I love working with students. I believe in this next generation of kids–the ones born between 1984 and 2002. Whatever you choose to call them, Millennials, Generation Y, the Digital Generation, their sheer size and demographic are destined to transform our culture, as they become adults. Social scientists believe they will be the largest generation in American history, somewhere between 80-100 million strong.
As I work with teachers, administrators, coaches, youth pastors and employers who lead these young people, however, they eventually say something like this: “I don’t know whether to hug ’em or hit ’em! I can see the potential inside of them, but they come across so brash and arrogant sometimes. How do I lead them?”
One employer told me he was absolutely impressed with the resume and extra-curricular activities of a recent graduate who came to interview for him. He hired her, but within weeks let her go. She became toxic to the rest of the team. Attitudes are contagious. Even though she was qualified for the job, her self-absorbed demeanor made it too expensive to keep her on staff.
So, what do we do with these young people: encourage them or scold them? The answer may be both. In my mind, I summarize my work with them by the words: Groom the gift, tame the ‘tude. We need to support the gifts inside of them and fan them into flame with encouragement and support. However, simultaneously, we must tame their attitudes so they don’t sabotage themselves along the way. In the words of one of our Habitudes–they often have an “Oversized Gift.” The gift they offer is bigger than they are, and their self-conceit over it can harm them. They’ve been able to wing it with their natural abilities or tech savvy ways, and may have failed to develop the humility and people skills that will keep them “in the game.” (See Habitudes, Book One at: www.Habitudes.org.)
Give it a shot this week. Groom the gift but tame the ‘tude. Earn your right to speak words of truth by encouraging their talent, but warn them about attitudes that can be a turn-off. Build a bridge of relationship that can bear the weight of truth. Just a thought.