Managing Millennials, why you suck at it!

managing millennials The problem is not them, it’s you!
Having built, trained and consulted with 20 different sales teams and hundreds of inside sales and outside sales people throughout my career. One of the biggest challenges my clients bring to me surrounds the hiring, training, and retention of first time sales people. In many cases they are referred to as “managing millennials”. Additionally when my clients bring it up it includes an “eye-roll” and tone of voice indicating a negative connotation.

Boomers and Gen-X Complain About Managing Millennials
There are tons of articles about “why” Millennials feel entitled. They have been coddled, spoiled, and given participation trophies out the wazoo. What I do not see enough of is practical and strong advice, guidelines, or tools to actually help a sales manager solve the real problem of managing Millennials.

Frankly I see and hear a lot of bitching and complaining by Boomers and Gen-X when it comes to managing Millennials. As a Gen-Xer myself here is my advice to my peers. Get over it! It’s not their fault you cannot manage them! In fact everyone is spending so much time on the stereotype they are not paying attention to the real topic which is “How do I become a better and more effective at managing millennials?”

If you cannot manage people, that is your fault, your problem, and your responsibility to fix. Boomers and Gen-X are officially becoming the old guard and we are just a few years away from yelling “Get off my lawn you rascally kids!”

If your company is unwilling to provide resources for your professional sales management growth, then perhaps the problem is bigger than generational, perhaps it’s institutional within your organization and you will always continue to struggle.

Managing Millennials: Entrepreneurial by Nature and Nurture
From my view point and experiences the millennials have been engrained with the entrepreneurial skills that many Boomers and Gen-X wish they had gotten but because of our background many did not.

I wonder if someone thought Bill Gates or Steve Jobs felt “entitled”? How about Warren Buffet or George Washington Carver, P.Diddy and yes, even the Kardashians? Well, ok, but really is it their fault they created something out of nothing or is it our fault for paying attention? One thing these people all had in common was the ability to see dream and make that dream a reality.

The parents of the Millennials did right by them to foster their wide-eyed, optimistic, anything is possible attitude. They taught them to dream big and go for it! For others they were able to figure it out for themselves. In either case it’s time for us Boomers and Gen-X to quit the whining and jealousy driven responses to them and start managing. By the way, all that micro-managing crap of dials and talk time you’ve been able to get away with won’t work so well with crop of sales people.

I want a goose that lays a golden egg, RIGHT NOW!
So you have a Veruca Salt? More specifically the question I get is “How do you manage a rep who has only been here six months that is demanding a promotion?”

Assuming this sales person has the right baseline of skills and is performing at acceptable levels then my response is this: “Well, what is she missing as a sales rep in your mind that is preventing you from giving her the promotion now? And more importantly, what are you doing to help this person fill those gaps?”

Both you and the person in question need to do this independently of each other focusing on strength and weaknesses. Additionally you should focus on all strengths at the same time and weaknesses at the same time. Trying to do both at the same time typically leads to “writers’ block” and a stronger focus on negative aspects.

Step 1: Write it down on paper

  • Accomplishments since working at the company
  • Positive skills for their current job
  • Positive skills for the job they want.
  • Strengths of the person being managed in general
  • Strengths of the person being managed based on their desires.
  • Their misses since joining the organization
  • Weaknesses of the person being managed in general
  • Weaknesses of the person being managed based on their desires.
  • Missing skills for the current job.
  • Mssing skills for the job they want.

Step 2: Meet with the salesperson in question

  • Compare notes over 2-3 days and come to consensus on what strengths and weaknesses.

Step 3: Then as the manager you should do the following:

  • Create a list of activities you would want them to accomplish that will help them bridge the gap.
  • Create a timeline for these activities.
  • Create a reward for completing the activities every step of the way including the promotion. (Yes, you have to do this)
  • Confirm with them verbally should they not follow through then it will be on them, not you.

Let’s face it, there is no secret sauce or magic potion to managing millennials. It requires work, creative thinking, communication, and execution. As managers we all know we cannot save everyone, but if we put the effort into grooming our teams, then those that rise to the occasion will be rewarded along with you. Whether you like it or not, there is going to be a massive shortage of people in the workforce in the coming years and the managing millennials will be in full-force. If you do not plan on adapting, you can planning on failing.

The topic of managing millennials has many facets. Stay tuned for other posts surrounding this topic. If you still want help managing millennials, contact us,  happy to share ideas and best practices.


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