I read a blog recently by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. He was writing about how tired he is of hearing business leaders complain about hiring Millennials—young adults born from the early 1980’s to around 2000. I’ve heard similar. People in my calling. Pastors, church leaders. Lamenting that these “kids” growing up these days have horrible work habits and tendencies to be self-focused, isolated, lazy and incapable of working with others. There is no hope for the future, some have said.
I totally get it. Every generation has a few things that make them uniquely different. I’m a Baby Boomer. We are different than the Silent Generation. Different than the Gen Xers after us. And now, the 20 somethings are unique. They communicate with different devices than I did at that age. They have different expectations of employment than I did coming out of college. They didn’t do some of the hard work I did growing up on an Oregon farm. But doesn’t every generation grow up with different experiences? I certainly didn’t have some of the work experiences my 87 year old father and 95 year old father in-law had. Lencioni asks, “Why is that we seem to be fascinated with this new collection of human beings, as though they come from another planet?” I couldn’t agree more.
The longer I am in leadership in an organization that has a multi-generational staff and quite a few young interns, the more I realize how enduring some needed virtues really are. Instead of stereotyping people by their generational label, I agree with what Lencioni highlights in his new book, “The Ideal Team Player.” He says there are three simple, timeless and observable virtues that are reliable predictors of whether someone of any age will be a good team player in the work world.
1. Humility – this is the first and most important virtue. I’ve seen arrogance in every generation. I’ve seen humility at all ages. Humility is a timeless virtue. Yes, we have plenty of celebrities and cultural icons on very tall pedestals. Yet, every society yearns for humility. I know plenty of young millennials who are as tired of self-indulgence and narcissism as the rest of us are. I’ve experienced these young adults as super capable of caring for others more than for themselves. I’ve watched them truly enjoy the success of a team more than their individual achievement. Many of them possess the much-needed virtue of humility.
2. Hunger – Lencioni writes about the critical virtue of the desire to work hard, to go above and beyond what is required for something worthwhile. In most places, paper routes and lawn-mowing businesses for teens is a thing of the past. Yet, hard work and sacrifice is alive and well among some of our teens and young adults. As in all generations, a few are slackers but I’m often amazed at how dedicated and committed many in the millennial generation really are. I love working along side of them.
3. Smarts – This is Patrick Lencioni’s catch-all term for a person who has common sense about people and awareness of how one’s words and actions impact others. We can all point to plenty of millennials who rarely look beyond their smart devices and only communicate through abbreviations and emojis. But I know plenty of teens and young adults who want interpersonal connection and are capable of embracing it. They are great communicators and sensitive to the needs of others around them.
I agree with Lencioni when he challenges the older generations to recognize there are plenty of millennials among us who are humble, hungry and smart. They are the ones you want to find for your team. They will place a high priority on teamwork and they will help take you to the next level of excellence in your ministry or work place. Take some time today and let a millennial know how much you appreciate the virtues you see in their life. There is hope!
QUESTION: What additional virtue have you seen in the millennials around you? Share it in the comment section below.