We all know that there's something different about millennials -- the first generation of digital natives, people who grew up with digital technology as a part of their lives. While there is plenty of debate about what it is exactly that sets millennials apart from the generations that came before them, even among millennials themselves, we know for certain that members of this generation -- and the even younger Gen X and Gen Y -- have their own, unique set of priorities and motivations.
In their book, Counter Mentor Leadership, father-son authors Kelly and Robby Riggs explain that millennials and other digital self-promoters are motivated by four main things:
Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it!" says Simon Sinek in a gentle croon. That's from his TED talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." It's been viewed more than 32 million times. People are constantly searching for how to find purpose! As a leader, you are capable of providing it.
Purpose is the very essence of motivation. It can move an individual or a team to remarkable achievement if that purpose is relevant to the person or team. Just so we're clear, casually suggesting in a staff meeting that something is "good for the company" is not going to qualify as providing purpose.
Autonomy is the desire to direct our own lives. People want to feel they have control over their lives. They want to have the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, and they're not terribly fond of taking orders, working in the dark, and doing whatever they're told to do (because you said so).
As a leader, when you tell people what do, when to do it, how to do it, when to start, and when to leave, you create functionaries. Resentful, unfulfilled, looking-for-another-job functionaries. They not only are demotivated, they also aren't thinking, or innovating, or taking ownership, or asking hard questions.
The watchword at Spotify is "be autonomous, but don't sub-optimize -- be a good citizen in the Spotify ecosystem." A common analogy at the company is a jazz band: Each squad plays its instrument, but each also listens to the others and focuses on the overall piece to make great music.
Mastery is the urge to continually get better at something that matters. People are incredibly motivated by improvement. There is something eminently satisfying about mastering some-thing -- about knowing you've learned or accomplished something difficult or challenging that only someone highly skilled can do. It's a reward in and of itself: a validation that you have achieved something special.
We're certain that autonomy and mastery will be much more meaningful -- and will have considerably more impact in your organization -- when your people are all working toward a common purpose. Purpose becomes that elusive "secret" ingredient.
Community is belonging to a group of people that loves us more than we love ourselves. Humans, with few exceptions, crave community. It's the way we are wired. (Google "the psychology of community.") People want to be part of a team, a group, a gang, or a gaggle that accepts them, values their contribution, and truly believes they matter.
Throughout history, we've formed groups for survival, for healing, for growth, and to entertain the masses, from the Beatles to Manchester United. When you make your people feel less like a collection of disparate people and more like a community, you'll see a definitive improvement in your company culture AND your team's performance.