February 17th, 2015
I am going to state the obvious here. I was not born between 1981 and 1996. I was born into the decade of counterculture and social revolution or, depending on your perspective, of irresponsible excess, flamboyance and decay of social order.
So I am most definitely not a ‘millennial’. Nor am I yet a ‘third ager’, enjoying an active retirement.
As a child of that overhyped decade, the 60s, with children of my own now all grown-up and able to work more-or-less on my own terms, I find myself with time and enthusiasm to spare.
So as well as earning a living as a communications consultant, I am the trustee of a charity focused on youth work across the capital, a member of the Global Tolerance Freelance Collective, and studying for a postgraduate qualification in business and personal coaching.
These may appear pretty disparate activities, but they coalesced in my mind recently with the launch of the #ValuesRevolution, which took place at the same time as I was preparing for my course by reading a lot about the importance of listening. Really listening.
We all listen, I hear you say. Actually what I have learnt is that we all think we listen, when we are inwardly focusing on a load of other things, including how best to frame our response to what we are hearing.
Nancy Kline’s book Time to Think is required reading for anyone concerned with leadership, organisational change, coaching and building stronger personal and business relationships. In it, she draws attention to the power of listening, not in order to respond – but to ignite the human mind.
I’m not going to attempt to summarise Kline’s ten components of the Thinking Environment™ (read the book for yourself, you won’t regret it), but ‘lisening to ignite’ is one of them, and it is just what we post-millennials, and parents of millennials, should be doing, especially when these 18 to 25 year olds’ are telling us what is important to them.
And the research that underlies the #ValuesRevolution is clearly worth listening to: 62% of under 35s want a career that benefits others; 53% would work harder if their organisation delivered more positive change; and 50% of all people who took part in the research would rather buy products or services from companies that ‘do good’.
It is not sensible (and would be patronising) to see these findings as a trend. Rather, they represent a genuine shift. Millennials have come to adulthood in a very different environment from the one that nurtured, or failed to nurture, the generations before them. They are empowered by the internet, and they live in a globally-connected world.
In Time to Think Nancy Kline contends that the mind that holds the problem also holds the solution. This is why we need to listen to the millennials. We can’t afford not to.
But first we need to create, in all sectors of employment from charitable organisations to global corporations, an environment in which they not only feel heard, but that their voices ‘count’ and their priorities are recognised. Only by doing so will we help them to think, really think, creatively, powerfully and beautifully. And that will benefit us all.