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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


The Currency of Generation iY


photo credit: Collin Key via photopin cc

The currency of our day has shifted, over the last ten years. This generation of students has not only grown up on-line, but with texts, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all sorts of social media outlets. When you step back and examine what they’re really after—it isn’t money. (Although money’s always nice to have, mom and dad have a supply of that already). The currency of Generation iY is much more rare.


They want someone’s ear.

Stop and look how so many young people measure themselves. It’s about friends and “Likes” on Facebook. It’s about followers on Twitter. It’s about views on YouTube. It’s about responses to blogs. It’s about the “ping” they hear every time they get a text. When it happens a squirt of dopamine flows through their system. I know students who create videos to post, not because they feel they have something to say, but in an attempt to accumulate as many viewers as possible. They crave knowing who and how many are watching and listening to them. They may hate to admit it, but the stuff they really want to earn—more than cash—is attention from others.

So, can you spend that currency on them?

As a caring adult, you will earn the right to be heard by them if you’ll take the time to listen to them. I think 50% of leading students is about listening and showing empathy to their ideas, their feelings and their dreams. When we demonstrate we’re willing to really hear them, we put change in our pockets. Emotional change. Credibility. Then, when we need to be heard by them, we have a far better chance because we’ve spoken their “love language.” We have used the currency they value most. We have given them what is rare. With so many messages flying around today, getting someone’s attention is extra hard. Herbert Simon once said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Today—go give some student your undivided attention.


  1. Jake Sumner on November 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

    This is a great post – attention comes at a premium for this generation.

  2. Randell Mark Olson on November 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Great Post Tim,
    Too often we try to offer the next generation what we think they want (usually what we want for them) The best way for us to influence the next generation is to start by listening to them.

    Good Stuff!

    • Tim Elmore on November 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks, Randell. Listening goes a long way.

  3. Joseph Lalonde on November 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Tim, you’ve got this nailed. Working with our youth students, my wife and I have discovered there’s such a longing for attention. They don’t get it at home, at school, or in many other places. If we want them to respond, we need to give them our attention.

    • Tim Elmore on November 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      Attention definitely builds a bridge. Glad you’re applying that with students you work with!

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The Currency of Generation iY