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ATD Blog

Harnessing the Power of Millennials

Friday, April 23, 2021

As a leadership coach, I believe that the “best is yet to come” for millennials interested in proactively pursuing career (leadership) development. Embedded in this argument is the need to adapt and embrace new behaviors and ways of working to ensure continued success. After all, we are dealing with a moving target that requires adaptability, flexibility, and agility, for example, as key competencies to learn to effectively perform in our highly dynamic global world.

Millennials are learning that their biggest challenge is to learn how to operate with a collaborative mindset. Why? Changing and developing a new mindset is not easy, and it takes time. For most of us, developing a new mindset must be learned due to cultural factors that are linked to promoting individual values at the expense of team values. That makes it highly unlikely that we can switch or flip mindsets, on demand, like hitting a switch.

So how do we get started? As your coach, I would probably start by asking questions that appeal to your logic or emotion—or both. These questions would be focused on helping you better understand your underlying assumptions about people and your values. Do you believe in the potential of people to add value, for example? And do you hold values that support team performance?

Once that baseline has been addressed, I would introduce you to a new collaborative leadership model and build your competence and commitment over time. Because I like to use metaphors with clients as maps to help them with their change agendas and reach their destinations, a team metaphor is embedded in the model to describe how they are expected to collaborate on teams. Here I introduce soccer as a viable metaphor because it is a fitting example of an environment in which people must effectively collaborate to be successful. This means that they produce a high level of interdependence on the field to optimize team performance, a task that is essential to your team’s ability to perform in today’s team-based global business world. Note too that the connection soccer has with millennials is real. Forbes, for example, reported that soccer has been described as “the sport of choice” for millennials in North America.


As you learn in our work together, there are several novel operating principles used in the model to describe a collaborative mindset, along with a series of essential competencies used to describe a collaborative skill set. The principles come from the game of soccer and mirror a team’s actions (behaviors) on the field; applied they demonstrate a collaborative mindset. The competencies are aligned with the operating principles and are described as essential to the successful application of a collaborative skill set.


The endgame calls for using this model to help you and your teammates function with a high level of interdependence and trust by providing a shared approach to establishing necessary principles, processes, and protocols, all of which are important aspects of effective team collaboration and performance. In fact, if your people work remotely, it is critical to leverage this framework to build and sustain trust.

Your leadership development journey is a challenge requiring your personal commitment to learning. Although it may not take you places where no one has gone before, it will be a journey on a road less traveled. As your guide, I am confident that your best is yet to come.

About the Author

Winsor Jenkins is president of Winsor Jenkins & Associates, LLC, based in Portland, Oregon. As a leader who served in senior HR positions and contributed to the professional development of countless business executives, including HR managers, Winsor brings a deep knowledge about what it takes to achieve executive-level leadership in today's changing business landscape. He is the author of The Collaborator: Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership.

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