The Gen-Y Opportunity

Last week I worked with one of the best group of people I’ve ever met in a single organisation. For those of you who know Moneypenny, that statement won’t come as a surprise – what might though is the depth of their leadership team, 33 people in total, all highly motivated and committed to taking this incredibly successful company to even greater heights.

There were several of the team who had adjusted their diaries and rearranged appointments in order to attend. One came in from her holiday, indeed had planned her week off around it. All gave me their full and undivided attention for 3.5 hours, actually make that 3.5 hours plus 10 minutes, not because I overran but as a consequence of the whole team assembling early, (it’s just one of the many things they do).

The session I was asked to create and deliver was briefed as: “Inspirational Leadership” – and I admit to having concerns as to whether I could live up to the billing given the pedigree of the firm, but rather than sharing what I sought to teach instead I’d like to highlight one of several things I learned.

I estimate the age span of the leadership team at Moneypenny is about 25 years covering three generations including people in their early twenties, (Gen-Y.1 25-29 years old). This group is now moving into management and leadership positions. They think quite differently from Gen-X and Baby Boomers (BB) and consequently behave differently too. But not to recognise how similar we all are as well, is I think, a big mistake many firms are making. Indeed, I’ve seen some Gen-X/BB led organisations compound the issue by trying to force Gen-Y’s to conform without realising that for all the differences we have shared principles and can share many of the same values too. The key is to create alignment by involvement.

BB’s are notoriously financially driven, for Gen-X it’s status whereas for Gen-Y, a key driver is being recognised for their achievement. Far and away the best way to recognise someone is to give them additional responsibility. For sure, bonuses, league tables, cups and trophies all have a part but these are much less significant for Gen-Y compared with actually being involved in decision making, (once they’ve earned their seat at the table of course). At Moneypenny, the seasoned leadership sits down with the fresh talent to discuss together the issues and opportunities and it’s this collaboration that creates the dividend of fresh thinking and new solutions. By including the next generation of leaders in an advanced leadership development programme alongside their more experienced and senior colleagues is very clever – and so typically Moneypenny. It would have been much easier to have run two sessions, one for the older hands and another for the aspirants, but by saying to the 20-somethings, “we’d like you to be a part of this”, it reaffirms the value of meritocracy Moneypenny holds so dear as well as delivering something that’s worth far more for this group than anything financial and consequently will cause them to give their discretionary effort in spades.

In summary:

  1. Make sure you have a proper meritocracy where advancement is based on results and potential for more, not on favouritism.
  2. Create opportunities for young talent to contribute and to be involved, (not to abdicate decision making or go for consensus, but to truly engage with fresh thinking).
  3. Listen, act on and acknowledge the Gen-Y input.

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