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on Leading the Next Generation


8 Terms to Understand Generation Y

I know, I know. One minute you think you’ve figured out this new generation of kids and the next, you feel you’re on a learning curve again. I get to spend a lot of time with university students these days and I’m amazed at one thing. The world they live in has produced a generational mindset — a shared paradigm — if you will.

Need a crash course in understanding this generation? Just look at the world the adults have created for them and you begin to get it. While I unpacked this in greater detail in my book, Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, let me summarize it in 8 short phrases. I bounced this little set of phrases off of students and they said: That’s me! If you are from Generation Y… see what you think of this summary:

1. Hear me out.
These young adults have had a say in how things go since they were 5. They expect to express themselves, to upload, vote, blog, or update, and they believe they’ll be heard.

2. Keep it real.
The only thing worse than being uncool is being unreal. They demand authenticity. Anything that smells “plastic” is a turn-off. They value genuine people and leaders.

3. Let’s have fun.
They believe work and fun can be combined; they don’t want to separate the two. In fact, they may stop working midday to have fun and work again at midnight. It’s a continuum.

4. My way now.
They’ve not heard the word “no” very often growing up. As a student or new employee, they expect to get their way, and don’t see why adults can’t understand their perspective.

5. Make it count.
They want to do things that matter. Meaning is as important as money at work. They don’t think small. They like projects that are very important and almost impossible.

6. Let me know.
They’re used to constant feedback. They got trophies on teams just for showing up. They got lots of kudos from parents for years, and today want it instantly from their leaders.

7. Plug me in.
You already know this. They’re a connected generation. They can’t imagine a day without constant connection with friends. Technology is an appendage of their bodies.

8. Just do it.
Words that describe their world are immediacy and convenience. They’re not prone to waste a lot of time with committee red tape or protocol. Stuff should happen fast.

Your thoughts?



  1. Lynn Soss on December 1, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Agree, especially with number 8. There is a dying world out there needing to be saved. If someone comes up with an idea to help a large goup of people, why is it so difficult to implement…? Organizations need to find ways to streamline approval processes for ideas which come from outside the organizational structure.

  2. Jonathan Kemner on December 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    AMEN! If your not genuine they will know.. be yourself

  3. Tim Elmore on December 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Jonathan and Lynn — This generation definitely needs people who are real with them and for you to be yourself around them. And this generation takes initiative to do things. They like to be apart of what’s going on. Thank you for your responses and input!

  4. MultitaskMumma on December 1, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Fantastic.. instead of writing about what the generation is missing you hit 8 KEY points of what the generation NEEDS to succeed, and with those key points they will!! We have created this generation, they didn’t just appear out of no where!! thank you for another FANTASTIC read!!

  5. Tyshan Broden on December 2, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    This is very true, definitely saw myself in all 8 of these. Its funny I went to a conference called Rejuvenate and they had a speaker that talks about generation Y and goes more indepth on why Gen Y is the way we are. It has alot to do with how our parents raised us. Craziness…

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8 Terms to Understand Generation Y