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Leadership and the Millennial Generation - applying lessons learned

SKU : Leadership_and_the_Millennial_Generation_-_applying_lessons_learned

70 pages, 15k words, download PDF.

Sales Team Leadership:

Four lessons learned about leadership and the Millennial generation

The challenge

The majority of new salespeople today are from the Millennial generation. Most authorities say these are employees born between 1981 and 1996. By 2030, millennials will comprise more than 75% of the professional workforce. If your sales organization is not actively developing capacity to lead this generation, sales will suffer. While you may have excellent management talent and administration systems in place to manage sales activity, leadership ability will make the difference in success or failure of the sales teams. How do I know this? Because that is how it is with any team effort: it is the leadership that makes the difference in productivity and other positive outcomes. Leadership as I define it in my research is simply getting people to do what needs doing. Management is necessary, but management skills and systems are control elements of employee activity. It is the goal of leaders to motivate their team to do the activities that require management.

Leading millennials isn’t just “old white guys” as team leaders. It is important to consider millennials leading millennials as well. Other considerations will be included in the following such as the role extraversion vs. introversion plays and how this generation thinks about changing jobs (it is a myth that this is an unstable workforce). Understanding how these elements play a part in the total leadership experience is basic to understanding the problems, challenges, and solutions regarding attracting, motivating, rewarding, and retaining millennial employees.

The ideas in this book were developed from several sources: my own sales career, interviewing sales leaders, interviewing millennial sales team members, and organizational development research. The research is both my own and from other sources as cited. Readers will have an understanding of important lessons that come from these sources. The challenges are presented, the issues outlined, and solutions generated for the reader’s use in their own leadership role. This is not meant to be a textbook, rather a practical guide for use in the field. These are solutions you can implement mostly through your own efforts not requiring large-scale organizational change programs. In essence, the lessons learned provide the reader with a roadmap to new habits they can incorporate into their leadership practices. Just as you might want to improve your fitness by adopting exercise habits, you can improve your leadership of the millennial generation by adopting new leadership habits.

Many sales team leaders are experiencing the challenges of leading millennials in sales teams. If you are one of those leaders, perhaps the way these lessons were learned can provide you with some comfort and direction.

Section One – Millennials are not “job jumpers” by nature

A key factor in the success of a sales team is the depth of experience and knowledge of each salesperson. Time, effort, and organizational investment are how this depth is built. If salespeople do not spend long in the job, the investment in those employees is lost and the new employer benefits. This is dysfunctional. The sales team leader’s goal should be to keep the team members worth keeping. The problem often heard, though, is that the millennial generation moves from job to job quickly. Government data says otherwise ( and The range of average tenure for employees ages 25-34 was 2.8 to 3.0 years for the period 1983-96 and 2.7 to 3.2 years for the period 2008-2018.  Other age groupings show a similar pattern of little or no change over the years.

However, anecdotal data persists in supporting the idea the millennials are “job hoppers.” Here is the statistical reality: younger employees during any of the past worker generations are the most likely to “job hop.” This is not a “millennial issue” it is a “younger worker” issue. That is the first part of this section. This is not a new phenomenon. The issue is how to approach the challenge of any worker having some desire to quit. That is where millennials may differ from how earlier generations reacted to leadership. What I find is that if you shift your focus from  “that’s just the way millennials are and there isn’t anything leaders can do about the turnover of younger employees because they are millennials” to  “How can I, as their leader, keep them with the team, keeping in mind they are millennials?”, then you can succeed. That was a long sentence that I will break down into bullet points for emphasis as this is the key to having an open mind to learn this lesson:

  1. All younger employees of any generation studied had about three years of tenure on the job when interviewed.
  2. Being from the millennial generation does not imply greater “job hopping.”
  3. Being from the millennial generation may imply the reasons for changing jobs may differ from earlier generations.
  4. A leader must consider why an employee (any age!) may want to quit and address the reasons continuously to the best of their abilities and with the available resources.
  5. Thus, a leader must learn how to lead millennials in a way appropriate to that generation’s outlook and needs.

As noted, this leadership lesson can be applied to any age group, any demographic differentiation at all, and any psychographic characteristics of employee cohorts. This section is focused on keeping millennials longer than the average three years: that is the organizational win in terms of productive salespeople.

In this first section, we will spend more time than in the other sections going over the characteristics of millennials. This conversation will inform all sections, so keep track of the following list of characteristics for reference.

Table of Contents

The challenge     4

Section One – Millennials are not “job jumpers” by nature  6

Characteristics of Millennials important to leading them      8

Improvement as a Motivator  8

Growth, personal and professional  8

A sense of purpose      9

Trust 10

Being valued       10

Connectivity       11

Summary of millennial characteristics     12

Leadership and lowering the level of termination intention  13

The five leadership qualities   16

Inclusion    17

Respect     18

Rewarding  20

Improvement     22

Modeling    24

Summary of the five leadership qualities  26

The lesson learned       26

Case Studies       28

Goal setting        28

Company awards 31

Introversion and millennials   34

Section Two: Creating a flexible reward system 38

Section Three: Implementing a reverse-mentoring program        44

Summary the first three Sections   51

Section Four: The millennial is the sales team leader 52

Inclusion    55

Respect     58

Rewarding  59

Improvement     61

Modeling    61

Summary   62

Appendix    64

Changing Leadership Behaviors is Habit Forming       64

Inclusion    65

Respecting 65

Rewarding  65

Improvement     66

Modeling    66

Implementation   67

Measurement      68

References 69

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