I lead a young team.
When the WE Day senior leadership team gets together for our first planning session of the season, sitting in a second-floor glass-walled boardroom, nearly everyone around the table is a millennial.
The generation that we're told is lazy and entitled, the generation that supposedly doesn't believe in company hierarchy and confounds bosses, the generation that many assume is self-interested and tough to manage, organize 17 stadium-sized youth empowerment events reaching more than 200,000 young people in three countries. They work with world leaders and leading celebrities to inspire young people. They negotiate major contracts with sponsors, allowing companies who care to give back. They create educational and inspirational content that changes lives.
I've come to know millennials as problem solvers.
Writers and consultants around the world would have you believe they are problems to be solved.
The characterization of this generation has become so common, it has a name. Simon Sinek dubbed it The Millennial Question and it goes something like this: what do young workers want and how can we support them to make the biggest impact in the workplace?
To a large degree, that is my job.
I advocate for my team. I guide my team. I make sure my team of more than 75 millennials has everything they need to succeed.
A few weeks ago, my alma-matter asked me to reflect on my 15 years leading a young workforce for Trent Magazine.
My biggest takeaway: motivation matters.
Studies have shown that an increasing number of young people want to do well in the workplace while doing good in the world. They want a deep personal connection with their work.
More than that, though, I've found that my team want a deep connection with every decision that's made. They want context. They want to understand the vision and strategy. That want to see how everything we do contributes to our larger goal of changing the world.
This lesson guides my relationship with my team—but it has power beyond the office as well.
Millennial workers want a connection with their job; even younger change-makers want a connection with their cause. With more families getting involved with WE, I've seen this at work around dinner tables, at charity bake sales and in clothing drives throughout the country, as parents look for powerful ways to motivate their children.
WE Families helps bring families closer together while giving back to their community. It's for parents who want to bring compassion into their homes and find ways, both big and small, to contribute to something larger. Raising caring, empathetic children is something every parent wants, but I've spoken with many who struggle with how to start. Think of it as the parent's version of the millennial question: how do you get children more interested in screens than service to think of others first?
There are families around Canada who have found a way. And their success comes down to the same thing that I use with my team. At WE, pay and perks matter—but a connection to the impact of our work matters more. For young people, a sense of doing good is important, but understanding the need behind their efforts is even more powerful.
That is the lesson embodied in Isabella Layegh's journey to young change-maker. The Grade 7 student grew up on stories of her father's experiences in Iran. Now living in Vancouver, she remembers driving through the city, seeing suffering on the streets and making the instant connection with her father's own story. Those early experiences led to long conversations about poverty, homelessness and marginalization with her parents around their dinner table. Soon, she was organizing schoolwide food drives and raising awareness about those in need with the help of her parents.
The New Year is the time to set intentions for ourselves and our families. To start your journey as a WE Family of change makers, begin the year by focusing on motivation and help your children better understand their impact. For my part, I'll be starting the New Year by helping my staff reconnect with everything WE does.
That way, my team is motivated to keep changing lives—while the young people in your life can discover powerful reasons to give back.