Dear Boss, Let’s Try This

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    Get ready because they’re coming. Not only the Millennial generation, but their ideas. Thoughts about how to do things better, thoughts about incorporating new technology, crazy ideas with no grounding in past success or industry-wide best practices.

    These folks want to make an impact – that’s why they’re working for your non-profit – and they have ideas for how to make it happen.

    The upside is that you need new ideas. That’s right, if you keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, your organization will stagnate and eventually die.

    The downside, however, is that there’s work involved in vetting ideas. Because let’s face it, some of the ideas your Millennial staffers bring to you will be good, some of them won’t.

    But that’s why you’re in the position you are! You’re the boss because of your experience and good judgment.

    I’m not here to tell you which ideas are good or bad for your organization. But, I do have some advice for listening to Millennials so they feel comfortable continuing to bring ideas your way. Remember, you need ideas.

    This approach will also keep them engaged with their work. Want employees who care? Want them to be proactive? Learn how to receive ideas. Even from people younger and less experienced than you.

    Here are four easy steps:

    1.  Listen to the full idea before shutting it down. Don’t interrupt in the middle with a dismissive, “No, that will never work.”

    2.   Remember that ideas beget other ideas. Even if the entirety of the idea isn’t exactly right, there might be some piece of it that is brilliant. After listening to the idea, point out the thing you like best about it. See if you can build on it. If it’s entirely dreadful, just go with, “first of all, I can tell you’ve given this some serious thought and I want you to know that I appreciate that.”

    3.  Don’t feel pressured to make a decision right away. There’s a vast ocean between “yes and “no,” including:
    •  Let me think about it
    •  Research this part and come back to me
    •  Present this at this next meeting and we’ll talk about it as a group

    4.  Be honest about aspects of it that give you pause. And give your staff member and opportunity to respond to your concerns. Maybe they’ve already thought them through.

    5.  Give credit where credit is due. If your Millennial staffer brings you an idea and you run with it, make sure to acknowledge where it came from.

    If you follow these steps, you’ll be a lot more likely to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of the Millennials on your team. Ignore these steps and you’ll lose people. They’ll get bored with their jobs, spend more time at work checking Instagram, and eventually leave for a place where they feel valued.

    One final thought: If a nonprofit organization is to survive over the long term, there must be a cadre of younger staffers in the learning/growth process who will be able to effectively replace the older staffers when they move on !!

    Next Week Tony Poderis offers the first of a two-part impassioned discussion as to, “Who should be raising the money for nonprofit organizations.”

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    K. Michael Johnson is a major gift officer at a large research university
    and the founder of Fearless-Fundraising.com .
    You can contact him at K. Michael Johnson.
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    Have you seen
    The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??

    They’re easy to read, to the point, and inexpensive ($1.99 – $4.99)
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