The Most Effective Way to Lead Generation Z

Just when you thought you had figured out the millennials in your organization, a new generation comes knocking at your door. Generation Z is the post-millennial generation and is loosely defined as those born after 1998.

Leaders will be working with Gen Z sooner than they might think—75 percent of the 2025 workplace will be made up of both millennials and Generation Z.

In addition, 62 percent of Gen Z anticipates challenges working with Baby Boomers and Generation X versus only 5 percent that anticipates challenges working with millennials.

Leaders with a firm understanding of the expectations and preferences of emerging generations will be well-equipped to lead, engage and develop the next generation of talent.

Because information is disseminated so widely in today’s age of information, Generation Z doesn’t consider parents or teachers as the authority, but rather views the internet as the authority. Gen Z fact checks their teachers and parents in real-time on their smartphones, and it represents a clear shift in authority.

Having access to an internet-enabled supercomputer in the palm of their hands for most their lives has caused Generation Z to problem-solve much differently than in previous generations. They have become extremely resourceful and efficient at using the web to find and/or crowdsource the answers they need.

Generation Z will turn to Google, YouTube or Alexa for answers before seeking council from their future managers. In turn, managers must adjust their approach and serve as guides when coaching Gen Z through their self-directed learning, mistakes and successes.


Why Coaching Is the Best Leadership Style for Gen Z

Coaching is the leadership style that resonates best with Generation Z, who were raised in organized activities where they were consistently surrounded by coaches. They view coaching as the necessary supplement to their DIY work mentality.

Coaching prompts introspection where Generation Z must turn inward to discover the right answer. This self-reflection and self-evaluation process allows Gen Z to become more productive and dependent because they can apply their self-discovered solutions to the similar situations they encounter in the future.

Coaching is also effective because it creates greater buy-in since the Gen Z-employee is arriving at the solution either individually or collectively with the coach.


How to Coach Generation Z

The most effective coaching happens when leaders prioritize curiosity over instruction. Resist the urge to give advice and give in to asking more questions. Be curious and follow these three steps to coach Generation Z to their full potential.

1. Be timely.

The closer coaching happens to the activity or learning, the better. Impact and transformation diminishes as time grows between the coaching opportunity and the act of coaching. To ensure the best results, enable timely coaching by leveraging tools like Slack,15Five or Loop, or by increasing the cadence of the coaching sessions.

AT&T recently ended their annual and midyear review processes in favor of equipping managers with Loop so that they can provide employees with more timely coaching. The elimination of the formal review process has enabled AT&T managers more time and freedom to coach their employees.

2. Be inquisitive.

Asking questions is what makes coaching so transformational. But asking the right questions that elicit the appropriate self-evaluation can be difficult and time-consuming.

Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, has identified a list of powerful coaching questions. The next time you are coaching Gen Z, use these sequential questions to evoke responses and spur growth.

1. What’s on your mind?
2. And what else?
3. What’s the real challenge for you here?
4. How can I help you?
5. What was most useful or valuable for you here?

If you're at a loss of what to ask as a coach, use the simple phrase, “Tell me more."

3. Be brief.

Stanier believes effective coaching can be done in 10 minutes or less. Brief interactions are important to Generation Z. In fact, 67 percent of Generation Z is comfortable with having their manager check in with them, but only for five minutes or less.

Tackling one specific topic or challenge instead of covering multiple topics or projects will help keep the coaching sessions brief. Set a timer, have a walking or standing meeting, or schedule only 10 minutes for the coaching conversation.

Practice these three coaching steps with your Generation Z workforce and be rewarded with a more engaged, developed and loyal team.

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Ryan Jenkins is a millennial and Generation Z speaker who helps organizations better lead, engage and sell to the emerging generations. He is the author of The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work, and also a partner of 21Mill.com, an online microlearning platform built to help millennials succeed in the workplace.