Tips For Coaching Millennials…And Everyone Else

Most advice about managing Millennials focuses on the wrong things, experts say—often meaningless differences between people rather than the massive number of things we have in common, namely, that we all are individuals who want to grow and feel valuable.

Millennials expect a lot from coaches. Catered to by parents, this generation also expects their employers to be empathetic to their causes, concerns, and world views.

“When they are motivated around a common goal that motivates them, they’re phenomenal. The trick is getting them to that goal,” says Alan Fine, author of “The Coach’s Guide to Millennials.” “That’s where coaching skills—communications that engage people—will be critical.”

Who Are the Millennials?

“The Millennial generation—those born between 1982 and 2004—are on a personal journey. They’re innovative. They think globally. They’re tech-savvy, and they are motivated by causes,” Fine says. “They are eager—some would say impatient —to succeed. They are continual learners, innovative, and collaborative. They expect to be included in decision-making.”

In contrast, Fine says, “Baby Boomers—many of them today’s senior leaders—were reared, educated, and trained to help people by giving advice. Millennials don’t take well to that. They want to do things themselves rather than be shown.”

Consequently, they insist on being coached.

Adapt Coaching Strategies

Coaching Millennials effectively requires coaches to adapt some of their strategies to apply what Fine calls an “inside out” approach that focuses on the goal, realities, options, and way forward (GROW).

Inspiring greatness from Millennials and others is based on one key principle: “Make it safe for people to explore their own experiences. That’s a crucial component of effective coaching,” Fine says. He has developed three key questions coaches can use to further advancement. They are:

  • What’s working ?
  • Where are we getting stuck?
  • What could we do differently?

For example, in a coaching session, Fine advises coaches to listen empathetically to what the person being coached is saying, restate it, and give the person an opportunity to elaborate or correct the coach’s understanding. Ask what has been tried, how it turned out, and what the obstacles were. Brainstorm some options. Ask about the ideal situation, and what advice that person would give if he or she were in the coach’s position as a consultant. Then ask whether that person wants any suggestions and, if he or she decides to pursue any of the ideas that were discussed, how the person might go about it.

“Good coaching for any age group means engaging in a conversation that’s respectful, partnership-oriented, and supportive. Good coaches try to understand the person, while keeping a goal in mind. They need to find a balance between allowing every learner to have his or her own journey, and helping the learner understand reality when he or she hits obstacles,” Fine says. Millennials, for example, may expect rapid promotions but first must learn to demonstrate their value to the organization.

Therefore, Keith Johnstone, marketing manager at Peak Sales Recruiting, an international organization headquartered in New York City, positions coaching as a career accelerator. Millennials tend to be career-oriented and self-confident, and use technology to inform their decisions, he says, so “coaching conversations need to take a growth approach, focusing on needed changes and how they affect future career opportunities, as well as immediate work results.”

Employ Creative Coaching Options

The coaching conversations may not be face-to-face. “Coaches can’t ignore the reality that Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms are often the preferred communication choice among Millennials,” Johnstone notes. To reach their audience, coaches must use the technologies people value. “People, regardless of age group, appreciate being communicated with in the ways that work best for them.”

Conversations may not be one-on-one, either. Solid-Professor, an online learning provider for engineers and software designers, does part of its coaching in a group meeting to enable peer-to-peer insights. Called the Culture Committee, the meeting is outside the usual chain of command and gives the company’s staff of 30 (half of whom are Millennials) an area to voice concerns. The Culture Committee meets monthly for regularly scheduled, open-door meetings where people can share perspectives and ideas for improvements, and ask questions, says CEO Tony Glockler. “This is a way for staff to gather information about the working environment or how to present ideas more effectively.

Each meeting has an agenda geared to assess and improve the corporate culture, based on monthly surveys. “December’s survey asked whether staffers felt they could approach their managers, whether people in their department worked well as a team, and what single thing about the organization they would change if they could,” Glockler says. The answer to the latter question reflected a need to improve top-down communication.

“We take results seriously,” Glockler says. “We’re accountable to the team. Therefore, we need to clarify our objectives, so our team members understand why they’re working. Millennials want the big picture: Why we are in this business and how we do make the world a better place?

“When coaching Millennials, it’s important to create a dynamic, multidirectional coaching program,” Glockler adds. Consequently, Millennials sometimes are the coaches for other employees—including the executive team. “Every generation has much to learn from the others.”

Attention and Experience Are Shrinking

While Millennials’ foibles may be stereotypical and overblown, this generation does have some characteristics coaches must fully consider. Specifically, they often have short attention spans and frequently lack job experience, points out Matt Stewart, co-founder and co-CEO of College Works, which mentors more than 1,000 college students per year for its management and entrepreneurship internship.

“Attention spans have been shrinking for three generations because of technology and the exponential increase of information availability,” Stewart says. “Therefore, we capture Millennials’ attention by giving them projects that can be measured with short-term metrics. We also mentor our employees in time management and teach them how to schedule everything to create a healthy work-life balance. Relationships are everything to this generation.”

Many Millennials chose their careers with limited real-world exposure to those professions, Stewart points out. “Many Millennials choose their professions based upon input from friends and YouTube. They lack work experience that earlier generations gained by experimenting with different types of jobs before choosing a career path. So when working with Millennials, understand that this could be their first real job. This may create a lack of awareness of what it takes to succeed in the workplace.”

Focus on Individuals, Not Generations

While the differences between Millennials and previous generations are worth noting, don’t dwell on them. “Most advice about managing Millennials focuses on the wrong things— often meaningless differences between people rather than the massive number of things we have in common, namely, that we all are individuals who want to grow and feel valuable,” says Phillip Wilson, owner of Approachable Leadership.

