Millennials get a bad rep just about everywhere. If you’re a Millennial on your credit union or bank’s leadership team, then you’re well aware of the uphill battle you fought to get there, and the even greater battles ahead.
But let me remind you: Steve Jobs was 21 when he started Apple. Jeff Bezos was 30 when he started Amazon. Howard Schultz was 32 when he took over Starbucks.
My point? Almost every business leader in history has been where you are. Even your board and executive team were once rookies.
You can’t control your generation’s pre-existing reputation. You can’t control what your board and executive team think about “those young people.”
What you can control, however, is your response.
Here are seven leadership lessons for every Millennial leader at a credit union or bank:
1. Ask Questions Consistently
When I joined On The Mark Strategies, Mark instituted what we now call “The 4:00 Call.” Every day at, you guessed it, 4 p.m., we meet for about 15 minutes. I share three things I’ve learned and ask three questions.
It has been the single most impactful thing in my career.
The 4:00 Call has forced me to not only ask questions (everyone should be asking questions on the job no matter your rank) but to ask them consistently. It’s trained me to be curious and dig deeper. Consistently asking questions ultimately builds confidence and grows authority.
2. Speak Up (Literally)
I mean this in two regards: First, posture. Scientist Amy Cuddy famously found that holding a “power pose” for two minutes will chemically increase the confidence signals in your brain. Before a presentation, stand up with your hands on your hips and your shoulders back. Sit up when you’re in a meeting. Physically moving your body upward will help assume an attitude of authority.
Second, do speak up when you have something to say. Those leaders we mentioned earlier would never be who they are to us today if they hadn’t spoken up. Don’t hold back.
3. Take Ownership
Taking ownership is different than taking initiative. Initiative says, “I raise my hand every time for everything because I’m young and can do anything for everyone.” Last time I checked (this morning) that’s unfortunately not true. Millennials in leadership are still human.
Ownership, however, says, “This is what is in my capacity to control and I’m going to assume full responsibility for it.” If something goes wrong, own it. If something goes right, it’s okay to own that too. Carry a project from start to finish as if it’s your baby, and you’ll earn huge respect.
4. See Everything as Growth
Millennials are notorious for taking criticism poorly. The “blue ribbon syndrome” may in fact be the worst label to the generation’s name. Psychologist Carol Dweck authored the book “Mindset” in which she details the difference between a fixed mindset (taking every bad thing as failure) and a growth mindset (seeing everything good or bad as an opportunity to learn and grow).
Dweck describes those with a growth mindset like this: “Even though they felt distressed, they were ready to take the risks, confront the challenges and keep working at them.”
If you take feedback from your boss, your peers and your employees as opportunities to grow, then you’ll skyrocket your career because you won’t spend so much time licking your wounds.
5. Ask Why
Simon Sinek famously said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you take time now to ask why your credit union or bank makes the strategic decisions it does, then you’ll pass your peers and be more fully equipped to assume greater leadership responsibilities in your career.
6. Send thank-you notes
People have invested in you, and if you follow the first five lessons then you’ll likely encounter even more people who are willing and eager to invest in you. They’re taking time out of their day and energy out of their tank to build you up. Thank them for it without an ulterior motive. Writing thank you notes puts you in the habit of gratitude.
7. Read. Listen. Watch.
However you learn best during your current life stage, keep learning. If you commute 15 minutes a day, in four years you’ll spend more time in your car than a college student does in class. Take advantage of that time by listening to audiobooks and podcasts that will build your career.
Here’s a shortlist of our favorite business and leadership podcasts:
On a personal note, the most crucial step I had to take in my own journey as a Millennial leader was recognizing that I am a leader. The sooner I acknowledged the skills and resources that make me uniquely able to do my job well, the sooner I grew. My hope is that you will too.