Millennial Mysteries: A sense of possibility

Young people, regardless of which generation they represent, have always held the same role in society: The enthusiasm of our culture. Whether today’s Millennials or 1960‘s Baby Boomers, or 1940’s Greatest Generation, when people are in their 20s and 30s, they directly contribute to cultural optimism and freshness of new beginnings and original ideas. They haven’t been alive long enough or seen enough to be jaded and skeptical, so young people have a distinct sense of possibility.
What is a ‘sense of possibility?’ It is the willingness to try, or to at least consider something; regardless of what outcome that thing takes.
Have you ever sat in a meeting, trying to problem solve and think out loud, only to have someone at the other end of the table interrupt you and disregard your point before you’d even finished making it? That person lacked a sense of possibility. I’m not saying that everything really is possible, only that it’s important to have an attitude that at least considers something and is willing to try it, before writing it off.
Your business needs a balance of the realism of older wisdom and the entrepreneurial attitude of young idealism. By nature, your young people are on the road to losing their sense of possibility – the hard knocks of life make that inevitable. Which means that your company automatically leans toward a more cautious business model.
How can you keep a little more of an excited attitude in your workplace? You can either a) keep hiring younger and younger workers or b) actively cultivate the sense of possibility that exists in the Millennial workers you already have. In fact, you should cultivate it in all your employees, regardless of age, but your younger ones will be more naturally inclined to respond fastest and keep that passion longer.
What does cultivating a sense of possibility look like?
– Say ‘no’ as little as possible. Note: I didn’t say never say ‘no,’ but it is important for your staff to feel like their ideas are valued. If they get a sense that ‘yes’ is rare, eventually they are going to stop approaching you.
– Put new responsibility on them. Make it literally their job to come up with new ideas.
– Compliment them. Radio silence makes people nervous. If employees make continual effort with no obvious response for it, it will leave them unsure as to whether or not you approve. They may get too nervous to ever try again.
– Spend money on them. Are there any training seminars that your employees would benefit from? Or equipment or technology that would open new doors? Such things help keep enthusiasm high. Once an employee has been in a position for a while, monotony sets in and they begin to get tired or just plain bored with their responsibility. New ‘toys’ really help keep the job fresh, in turn keeping your employees’ ideas fresh.
– Actively discuss and interact with them. People always follow their leader. If you aren’t excited about your company, they sure won’t be.
If you are struggling with the fifth point – and let’s be honest, no matter how much you love your business, we all get tired – just start with points one through four and eventually that last point will fall into line without effort. It is an added bonus: when you actively nurture the sense of possibility in others, you will eventually start to see it develop in your own attitude as well.
Emily Enger is a Millennial farm kid turned farm journalist. She also works in marketing, serving as communications director for a nonprofit that covers nine rural counties in northern Minnesota. These opinions are her own and should not take the place of legal or professional advice. To comment or pitch future topics, email her at emilygraceenger@gmail.com . For reprint permission, email editor Joan Kark-Wren at jkarkwren@leepub.com .

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