Dear David: My millennial staff stare blankly at me in our weekly meeting – how can I inspire them?

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Dear David: My millennial staff stare blankly at me in our weekly meeting – how can I inspire them?

Leadership advice


Letting team members run meetings can help
Letting team members run meetings can help

Query: I’m a year into a management position at a mid-sized advertising firm. The staff I manage are typically young, recent graduates – millennials. I encourage them to speak up and share their ideas, and I hold a weekly meeting to give them the platform to do so. But, with the exception of one or two employees, I feel I have trouble inspiring them. I feel our meetings are more like lectures, as I am often the only one talking. However, this is not how I want our relationship to be. Are my management skills the problem, or the employees?

Answer: Congratulations on your new role, I am going to assume that this was a promotion and that it is also your first management role. It is great to see that you have the foresight to correctly observe the interaction of your team and to accept that there needs to be changes.

Quite a common mistake of management across all levels of experience is to try to change the team rather than themselves and their approach to get the best out of the team.

Realistically, team meetings can be quite beneficial or quite expensive. If run ineffectively, the downtime incurred can be high. If you have a team of eight meeting for an hour over a 48-week working year, this can equate to a loss of 48 productive days. However, if run effectively the benefits can be multiples of this.

There some negativity around the capabilities or drive of millennials. But, as a manager, you need to change your style to get the most from your team no matter what generation.

So, what do millennials crave?

  • Opportunities to develop personally and professionally within an organisation.
  • Cultural fit: they need to believe in the goals and the principals of an organisation.
  • A purpose: they need to feel like they are making a difference.
  • Management style: they have a preference for a coaching, not authoritarian, management style.

Here are some suggestions on how to change up your team meeting structure:

1 Have you assessed the benefit of giving responsibility to team members to run the weekly meetings with you facilitating? The key is that you still retain the ability to bring the meeting back on line but team members take ownership, enabling others to discuss and give feedback.

2 Throw the old way of conducting meetings out the window and do this in front of the team. Honesty is a key characteristic of a successful leader so why not open by being honest about your view that the current format is not working.

3 Prime a number of the team before the meeting on your thoughts. Once you confide in them, this can build confidence. You would be surprised how someone can take this initiative and become more vocal and engaging in the meetings.

4 Don’t be afraid to change, it takes time to get it right. You also need to ensure that the team know that if they have a suggestion that it will be listened to but might not always be implemented.

Here are other pointers for great meetings:

  • Agenda: Always have an agenda set.
  • No excuses: Everyone needs to attend.
  • Energy: Start with an energetic/positive message from the week, for example give credit to an employee or discuss successes.
  • Get away from your desks: You need to remove all interruptions.
  • Take part: You have goals and targets so don’t be afraid to discuss them. Don’t be afraid to discuss areas you may be finding difficult.
  • Action plan: Reconfirm a plan of action for the coming week and who is to do what by when.
  • Close on a positive and set expectations for the next meeting.

You will know yourself if the new style has achieved traction but it may not always work on the first go. You need to take the time to review the quality of the content and engagement from the team and ensure you have the flexibility to effect change to get the best out of all interactions.

  • David Fitzgibbon is Mid-West Regional Manager at Collins McNicholas Recruitment and HR Services Group, which has six offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Limerick

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