Seeking first to understand is a habit I try to follow. It’s one I first learned while reading Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I often talk about seeking first to understand when I speak about “Be Nice”, the second of my Six Simple Rules for a Better Life.

I very much enjoyed a session I attended about the generational divide in the workplace. It was conducted by a millennial, one of the most impressive speakers I’ve seen, and one of the youngest.

Though he never used the phrase “seek to understand,” the speaker was essentially advising that if non-millennials seek to understand millennials, the result will be a better workplace for everyone.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the session (including some humor):

(Note: The target audience at this session were company executives and these notes are solely about understanding millennials. I’m sure there is a role for a speaker who can explain baby boomers to millennials.)

1. Millennials have a reputation for feeling entitled:  “I should be manager, I got a “B” in management in college. Ask my mom.” Where did this come from? Boomers wanted life to be easier for their children than it was for them. When boomers were kids, if they got in trouble at school, they knew it would be even worse when they got home. When a millennial got in trouble at school, he called home and said, “Mom, call the attorney.”

2. When asked the question, “When do you become an adult?,” the most popular answers for boomers are 18, 21, and 25. For millennials, the most popular answer is 30.

3. Millennials may be in their first job six years later than boomers were (counting jobs held as teens), for tons more money, and without saving anything.

4. We all manage and lead based on our life experiences. We give advice from our perspective.

5. What you think is new and different in technology is a function of what you experienced and remember.

6. Boomers think it’s rude to whip out a cell phone in the middle of a conversation. Boomers think hard work is defined by how many hours you are working, and you must be seen or you are not working.

7. Millennials:

– disrupt the status quo

– want to make an impact on day one, not read the employee handbook

– would take less money to work somewhere they believe in

– find their identity by what they do outside of work—knowing there will be no Social Security, and thus feeling they will have to work forever, want to be sure to enjoy life along the way

– think “if the boss isn’t talking to us, we must be doing something wrong”—they want feedback at work in the same way people want “likes” on Facebook or they feel ignored

– will work hard for you; just not for the same reasons

– are not all tech savvy, but are definitely tech dependent

– lack face-to-face communication skills boomers learned around the dinner table

– prefer text messages, videos, pictures, and the subject line of emails (“if it was important you would have texted me”)

8. Just like the best Trivial Pursuit team would include a mix of generations, when you put together multiple generations who listen to and understand each other, great ideas result.

9. Millennials need to be given specific examples of the behaviors expected. What it means to be on time. What it means to dress appropriately. Use videos.

10. Explain outcomes to millennials, and then the steps of the process. (Millennials like to beat the video game with the cheat codes, and then they go back to the beginning to play.)

11. Don’t disqualify a job candidate based on the wrong perceptions and judgments. (Again, seek to understand.) Look for a willingness to put forth effort toward growth.

What is your experience with seeking to understand, whether at home, at work, or anywhere? How about inter-generational communication experiences? Join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,