus has provided much time to reflect and take stock while enjoying a much-deserved break.

We kick-off our back-school activities by sharing some of the insights of our last Vistage Masterclass led by Henry Rose Lee, Inter-Generational Expert, on “Maximising Millennial Potential”.

First off, Henry is an exceptional speaker who brings humour and British satire together with immense knowledge and expertise brilliantly; Inter-Generational Theory never sounded better and the insights provided can prove to me as eye-opening for you as they were for the attendees of our Masterclass. But don’t take my word for it, have a look for yourselves by clicking on the first of a series of excerpts of an interview I had with Henry on Inter-Generational Theory and maximising the potential of millennials in the workplace.

It is not the first time that I have spoken to CEOs and Human Resource Directors about – what seems to be – this untameable species. There is a distinct disconnect that is causing high attrition rates amongst employers while fuelling revenues of recruitment agencies. It is creating cultural discord in bringing a new perspective to the traditional workplace environment. It is challenging current management practices to an extent that has given birth to a myriad of new and fancy job titles for the poor souls tasked with attracting, nurturing and engaging with ‘the Gen Y’. 

So what’s this mess all about?

Henry’s research points to a simple culprit; Resistance.

Not the Revolutionary type of resistance that brought about Universal Suffrage, downed Nazism, or ended Apartheid (though some may interpret it as such). It is the resistance to change, adopting new workplace practices and, even more so, letting go! 

This same sentiment is found in a report published by the Institute of Leadership & Management (2017) entitled: Workforce 2020: Managing Millennials. The disconnect lies “in many workplaces due to managers preferring to stick with traditional, inflexible, top-down, leadership styles”. The disconnect continues to be exacerbated by the opposing perceptions about what management/leadership is; Millennials want their leaders to act more like coaches / mentors to learn from, explore opportunities and have more autonomy, rather than a ‘big brother’ directional/auditor type of grey cloud looming over their shoulders. The reality recorded was that 75% of the managers interviewed thought they were actually fulfilling this mentor/coach role, BUT only 26% of graduates agreed!

Why are we getting it so wrong?

Change in the workplace has been going on for ever; Both from a generational composition perspective, as well as a technological, industrial advancement point of view, change has been characterising the way we work, live and play since time immemorial. The most agile have adapted, the most innovative have created, the most despondent have failed. Of all patterns, it is the one that has remained consistent, then why do we resist change so much?

Neuroleadership points us to our Reptilian Brain – our internal protective mechanism that reigns over our emotional responses to circumstances that evoke fear, the fear of failure, losing out, becoming obsolete. It is a knee-jerk reaction triggered by the amygdala, a part of our brain that is “hardwired along with the well-developed instincts of fight, flight, freeze, or appease, located in the primitive brain, that have evolved over millions of years. When we feel threatened, the amygdala activates the immediate impulses that ensure we survive. Our brains lock down and we are no longer open to influence.” Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence – How great leaders build trust and get extraordinary results (Bibliomotion Inc. 2014), pg. 8.

Are we therefore doomed to be forever at the mercy of our primitive reptilian puppet-master mind?

Far from it!

In my previous blog recounting the trials and tribulations of a home-decor paint job, I touched upon the importance of a Growth Mindset (Simon Sinek of Start with Why fame and Ken Blanchard author of The Servant Leader and 30+ more Leadership titles call this the Learning Mindset). A Growth Mindset helps us view circumstance, challenge or threat as an opportunity to … well, simply put … Grow, Learn, Develop, Evolve. With a Growth Mindset, change becomes an internalised process that is turned into an asset rather than a threat. The important key to the successful use of this asset is that it is not change for the sake of change (a fad, a whim or an order), but change for the sake of the wider good.

In this three-part blog deconstructing the interview with Henry, we will share the reasons why by leading the Millennial charge of the workplace takeover, you will not only be embracing the largest generational influx in the labour market EVER (33% by 2025!), but you will also be equipping your company to not only weather the storm, but plot the chart of the storm away from your business into new growth territories.

So here goes …


In the first part we start off by understanding why inter-generational mastery is an essential trait to embrace in order to achieve new growth opportunities.

Do you actually know who is in your workforce? Not just their names – although that’s a first good start, but where they come from? what are their interests? who do they hang out with? how were they brought up? who or what inspires them?

Today we can typically identify up to 5 different generations working in the same office space. This is particularly true if you are a family run or legacy business with the original ownership still involved in the running of the enterprise. ALL have different backgrounds, different stories, different journeys that influence the way they view their relationship with colleagues, interpret their role and, identify with responsibility.

Henry Rose Lee, Inter-Generational expert succinctly describes the generational grouping while highlighting their most signifying traits in the second video excerpt below.

It is important to remind Henry’s warning at this stage, that “labelling of generations is only an exercise useful to discuss similarities and differences. However, it is not to label people as a particular generation, since we all know that people are not just the product of the generation in which they were born, but also of their culture, language, upbringing, education, work experience and life experience”.

How to get to know your employees

They key is to understand what makes people tick.

This is not only true for millennials, but also leaders alike. The motivation to lead needs to be as intrinsic as the motivation to learn and work hard.

A research study among nearly 43,000 people across 26 markets in 25 languages on how people feel, think and respond to their world, work and future. The results of this study highlighted the main influencers as being:

  • Their geography and whether they are from emerging or developed markets;
  • Their location and whether they are currently living in a city or rural environment;
  • Their gender;
  • Their generation;
  • Their level of education and, more distinctly, whether they have a degree or not.

In an ever more global and inter-connected world, the drivers affecting our view of life are taking on much more global factors. Comparisons are made easily across continents, peer pressure is no longer limited to the time spent in the physical company of people, and aspirations are fuelled by the glamour of social media.

A savvy leader is one, therefore, that values time taken to get to know the skill sets and motivators of his/her employees and understands the complementarity they each bring to the table, and if it worked for Google, it can also work for you!

See how they did it by watching the third excerpt from Henry’s interview with me below.


Off the camera, Henry shared some of her insights on how to tune your leadership skills to become more of a coach/mentor leader than a big-brother manager:

At the strategic level:

  1. Understand lifecycle factors: what is relevant to an individual at this particular point in time. Respect and celebrate cultural diversity.
  2. Consider periodic factors: The environment, technology and other factors that characterise and affect one’s growing up. Build these into your workplace culture.
  3. Recognise cohort Factors: Current social (or other) trends that are building / shaping the communities we are part of, subscribe to or follow. Adapt practices to increase work-life synchronicity.

At an individual level:

  1. Be Humble
  2. Listen Actively
  3. Communicate: Clearly, Regularly and Consistently
  4. Give Feedback (part of communication but independently relevant)
  5. Lead by Example

If you have any thoughts on how to maximise the potential of your workforce or would like to make your workplace more ‘future-proof’, book your FREE time with us here.