The Millennials are coming – who cares

Unless you’ve been studiously avoiding them, you will almost certainly have come across articles quoting HR consultants, futurologists and even PR folk, on the rise of the Millennial.

Hot on the heels of previous generations, I have read, Millennials have very different outlooks and wants when it comes to the business of work. Consequently, the received wisdom tells us, working practices are going to have to change.

Sure they are.

Just not any time soon.

If, like me, you fall into the Generation X category you may still coming to terms with the recent news that (here in the UK, at least) you might have to wait until you’re almost 70 before you receive you retire.

So, I’m left pondering the following question… if 20 year old Millennials (for whom the workplace *must* be changed or else) will still have to wait until they are in their 50s before Gen X-ers are no longer above them in the workplace hierarchy (or are at least sharing the workplace with them), who are we kidding that the world has to start beating to the Millennial drum?

This is one of those occasions when the phrase “all in it together” might actually apply truthfully.

We need to stop polarising the issues. All of them. It’s not helping anything.

What we really need, now and in the future, is a more flexible outlook to work, personal life, success, fulfillment and more besides.

Whether it’s adjusting to the (constant) influx of a younger generation of workers, making sure we retain the knowledge and skills of an ageing workforce, or doing something to genuinely address issues like gender inequality, we all need to drop the me-opia and start empathising with others in pursuit of real, lasting improvements.

See things differently
See things differently

You can’t teach creativity in PR

You can’t teach creativity. That’s what I hear. I’ve heard it a lot, too. Well, relatively speaking. It tends to be the reaction some people have to the idea of creativity training or workshops.

To an extent, it’s hard to argue with the outlook that says you’re either born creative or you’re not. Picasso was born with an innate desire to create – to challenge the accepted ways of doing things and to push the creative boundaries.

He didn’t learn that in a workshop held in a medium-sized conference room in a hotel adjacent to an urban ring-road.

So, there you have it. Creativity… it’s either in your genes or it’s not. And if not, tough… you can’t learn it.

That outlook’s nonsense though, isn’t it?

I came to that stunning realisation after a conversation I had recently with a friend about the importance of collaborating with like-minded people. Some of her comments brought to mind a remark made in an interview I read with the guitarist Johnny Marr, who said something like “if you really want to open up your creative side you need to surround yourself with creative people.”

It may be true that we are all born with different talents and abilities, and that there is no substitute for natural ability. But it’s also true that it’s important to create an environment in which creativity flourishes.

It’s also remarkably easy to create an environment – particularly a working environment – in which creativity has no chance of flourishing.

So, while it might be true that you can’t teach the people in your agency to become creative geniuses from scratch, you can certainly achieve a great deal in terms of challenging existing working practices and fostering a culture where it’s ok to be creative, and to have ideas… even really bad ones.

I’d take a really bad idea over no idea at all any day. You can improve on a bad idea and make it a great one.

But those people who put hierarchy before ability, who put their own cosy self-interests before that of the client, the agency or the team… there’s not a lot you can do with them unless you challenge them.

Just how challenging you need to be in such cases depends on how entrenched their attitudes are and how willing – or otherwise – they are to accept that change can be a good thing.

Roy Castle and the art of delegation

If you’re old enough to remember when Record Breakers was hosted by Roy Castle on the BBC, you might also remember the song he used to close the show with and its assertion that “dedication’s what you need.”

According to Roy, it was what you needed if you wanted to “be the best” and also to “beat the rest.”

Without doubt it is good advice, the kind that will see you well in life. But given a slight twist it becomes what I think is a great piece of advice for anyone wanting to run, grow and develop a successful team or business. Rather than “dedication” though in this case delegation’s what you need.

What am I on about..?

Well, this is my point – most people get promoted because they’ve done well in the job they were doing. Maybe this has happened to you. Almost without fail, someone new comes in to fill the space you vacated and it’s likely you could be managing them. At first it’s bound to be hard resisting the urge to micro-manage them; after all, until recently you were doing that job. And what’s more you were doing it bloody well.

Otherwise you wouldn’t have been promoted, would you..?

But if you are going to grow as a manager you have to focus on what your new role and responsibilities entail and, just as importantly, you have to let the newbie do their job unencumbered by your interfering, otherwise they’ll have a frustrating time feeling like they never get out of the starting blocks.

When I was a senior reporter on the IT trade newspaper Computing, I had the opportunity to interview Joe McNally – the man who brought Compaq to the UK and grew it into a £1 billion operation over the course of something like 15 years. That was in the days when Compaq was a serious player in the business IT market, not some strange left-over brand name HP sticks on some of its consumer goodies.

I asked one of the most obvious questions you could possibly ask such a man – how did he do it, what was the secret of his success. He told me that he had always tried to surround himself with the most talented people possible, and to give them the freedom to not only do their job but to exploit any new opportunities that arose.

On the surface that might sound obvious but those are brave sentiments – they must be, because in the 20-odd years I’ve been in the workforce I’ve rarely encountered them.

So hat’s off to Roy Castle, because dedication is a great thing to aspire to. But the true art of delegation, the kind I think Joe McNally was talking about, that’s not to be under-estimated either.