Millennials [as the largest generation in today’s workforce] are powerful, and they are hungry! You’re organization and your career as a leader (or prospective leader) literally depends on your ability to satisfy this hunger.
So what’s the cause of the insatiable millennial tummy rumble? According to Whitney Dailey, director of marketing and research at Cone Communications, millennials “see where they work as an extension of who they are,” citing a recent millennial-engagement survey by Cone Communications. This need to self-identify with their employer explains the millennials’ hunger: to connect to their organization’s purpose or cause.
This powerful millennial-driven trend demands that effective leaders in 2018 answer the question “what leadership behaviors attract people to your organization’s purpose and how are those behaviors different from those that drive people away from your organization?” Answering this question will allow leaders to put meals on the table and begin to satisfy that millennial hunger to connect to their organization.
Explaining why the employees of Horizon Airlines banned together, being recognized with the coveted Regional Airline of The Year Award (from Air Transport World magazine), Jeff Pinneo, CEO at the time, explains that “everything you do is visible, and I can certainly affirm that people pay attention to everything,” he said. “I have this rule of thumb that, from the time you walk out of the men’s room stall, you’re on the stage, he added with a chuckle. You need to be aware—not to put on an act or anything—but just be aware that everything’s messaging when you’re CEO.”
This explains why Pinneo, whenever he’d fly on Horizon, after the plane landed, waited for all the passengers to deplane so he could help the flight crew clean out the seat pockets, pick garbage up off the floor, and make sure the baggage bins were empty. “So it didn’t matter how busy I was or what meeting I was trying to get to—I helped prepare the plane for its next flight. Culturally, that was something you could not miss. At Horizon everybody did everything. For example, we had a very good pilot, one of our best, who wouldn’t think twice about coming out on his days off to paint ground equipment, if that’s what needed to be done. We had an entrepreneurial, we’re-all-in-this-together understanding.”
Pinneo understood that the way to attract employees to your organization’s purpose (to be the best regional airline in the United States, for example) is to constantly evidence your own personal commitment to that purpose; importantly, placing your organization’s purpose above (or at least equal) to your own ego-driven needs. Pinneo and eight other iconic national leaders share real world stories about how to evidence your passionate commitment to your organization’s purpose, thereby “fusing” their teams together in service of that shared purpose.
Pinneo and the other Fusion Leadership executives explain how they navigate the constant onslaught of tricky questions that tempt every leader to manage from the wrong side of the line between what evidences your commitment to the organization’s purpose and what leadership behaviors drive employees away from that purpose? For example, Pinneo chose to sacrifice his precious CEO time in order to plan an extra 20 minutes after every Horizon flight to clean out seatback pockets and pick up trash off the floor. By taking this time to evidence his commitment to Horizon’s purpose Pinneo was answering the question- as CEO what level of priority do you assign to working side by side with your front line workers? Other examples include questions like- when you conduct a meeting, who becomes the smartest person in the room? Or, whose job is it to take ownership of the crisis? Or, when you set compensation levels, how much do you pay yourself compared to how much you pay others? As leaders, the decisions we make in answering these and many similar questions communicates volumes to your team as to whether you are truly committed to your organizations purpose. Answer correctly and you earn the following of those in your charge. Answer incorrectly and you drive your team away from your organization.
By thinking through their actions in response to these daily behavioral questions, successful leaders fixate on connecting those in their charge to their organization’s purpose. The Brookings Institute predicts that millennials will represent 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025, adding urgency to stay ahead of this trend. According to the 61 million millennials who will determine which organizations succeed and which organizations fail in 2018, this may be the most important leadership trend for leaders to think about heading into the New Year.