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Whether I am leading a workshop for emerging leaders, or facilitating a university classroom discussion, the room is full of generation Z, and technology, along with the desire to see and be seen. One of the biggest “tells” regarding this desire is linked directly to how quickly something can be uploaded and viewed/shared with another person.

As noted by Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young, “When it doesn’t get there that fast they think something’s wrong,” and went on to state that “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.”

Here is what I know based on my years of experience teaching, and leading multiple generations, we (society), especially business professionals are quick to label large segments of the population as a way to make decisions ranging from hiring, to marketing, and everything in-between.

Often what I find is that generations in leadership roles, like Baby Boomers, not only label generation Z as lacking focus, and loyalty, they do so quickly and without consideration regarding the inherent opportunities in the unique skill-sets that generation Z possess. The answer to engaging generation Z is not to constantly speed up everything in terms of delivery so as to keep them focused, all this does is reinforce the perceived need to experience all things instantaneously, this strategy in fact feeds the very thing you are trying to counteract.

As highlighted by George Beall, in his Huffington Post article, “One apparent recurring factor you might notice…, is that many Gen Z identifying factors can be traced back to the recession in 2008, from their frugality, to their value of experiences, and increased likelihood to become entrepreneurs. This is an interesting note to take down.”

Instead remember that generation Z, like so many people, place tremendous value on experiences. And what makes experiences worth engaging in? Meaning. If you take time to construct interactions (face-to-face, digital, social) with the purposeful intention of creating meaning, then the result is that they, generation Z, will gladly focus, show patience, and demonstrate loyalty.

This means, however, that leadership must be self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and trustworthy, otherwise their actions will be seen as short-term gimmicks, as opposed to long-term support. Generation Z are globally minded, entrepreneurially oriented, and crave meaning, they need to know that what they do (and you provide) matters beyond the scope of a paycheck. I have found them to be empathetic, caring, driven, creative, and yes easily distracted, but our job as leaders is to reframe situations, actions, and beliefs into positive opportunities, and remove barriers so that others may shine.

To do that begins and ends with self-awareness, you cannot be organizationally aware, if you are not self-aware.

Here are 3 ways to empower generation Z and maximize their potential.

  1. Take time to self-reflect and discover your why (your purpose). If you are not clear on why you do what you do, then why will they be loyal to what you do? For more detailed explanation and tools to guide you in self-awareness go here: https://mikewatson.today/5-ways-know-heart-purpose/
  1. Intentionally create meaning in every interaction. This is a win-win, as both parties involved will walk away more empowered, and more educated. For more insight: https://mikewatson.today/when-going-internally-reaps-rewards-externally/
  1. Invite in the unknown as a way to spark their desire to innovate, and create, don’t tell them what to do, but ask them what they want to create. For more on why this leads to innovation and engagement, go here: https://mikewatson.today/want-to-innovate-blink/

“Self-awareness is the thread that connects a leader’s vision with another’s talent.”  Mike Watson

“Self-awareness is not just relaxation and not just meditation. It must combine relaxation with activity and dynamism. Technology can aid that.”  Deepak Chopra

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