For anyone who has read my book or any of my blogs, you know I often talk about English being a living language. Words take on different meanings at different points in history. Maybe the simplest example is “Googling” something. Who would’ve ever thought?
In a recent conversation with a very successful business leader who attracts and retains Millennials extremely well, I had a bit of a “Eureka!” moment. He was talking about this generation’s need for instant gratification. I often hear leaders talk about, and be very frustrated by, the need for instant gratification among their Millennial cohort.
It really hit me during this conversation that words matter. Nearly every Millennial I have ever spoken with is offended by the thought of instant gratification. However, when I talk to them about receiving “real-time feedback,” they are completely on board.
If we substitute “instant gratification” for the term “real-time feedback,” then we end up at the same place. What previous generations referred to as instant gratification, Millennials are requesting as real-time feedback. It is a matter of verbiage and perspective. Words matter.
Instant gratification can be insulting while real-time feedback is viewed as valuable. In my book, I talk about feedback and how previous generations lived in a “no news is good news” environment. There was no such thing as real-time feedback.
Also, other generations look at feedback purely and simply as constructive criticism. This is not the definition of feedback. Feedback is both positive and developmental. Other generations never received the positive and have a difficult time giving it since it was never modeled for them along the way.
Maybe that is why we (Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers) look at the need for feedback as a need for instant gratification. There is a difference. Feedback should allow for growth and quick course corrections. Instant gratification is the myth that everyone wants the trophies for simply participating.
Words do matter. Here is a little piece of homework: The next time you talk about instant gratification, use the words “real-time feedback” instead. See if that makes a difference. I am wagering that, “This generation wants instant gratification,” sounds a lot like, “This generation wants real-time feedback.” The former is a myth and the latter is 21st-century leadership.