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I was presenting to a group of senior leaders in New York recently about the influences that shaped the millennial generation, and how understanding those influences better actually helped explain some of the millennial behaviors in the workplace that we Gen Xers and baby boomers seem to find surprising. One of the questions that emerged from the conversation was about motivation, and the question contained at least a hint of desperation: How do we motivate millennials?

My answer: Help them to be successful.

When we start digging into the differences that exist among generations, we tend to overlook the fact that we are all humans. The generational differences are certainly real, but underneath those differences, we share very deeply rooted characteristics, and one of those is a basic yearning to be successful.

In his book, Drive, business author Dan Pink does a great job at breaking down motivation into three basic components: autonomy, mastery and purpose. That sounds a lot like what you need to be successful: the freedom to take the right actions (autonomy), the capacity to continuously move the needle (mastery) and a sense of meaning attached to the success (purpose). And while we all share these basic components of motivation, I think you’ll notice that the millennials will take a slightly different approach, which may require some adjustments inside our organizations:

Autonomy

We all want autonomy, but millennials might want it a little faster. Remember, they grew up with the social internet, which gave them an incredible amount of power. Not only did they have instant access to every piece of knowledge known to humankind —whenever and wherever they wanted it&nbsp; —they also had the power to leverage their social network to get things done (on their terms). All of us have that power now, of course, but they grew up with it, so autonomy might mean something different to them. They expect to exercise power at work — not because they are “entitled” but because they are simply accustomed to having power (power that we gave them, by the way). Many workplace cultures fail to truly value autonomy, and that gets in the way of our success.

Mastery

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I was presenting to a group of senior leaders in New York recently about the influences that shaped the millennial generation, and how understanding those influences better actually helped explain some of the millennial behaviors in the workplace that we Gen Xers and baby boomers seem to find surprising. One of the questions that emerged from the conversation was about motivation, and the question contained at least a hint of desperation: How do we motivate millennials?

My answer: Help them to be successful.

When we start digging into the differences that exist among generations, we tend to overlook the fact that we are all humans. The generational differences are certainly real, but underneath those differences, we share very deeply rooted characteristics, and one of those is a basic yearning to be successful.

In his book, Drive, business author Dan Pink does a great job at breaking down motivation into three basic components: autonomy, mastery and purpose. That sounds a lot like what you need to be successful: the freedom to take the right actions (autonomy), the capacity to continuously move the needle (mastery) and a sense of meaning attached to the success (purpose). And while we all share these basic components of motivation, I think you’ll notice that the millennials will take a slightly different approach, which may require some adjustments inside our organizations:

Autonomy

We all want autonomy, but millennials might want it a little faster. Remember, they grew up with the social internet, which gave them an incredible amount of power. Not only did they have instant access to every piece of knowledge known to humankind —whenever and wherever they wanted it  —they also had the power to leverage their social network to get things done (on their terms). All of us have that power now, of course, but they grew up with it, so autonomy might mean something different to them. They expect to exercise power at work — not because they are “entitled” but because they are simply accustomed to having power (power that we gave them, by the way). Many workplace cultures fail to truly value autonomy, and that gets in the way of our success.

Mastery

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