Baling Hay with Millennials

Aaron Boggs
Aaron Boggs / January 26, 2016

Not literally of course, but if you read on it will make sense.

Baling hay for me was a rite of passage. I wasn’t raised on a farm, but I was raised around farmers. At the age of five I knew what “farmer’s mentality” meant. Baling hay embodies hard work, dedication, and accountability. At age 37, I still join a group to bale hay on Saturday morning for fun!

Leading Millennials has been the subject of many leadership authors recently. The main questions are:
  • How do I motivate someone who is different than me?
  • How do I bridge the perception gaps that exist?
  • How can I create an environment that demonstrates unity towards a common goal?
It’s not the Millennials who are the subject here. It’s you. Great leadership is adaptable, agile and articulate. Stephen Covey said, “Leadership is communicating others’ worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”

Over the course of the last five years, I have had the great opportunity to lead people of all ages. Many of them are extremely talented and energetic Millennials. Through success and failure alike, I have learned a concept I call “baling hay with them.”

Here are three ways to bale hay with your Millennials:

1. Be an authentic leader.

There are two traits of authentic leaders: the personal and the social.

Authentic personal traits consist of self-awareness, knowing your values and convictions, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and exhibiting behaviors that are consistent with your core passions. Most CEOs and business leaders rarely struggle with these traits. It’s how you got where you are.

The social traits of authentic leadership are where we need to self-reflect. The authentic social traits are as follows:
  • Understanding others and the context in which we are operating
  • Manifesting our confidence and authority with an open courage and conviction
  • Being in tune with the personal goals of others
  • Engaging in open dialogue in pursuit of a common goal
My lesson from baling hay is simply to be who you are. Millennials are smart and can sniff out if you’re trying too hard to relate. Last summer I was trying to sling the bales just like my buddies. Standing on the wagon I felt my competitive nature kicking in. I loaded up to toss the 80 lb. bale to my friend standing at the back of the wagon, and before I knew it I was lying on the ground with a crew standing over me laughing hysterically.


And sometimes, authentic leadership takes a leap of faith.

2. Share your story with them.

In his book, Lead with a Story, Paul Smith shares that Procter & Gamble created an actual position called Corporate Story Teller. Every month he would write a story for his colleagues.

He named his main character Earnest Engineer. In the story, readers got to see and follow along as Earnest learned something. It included dialogue between Earnest and his boss and peers, and it always concluded with the lesson learned.

Your journey of how you learned the things you now know are wrapped in real and engaging stories. Millennials were raised in a social media crazed world. To catch their attention, simply tell your story. They will glean from your story lessons that are less abrasive than a finger pointing “just do it” mentality.

At the heart of every successful relationship with Millennials is a passion to learn. To transform our organization we often need to disciple the disciples. This allows for an open environment where we answer the questions of “why."

My lesson from baling hay comes from Jimmy Adkins. Jimmy is the one who gave me gloves to wear and told me a story of why I would want to wear them. He is the one who put his hand on my shoulder and told me the story of why he learned to bend his legs when he tossed the bale. When the younger and the older work together, wisdom leaves a legacy.


3. Invite them to drive the tractor.

Millennials love being creative and feeling as though their work is meaningful. At RevLocal, we invite every employee to participate in the R&D process. We call this The Sandbox. If you want your employees to feel as though their work has purpose, craft a way for ideas to flow.

There is no shortage of identifying problems in any organization. Who do you lean on to create solutions? When Millennials see their ideas come to fruition, you will find they engage more in supporting company goals and growth.

I believe that everyone has a unique skill. When you embrace the unique skills of your employees and align them properly for a common cause, they will naturally have a strong buy-in. The reward is that they can see the purposeful evidence of their involvement.

My lesson from baling hay is to let them drive the tractor every once in a while. Driving the tractor takes a steady foot, a keen sense of awareness and the ability to listen. Whoever is driving the tractor had to start somewhere. Millennials are motivated by having their fingerprints on something. Harness the power of the talent you have and let them drive the tractor this time out.

Want to hear more from Aaron? Join us on Wednesday, February 17th at 2:00 PM EST for our free webinar, 5 Secrets for Generating Online Reviews. During this webinar, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about online reviews and how to build a successful review marketing strategy.

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