“Entitled and narcissistic” or “idealistic and purpose driven?” Regardless of your view of millennials, they are 80 million strong and now the largest segment within the U.S. workforce; this generation can no longer be ignored. Sales leaders with an eye to the future will not only acknowledge and accommodate millennials, they will seek out ways to inspire and enable them for maximum contribution and results. Consider these tips for getting the most out of the millennials on your team:
1. Respect – This is a generation of people who were respected and listened to as children; they will accept nothing less as adults. Whereas no generation has ever enjoyed the “drill sergeant” management style, millennials simply will not accept it. Nor do they buy into the concept of “low man on the totem pole” as a rationalization for disrespect or lack of consideration for members of the team with lesser seniority.
So what does respect look like on your sales team? As with the cultivation of any productive relationship, it begins with listening – to understand the needs, motivations and insights of millennials, and also to learn from them. This is a generation of digital natives and exceptional networkers, and a reverse mentoring program is an ideal way to tap into and share their valuable insights.
Another important demonstration of respect is sharing with team members the purpose, benefit and role of their actions relative to the larger picture and long-term prosperity of the organization. Millennials have a very strong sense of purpose, and if the work has meaning to them, they will be committed to their leader and the organization.
2. Challenge – Millennials are easily bored, craving new learning and new challenges in equal measure. Add to that the fact that they aren’t bothered by multi-tasking, and you have a formula for tremendous growth and contribution. As sales leaders, we need to make sure we are pushing all team members to their full potential for their benefit and that of the company.
3. Embrace the Team – Millennials are both comfortable and accustomed to working in teams. As sales leaders, we can leverage that dynamic not only to improve team member satisfaction and contribution, but also to enhance our own efficiency and time management by utilizing a team format to mentor, coach and train.
Forbes contributor George Brandt offers this leadership advice relative to millennials, “Don’t even try to manage Millennials. Lead them. They cannot be managed the way other generations have been managed.” The optimal management style for millennials may require a shift in both perspective and practice… but is that a bad thing? Considering the values driving them and the terrific potential associated with the millennial mindset, it suggests a very bright future for the sales leaders and organizations that harness the strength and potential of this generation.