Wilson’s 14 employees range from Millennials to Baby Boomers. “I don’t treat them differently, and it works,” he says. He advises focusing on individuals, not generations.

“If you want to truly engage employees, don’t pigeon-hole them into generational boxes. Instead, focus on each person as a unique individual,” Wilson stresses. “When people feel they aren’t valued as individuals, they become demoralized. When they believe you care about them as people, they will run through brick walls for you.”


  • Foster a culture of innovation
  • Correlate coaching to career advancement
  • Embrace technology strategically
  • Be socially responsible


By Linda McGuigan, President, Corporate Leadership Solutions, The John Maxwell Company

To secure the hearts and minds of Millennials and maximize their performance, here are a few things to keep in mind:

PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY WANT. Millennials are searching for career opportunities that will grant them purpose, not just a title or salary. It’s important to frame job openings with messaging that appeals to what Millennials want, such as making the world a better place and a collaborative work culture. Without meaning, the younger workforce will experience disengagement and chronically job-hop until they find a place where they feel they belong.

PLACE THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT POSITIONS. It’s essential to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each employee and how he or she fits the needs of the team. Using a proven strengths and skills assessment as part of the hiring and screening process is one of the best ways to achieve this goal. Placing people in the right positions is a process, and the best way to help each one reach their potential is to treat it that way.

SHOW MILLENNIALS HOW TO LEAD. If you want dedicated, thoughtful, productive people on your team, leadership also must model those characteristics. It’s a simple case of not only “do as I say,” but “do as I do.” Here are some key attributes to model and inspire Millennials:

  • Authenticity: This is the foundation for developing people.
  • Servanthood: This is the soul for developing people.
  • Growth: This is the measurement for developing people.
  • Excellence: This is the standard for developing people.
  • Passion: This is the fuel for developing people.
  • Success: This is the purpose for developing people.

EQUIP MILLENNIALS FOR SUCCESS. To develop the potential of Millennials, facilitate rather than dictate. Equip people to succeed at their job following these five steps recommended by John Maxwell:

Step 1: I do it (competence).

Step 2: I do it, and you are with me (demonstration).

Step 3: You do it, and I am with you (coaching).

Step 4: You do it (empowerment).

Step 5: You do it, and someone else is with you (reproduction).

By coaching utilizing these techniques, you not only create leaders, but show them how to equip others to be leaders in the future.


By Mary L. Verstraete, Leadership Consultant, Speaker, Trainer, and President/Cofounder, Center for Coaching Excellence (

When conversations with team members or direct reports don’t go as planned, it can be disappointing—or downright frustrating.

What makes some workplace conversations so difficult? The unfortunate truth is that a few poorly executed exchanges can disrupt productivity, destroy relationships, invite the blame game, contribute to a sense of betrayal, trigger lawsuits…sufficed to say, broken conversations have far-reaching repercussions.

Most people don’t take time to understand the root causes of communication breakdowns, or intentionally develop their ability to achieve consistent and masterful conversations.

Ready for the good news? Communication coaching can change everything. By applying basic concepts used in professional coaching, leaders can inspire better performance, engagement, loyalty, and even more transparency and accountability from their team members.

Before you head into your next one-on-one meeting, try these coaching tips to boost your effectiveness:

CATCH A NEW VISION. Listen to understand. Don’t assume others see what you see, feel what you feel, and think what you think.

  • When you are attached to your point of view, you can’t see the other person’s perspective.
  • Winning a point may make you feel good, but it makes others feel devalued, not heard, and shut down.

TURN OFF JUDGMENT. Be intentional to see the situation from the other person’s perspective.

  • Don’t underestimate the way your words or facial expressions come across to others. Most people can easily perceive when they are being judged.
  • Leaders should be especially careful not to abuse their influence or manipulate others with judgmental reaction.

GENERATE CLARITY. Realize that everyone “filters” conversations. Yes, everyone. Be proactive about preventing miscommunication.

  • At regular intervals in the conversation, check in with questions such as, “Would you expand on XYZ?” or “Can you explain further?”
  • By presuming you understand, you may miss the actual meaning of what the person was communicating.

What are the benefits of effective conversations?

CREATING TRUST. Trust creates collaboration, understanding, and respect, generating a place of safety where individuals are ready to contribute.

CULTIVATING TEAMWORK. Good rapport, connection, and teamwork don’t suddenly appear, but are cultivated through successful conversations.

Through effective conversations, employees can share their view of reality, their perspective, and what is important to them. Good communication helps leaders develop and maximize the talent within their organization—and that’s just one reason the art of conversation is worthy of our best efforts.


New research by Fit Small Business reveals many misconceptions around what Millennials want in the workplace. More than 600 Americans ages 18 to 65-plus were surveyed about what they prioritize when looking for their ideal job. The study posed questions such as “Which benefits are most important to you?” and “What characteristics of your boss would make you consider changing your job?”

Here are some of the survey highlights:

  • Millennials take criticism better than other demographics. Only 17.6 percent of Millennials chose having a mean boss as the top reason they would leave their job. This compares to 19.3 percent of people ages 35-plus. Adults ages 18 to 34 crave feedback, with 80 percent of Millennials preferring frequent feedback to traditional performance reviews, according to a study by Namely.
  • Millennials don’t want an equity stake in their company or Facebook HQ-style perks. Health care across all generations is the most important benefit a company can offer. Some 34 percent of Millennials selected health care as their top priority, with only 5 percent wanting an equity stake, and 7 percent looking for perks.
  • Millennials are willing to travel for the right job. When asked “How much shorter of a commute would make you consider changing a job?” 43 percent answered that they don’t care how long they have to travel.

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