“WOW” The key word encircled the room – beckoning us to take heed to this catchy saying.
We were asked to whisper it to our neighbor, bellow it across the room and hide it within our soul.
The room was held captive by this pastor’s riveting personality, but the message was lost within
a sea of fluff.
The pastor starred at us, for what seemed like an eternity. He straightened his tie, cuffed his
skinny jeans and declared: “When a young person goes to you with an idea, don’t ask them
HOW, just say WOW! This is what they’re waiting for and what they REALLY need.”
The pastor closed his Bible, walked off the stage and we all scratched our heads – waiting for the rest
of the message. “Was that it?” someone asked. “Maybe this is what I should implement with the
millennials on my team.” Another deduced. As I sat there in the third row, my hand soon found
its way to my forehead. “They don’t get it,” I groaned.
Mentorship is more than catchy verbiage.
Our generation is not waiting for the one-word-wonder
to break the spell; we’re waiting for men and women to walk with us on our journey.
This takes hard work. This takes time. This takes more than a WOW theology. So how can older
generations encourage our generation, spurring us on towards healthy leadership?
I’m so glad you asked.
AUTHENTICITY IS GREATER THAN AGENDA
Finding Nemo is a classic. It’s an incredible picture of diversity, cheerleading and mentorship all
rolled into a hilarious tale of a father in search of his son. There’s a part in the film where Dory
and Marlin fear for their lives as they face their greatest fear – sharks. They’re greeted with
sharp teeth and a chilling stare; however, Dory and Marlin sigh in relief as the sharks begin to
declare their pledge: “Fish are friends – not food.”
Millennials are people – not projects. Older generations have this incredible opportunity to impact
the lives of young people; however, it must stem from the foundation of equality. We
don’t operate in strict hierarchical structures, which means that older generations must develop a
relationship before offering instruction. Cheerleading and influence requires more than a WOW
declaration, but a PURPOSED interaction.
CHEERLEADERS GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE JOURNEY
This is imperative. Our generation is not in need of a charismatic pep rally but personal
transparency. If older generations want their voices to be heard amongst millennials, then they
must be willing to get close enough to whisper. They must be willing to share about the good, the
bad and the ugly.
Sheryl Sandburg was recently interviewed at The Global Leadership Summit. She observed, saying
“Most bookstores are filled to the brim with self-help literature, but rarely contain books about
helping others.” Cheerleading requires older generations to come from the place of authenticity
and acknowledgment. Our generation needs to be seen before we see another’s perceptive.
Facebook, Google and countless others have learned that understanding one’s viewpoint is
imperative before critiquing the individual’s ideas. They realize that proximity reveals one’s commitment.
Marriage vows are never uttered in separate rooms, but spoken in one accord.
The same is true with influence. Older generations must be willing to get close enough to walk
with our generation and guide us on the journey – they must be willing to be like Christ and bear
our burdens and not just celebrate our victories.
PRACTICALITY IS GREATER THAN PREACHING
According to Jamie Hopkins, contributor to Forbes, “Millennials took over as the largest
generational group in the United States workforce in 2015, and by 2020 they will make up over
half of the total workforce.” What does this mean for today’s work environment? What does this
mean for older generations? We have enough preachers; we need practitioners.
The majority of companies are integrating millennial ‘needs’ within their organizational
standards and changing the way they operate, function as a team, and produce their products.
However, older generations have the ability to influence new and exciting ways than ever
before. Millennials are looking for cheerleaders; they’re looking for older generations to guide
them through the trials and offer them tested counsel.
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