maslow 5 - 've been lucky to work with some awesome...

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've been lucky to work with some awesome employees in their twenties. While that formative decade is long and dynamic for each person; in a companion post I've offered some observations on the differences between Generation Z and Generation After-Lehman; there are some consistencies in how best to manage and motivate excellent twenty-somethings. Younger people are especially hungry both to learn and to receive affirmation that they are doing a good job. I've found the best ones are generally much more motivated by incremental education and acknowledgement than they are by a modest bump in salary. Of course, the same qualities that make younger colleagues so responsive to the education and praise you offer may also make them susceptible to negative feedback loops, so be mindful of the context into which you toss them. The best managers of younger employees are people who would otherwise love teaching for a living. They prize helping others grow and tend to overexplain their reasoning for decisions. Rather than assuming that twenty-somethings possess enough experience or perspective to read between the lines of their choices, these managers take an extra few minutes to lay out pros and cons and diagram their rationale. Three short minutes of explanation usually make excellent junior employees excited, since they feel the immediate benefits of gaining insight into decision-making processes. It also makes them better at working for you and your company, because it teaches them how you think. Really excellent managers of really excellent young people also set up regular teaching sessions for them on different parts of the business. Top companies do rotation programs for promising younger talent. It's hard to support systematized rotation in small companies. But small companies can set up mini- workshops to expose highly promising younger employees to different parts of the company. Early investment of this kind yields payoff fast. Here are some other good ways to motivate and teach young employees: Throw them into the deep end on their first day. Excellent managers of younger people give them decision-making authority on at least one mission immediately. One very successful Silicon Valley founder is reported to make everyone in his company "CEO" of something. That's the right idea. If they don't know how to do it, tell them to figure it out. The corollary here is that you can't tolerate learned helplessness. Even very talented younger employees; maybe especially the ones who have the peculiar disadvantages of hailing from privilege;may be tempted to ask you questions they can answer themselves. Make them sort it out for themselves. If you don't, they won't improve. And if letting them solve it on their own feels like too big a risk for you, reconsider assigning the project in the first place.
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There's always another mission that can be a better fit. As the necessary last step, once they have completed the objective, give clear feedback immediately. Post-mortems are critical accelerators of their
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