Jennifer L’Heureux is a Digital Leadership and Change Consultant, as well as a coach, facilitator, and speaker, devoted to “elevating individuals and teams to become ready for tomorrow.” Jennifer focuses on early and mid-career individuals, who are most often Millennials, and she’s a Millennial herself.
Because of her experience and her current role, I asked Jennifer if we could talk about her interest in inter-generational issues and her observations for my new book. She agreed and I recorded our 20-minute conversation. If you’d like to watch the interview, it’s on my YouTube channel.
My questions, which I sent to Jennifer in advance, are in italics, as are my thoughts and comments as we spoke. (Please note: everything in bold is my emphasis – what I see as really interesting and important.)
How did you become interested in the inter-generational issue?
I decided to go out on my own because I really love to help people, teams, and organizations get ready for the future. Our lives are constantly changing – there’s a saying that the rate of change we’re experiencing right now is the slowest it’s going to be in our lifetime, going forward. How do we get ready for that?
I thought about who I wanted to work with and the Millennial generation stood out really strongly in my mind for a couple of reasons. I always say that I’m “on the cusp” of the Gen X’ers and the Millennials, but that’s my generation. They’re the people that are going to be the future. They’re about 50% of the workforce right now… they have a “bad rap” – but I don’t believe it’s warranted. I think it’s the stereotype mentality – and a few can ruin it for many.
When I thought about who I wanted to work with, I thought “what is the energy I enjoy?” I enjoy that innovative, creative, “let’s do anything,” “anything is possible” energy; I wanted to work with this generation. I’ve also decided I don’t want to use the term Millennial anymore, because it has such a negative connotation; I want to work with early to mid-career professionals, which is a large part of this generation.
I did some research on Millennials to learn where are the struggles, where do we need to focus – and it wasn’t just about Millennials, or this group of professionals – it’s about everyone. You can’t look at things in a silo. You have to look at the big picture.
The big picture is the four generations we have in the workforce right now. We have the Baby Boomers still there, we have the Gen X’ers, who I’ve learned sometimes feel a bit forgotten, we have the Millennials or Echo Boomers or Gen Y, and then you have this new generation – I’ve heard “I” Generation, Generation Z (Zed), the youngest group we have in the organization.
It’s not just about that one generation. It’s about everyone working together so we can develop our future leaders. If we want companies to survive – if we want our economy to survive – this is the group of people we have to make sure is ready for that.
Yes, in the U.S. they do comprise well over 50% of the workforce. And I agree with you that they have a “bad rap.” Sure, there are bad apples in every generation. But, in some ways, I feel they are the misunderstood generation.
Given this, what has surprised you most, now that you’ve focused in on early to mid-career professionals?
The thing that has surprised me is how much people want this group to succeed! And I think they need this group to succeed. If we don’t have over 50% of our workforce able to have the right mindset and critical thinking abilities, to make companies successful, everything’s going to die out, or the Boomers are never going to be able to retire, if we look at it from that generation’s perspective.
How do we get them (Millennials) to understand that basic foundation of business? To make sure that they are ready to run the professional world, but also not lose that innovation, that creativity, that curiosity, that belief that “we can do anything.” “We can do anything” has the caveat that we have the right foundation to build on.
The biggest thing I’m looking at is – and I don’t think it was a surprise – I don’t think anything that I’ve learned is a surprise (especially coming from this generation) – is just how much work needs to be done. Sometimes things aren’t ‘sexy,’ but in order for you to get to that ‘sexy’ part of work, you need to do the things that are not ‘sexy.’
The biggest surprise was that really nothing surprised me. Also, the passion, when I talk to people about this generation. There were no mediocre thoughts, or balanced thoughts; it was all passion – all strong opinions on this generation. There was no “well, they’re alright.” It was all, “Oh, let me talk to you about Millennials!”
And the Millennials I talked to said, “Oh, let me talk to you about my leaders!” There was no evenness to the conversation.