Millennials - Capacity Building (Part 2)

by Iñaki Alvarez

June 15, 2017

Millennials - Capacity Building (Part 2)

Today, let’s begin with a word or two on "Passion," as well as some thoughts on millennials and their unique challenges.

Passion is a word that is used a lot today. And it is definitely a good thing. I like to think that I have a lot of passion, myself. However in our event management business, if passion is all you have, then it would be best if you bought a ticket and watched from the stands. The kind of passion we really need is one that contributes to value. That leads to action and results. As with knowledge, passion must be converted into reality.

I have also heard it said once or twice from persons in leadership positions: “Don’t let your passion get in the way of your work.” I was not sure what they meant by that. And certainly in watching the reactions, I could tell that the recipients were, at a minimum, confused. Passion is something that has to be cultivated. Sometimes it has to be better directed, but it always needs to be nurtured. Passion is one of the building blocks of company culture, one of the greatest assets of any organization.

With respect to millennials, research tells us that they are "parented like they are very special,” that they are addicted to technology, and that they are “entitled,” and “impatient – expecting instant gratification.” I can tell you that there have been times where I have struggled with the “Me, Me, Me Generation.” It’s not easy to try and understand how best to communicate with them, and how best to get the most out of them (i.e. build capacity). But it is easy to call their behavior selfish. However, I have found that conclusion to be largely unfair and inaccurate. After all, “selfish” is a characterization that can be said of all of us to some extent — regardless of our generation.

To illustrate, let us take for example the Legacy programs that we implemented as part of our overall event delivery model. These legacy programs included teaching local event groups and helping them to enhance professionalism and build capacity. At first we were met with a lot of resistance from the millennial components of our team. And to be fair, the programs added quite a bit of extra work to days that were already very long. Tensions rose to the point that I had one member of my team—a millennial—say to me, “Why are we doing this? Won’t the event suffer by stretching our resources so thin?”

The bluntness of the statement took me aback. My generation would never dream of voicing anything so undermining. We are used to soldiering on with the information we have. But then another thought struck me, attitude reflects leadership. This team was used to arriving in a location, doing the event, and leaving as quickly as possible. They had also probably been told to control their passions on several occasions. So spending extra time and energy on legacy programs was probably seen as a type of community service or busy work to them.

After taking a breath, I decided to use a different tactic. I sat down with my team and explained the rationales and long-term goals for the programs in detail. I answered their questions, and had an honest conversation with them. It was then that things started to change.

What could have previously been described as a borderline hostile/robotic work environment, turned into a pleasant and exciting, forward-thinking innovative team. They were now excited and happy to give back and train people. They let their passion for sport and excellence take over, leading them to creating a true, lasting legacy for those they worked with.

What I came to understand about millennials, is that they want to know how they fit into the project, and how their role affects every other. For them, the most important thing was to understand the big picture so they could better participate and be more involved. And that is a sentiment, which in retrospect, may not be a selfish quality at all. Moving forward, I began to center our team meetings around the questions: why are we doing this, what are the objectives, what is the vision, how do we fit in, what is my part, etc.

I can tell you that once we explained the importance of teaching self-reliance in creating win-win situations for all, almost immediately, I could see reciprocating changes in attitude and cooperation. Once we made the emotional connections, there was nothing that we could not do.

Thank you for listening.

Please feel free to comment or reach out.

In his most recent role, Iñaki served as Director of Operations for CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Football Federations), one of the six confederations under FIFA. In this role, Iñaki was responsible for the delivery of all the confederation events including the annual Congress, the bi-annual Gold Cup, as well as most recently the Copa America Centenario. Before joining CONCACAF, Iñaki was with FIFA for 10 years where he held the dual roles of Deputy Director for the Competitions Division and Head of Event Management. The one consistent theme going across most if not all of Iñaki’s experiences is that he has become not just a stadium expert, but also an expert in helping organizations prepare to host major events.