By now you all know that I am a huge fan of Success Magazine.  It’s one of the few magazines that I continue to get as a hardcopy.  One of the reasons I do that is because I love the free Success CD that accompanies every edition.  I take the CD and listen to it when I’m driving.

I’ve been a little busy these last few months and sort of fell behind on my Success CDs.  Yesterday, I just finished listening to September’s CD.  Like I said… I’m a little behind.  I was totally captivated by an interview that Darren Hardy, the Publisher of Success Magazine had with 3 amazing Millennials.  I was so captivated that I had to stop the car & listen to the interview.  It was very moving.  Darren was interviewing the founders of a non-profit organization called “The Invisible Children“.  The founders were 3 Millennials.  Their names: Jason Russell, the mastermind that started the whole project, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey.  These 3 young men in 2003 were barely in their early 20′s with Laren Poole being the youngest at 19.  They decided to take a “road trip” to Africa that started them on a journey that would change their lives and so many others in a positive way.

You see, they got stranded in Northern Uganda and came across an unsettling reality:  children were being kidnapped every night from their homes and forced to be child soldiers by a rebel army in the area.  To avoid this fate,  children would walk barefoot every night, night after night to the centers of the cities to avoid being kidnapped by these rebels.  These 3 young American Millennials were shocked by this and felt compelled to document it on video.  That started their journey to not only raise awareness but raise money and enact legislation to help these young children in Northern Uganda.

I wish you could listen to this captivating CD.  I wasn’t able to find it on the Success Magazine website but I found the next best things. One was an article written by Sally Deneen in January of 2009 titled: “Making a Difference – Invisible Children“  .  There’s also a great video in Success Magazine’s Video Library called “Invisible Children“.  It’s a great short video and well worth the time to watch.

As you will see by reading & watching the video, these 3 young men started a movement.  They reached out to young Millennials just like them and showed them what was happening in Northern Uganda and what they wanted to do to change it.  These 3 young men wanted to rebuild the schools in war torn Uganda to give the children a fighting chance.  And their Millennial peers across the US heard the call and put their collective support behind them.  Since 2003, these 3 Millennials have gone from embarking on a youthful adventure on another continent  to starting a non-profit organization that has raised millions for their cause AND just this past May, they were influential in passing a bill in the House of Representatives called the LRA Disarmament & Uganda Recovery Act.

Not too shabby, wouldn’t you say?  In the video that’s on the Success Magazine site, I love what Jolly Okot,  Country Director in Uganda says about who is raising the money for this effort.  She says ” It’s young people like you who are raising the money… not the big people”.  I love that quote.  It’s the young, not the big people.

As I listened to the CD in my car, I felt such pride for this generation.  They have such a powerful way of using their collective strength for good.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much more innovative and productive corporations could be today if they just tapped a small piece of the talent that their Millennial employees have and are dying to deploy.  I also worried that so many corporations would ultimately lose out on the best talent because they are failing to see it, to tap it, to inspire it and grow it NOW.  Millennials are not afraid to go elsewhere & usually it’s to start their own companies or in this case, their own non-profits.

Darren asked these 3 amazing Millennials to give organizations advice on how to tap the Millennials that worked for them.  They gave some wonderful advice that I want to share with you because it goes to the heart of what leaders need to do to engage & retain the Millennials.  I don’t remember which of the 3 Millennials said it but he mentioned the Triple Bottom Line. To engage Millennials,   corporations need to focus on Profits, People & the Planet.  Too often, corporations just focus on the first and almost to the detriment of the last two.

Other advice:  

  1. For leaders to swallow the fear.  Let the Millennials go where they think they should go.  I couldn’t agree more.  At first, I was afraid to trust the Millennials because their approach was different than mine.  But I slowly discovered that by blending their unique insights with my experience created a win-win situation and sparked creativity and innovation in ways that would have never been discovered if I had not chosen to let go of the fear & just experiment.
  2. Show  Millennials how they affect the Mission statement.  Connect the dots for them.  This is so true.  Most leaders never spend time with their staff showing them directly how they affect the business.  That’s why most employees have no clue of the strategic direction their company is taking & how they contribute to it or not.  Every year, after we completed the IT Strategic Plan, I would convene my team & share the plan with them & how it fit within the bigger corporate plan.  Then I would individually show them how each one of their projects contributed to the IT plan & the bigger plan.  This was illuminating not only for the Millennials but for all the generations that made up my team.  There’s nothing more rewarding than to see how you affect the bigger picture.
  3. Value the impossible.  I love that.  I think that is sorely missing from most corporations today.  We just play the safe bet. We stay only in the realm of what we think is possible.  That’s a recipe for mediocrity.  These 3 Millennials at such an early age understand that there is value in trying what has not been done.  Experiment & try the impossible.
  4. Take on a cause.  Millennials are hard wired for it and they look to their leaders to be part of a cause.  Pick one and get them involved.  You will see amazing results & your “cool factor” will go up as well.

So if you are spending a lot of time complaining about the Millennials in your team and how lazy & ineffective they are,  maybe it’s just because they are not inspired to do anything better.  Because when they are inspired, look out!  The sky’s the limit.  Just look at what these young men have accomplished in a short time. 

So what you?  What are you doing to inspire engagement & involvement & innovation in the Millennials in your team?