in Learning and Development, Self-Improvement

This article is part one of a seven part series on my perspective on building teams. You can read the rest of the series on my blog at  While I’m sharing anonymous examples of situations based on real experiences, the series should not be construed as an attack or disparagement on any specific organization I’m involved with, but rather as a list of my thoughts on how to improve teams in general. I look forward to your constructive criticisms and thoughts.

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Skype ProfileI’m thirty years old. That means I’ve been around long enough to have a long line of examples of how to behave and how not to behave, but not long enough to see just how bad an entire generation of people can get if they don’t try to improve themselves daily.

As a thirty year old, I’m classified as a millennial. I’ve read very few articles or books that speak well of millennials and give me reason to be proud of the broad categorization of young adults who were born between about 1980 and 2000. I will add that there have been a few that have been spot on and hit me right in the middle of my belief system. According to the Pew Research Center (, I rate 51 on a scale of 0 to 100 percent “millennial.” I’d say that makes me pretty old school.

At scale, millennials seem to be doing things quite differently from so many generations before. How we view religion, relationships, government, politics, sex and marriage appears to, on the face, be new and confounded by a newly emerging global society. However, there is nothing new under the sun. That which has been done in the past will be done again and that which we do today has been done in the past. A large difference between the past and the present, is that we don’t seem to care who knows it. We have the internet, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Instagram and a whole host of other venues through which to share our opinions and give the illusion of activism and involvement in society. Yet, when the knock comes at the door, it’s hard for many to actually step outside and take ownership of what they believe in. Then, for many of those that do stand up for it – they may not know why they believe the way they do.

bible-openI’ll admit that I stand on the front lines of folks who have very strong beliefs but don’t always know exactly why. I mean, many of my religious beliefs come from what I read in my Bible, and my upbringing and personal conviction is that the Bible is 100% inerrant and holds no contradictions. Therefore, anything that it says that appears to contradict itself is a mis-reading and requires more study. Anything where it contradicts my life or beliefs is pointing out an error in my beliefs. That can be a tough pill to swallow many times. However the important thing to note is that no human on Earth today is perfect, and thereby we all have room to grow and should be striving for that daily, regardless of which specific truths we believe in or what beliefs we hold up in our lives.

Largely, today’s millennials are labelled according to two primary activities – the ones who are buried in their phones and technology and the ones who are rioting and requiring handouts. While it’s true that there are many who believe and behave this way, it gives the rest of us a bad name. In an article about European millennials, Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman wrote, “every generation has its measure of outcasts. However, it doesn’t happen often that the plight of being outcast may stretch to embrace a whole generation.”

A good thing about being a millennial, however is that I’m one of the last in a large crowd of folks who were taught cursive in school, who had to do math on paper, who were trained to read books and perform research using printed encyclopedias. I also got to watch the internet unfold and learn about technology as it grew, allowing me to see the real benefits before the heavy stream of lies, deceptions and threat of hacking and loss of privacy took over and scared the older generations away from the information superhighway. Nothing against them, though, these are legitimate reasons to be suspicious, and many of the older folks know very well what it’s like to live with very little material possessions and many had to start over from scratch during our nation’s darker days. The point I wish to make is that just because there’s a threat of misuse doesn’t mean the new ways have to be discarded entirely.

Just as there are new ways to use technology, there are new ways to build and develop teams. There are new ideas coming out of this millennial generation that completely blow out of the water many ‘truths’ held by previous generations. The idea that we must wear a suit and tie in order to be taken seriously, the notion that we require massive cubicle farms to house the workforce, the thinking that got us here — this thinking is not going to get us any further that this place. It is only new ideas which will help us grow, it is only improvement upon the past that gets us progress. We can take some of the old things and keep them, but we must change something in order to remain relevant.

In the next article, I’ll begin painting a picture of how teams tend to operate when left to their own devices, and will describe a few things that can be focused on as opportunities for improvement.