I’m a Gen X guy working for Boomers in a Millennial dominated world and want to share some observations with the iGen that will be working with me in a dozen years. Today I manage a small team that consists entirely of folks from the Millennial generation. These “kids”, as I call them daily, are in their mid and late 20’s for the most part, and I am in my early 40’s. I have a few years on most of them and could actually be some of their parents, but I’m still close enough in age to appreciate most of their interests. In fact, I’m surprised how “relevant” I am considering that when I was in my 20’s I thought that folks in their 40’s were OLD because they used words like “folks” in their conversations.
In my current role I am a sales leader in a technical industry. We sell IT solutions. That means we need to dissect the complex environments that we are selling into, identify our client’s problems, create solutions to those problems leveraging products from our portfolio, implement those products, and then continue building a relationship with those clients so we remain valuable to them as the lifecycle rotates. Since I have to manage the people on my team that execute this process day in and day out, I have sought advice on how to best interact with my team. Specifically, the millennials on my team. I’ll apologize in advance to Lauren Marinigh who pointed out in her blog (http://www.laurenmarinigh.com/3-reasons-millennials-shouldnt-be-getting-fired/) that many times these types of conversations take the entire generation to task instead of focusing on the handful of folks that really give credence to some of the challenges pointed out below. Also, much of this advice applies to any one of any age that isn’t doing well at their job. To that end, I’m only talking about the few of you that this applies to.
It has been said that the Millennials…
* Don’t proactively seek resources on their own and don’t always stay up to date on current industry developments
As I mentioned earlier we are in the business of executing a technical sale, and the product knowledge is something that requires time to understand and repeated exposure to fully absorb. In my particular industry, this training is available in multiple forms that are mostly self-service and I argue that it’s incumbent upon you to consume as much as you can. J.T. O’Donnell argues that “we are service providers” and the expectation for large amounts of expensive training is unreasonable. I agree that if you haven’t first at least attempted to consume the training available, and worked with your peers to sort through the things you didn’t understand or needed to clarify, you shouldn’t come knocking on my door to provide you 1 on 1 tutoring. If you sit down with me and we can create a training plan that makes sense to the business, then I am all ears. I’m not sending you off to get a PMP certification so that you can do outbound sales calls however.
* Don’t seek out a mentor
You need to find someone OUTSIDE of your organization that you trust and who has substantially more experience that can give you feedback, can provide a sounding board for your ideas, and can generally help you navigate this new environment called a job. Again, please understand that I am happy to provide you ample coaching day to day, but also understand that my coaching is incredibly biased and one sided. You work for me, and I am trying to extract value from you. By disclosing your weaknesses, concerns, and challenges at length, you are undermining yourself. If you can seek external advice and leverage a healthier mentor/mentee relationship, you can expect all of the same benefits of my coaching without the negatives.
* Work only the minimum time expected
Don’t do this.
* Aren’t very good at managing their time or paying attention to detail
You have to take the time to understand what the expected outcome of every task is. Don’t just fire an email response over the wall without understanding the question and fully understanding the answer you are providing. Don’t just pick up the phone and call/text someone the first thing that pops into your head. Take the time to be prepared to handle the full inquiry. Study what you are working on until you feel that it is perfect and then send it out for peer review. Only THEN do you send it out to the recipient. Who cares about attention to detail? Why is it important? They’re, Their There is why. If you are interacting with a professional and don’t take the time to do a basic spelling/grammar check, then why should that professional believe that you will take the time to provide the level of service they expect? Your reputation is frequently determined by how you present yourself and you may only have a few interactions in which you can do that presentation. Make each one count. Pay attention and strive for perfection in the simple things so that you can achieve it in the difficult things.
* Need to be very careful with how much rope they ask for
Flexibility is a reasonable request in your job, but there is a limit to how much you should expect. Remember that this is a job, and you’re asked to perform that job as expected. I understand that life happens and there are times you need to come in a bit late, or leave to meet the cable guy, or pickup that margarita machine for the pool party this weekend. Also understand that if I give you the leeway to knock out those errands, it’s with the expectation that you make up for it later on. I frequently tell my team that they owe me 45 hours of work each week. I don’t care which hours of the day they choose to provide them as much as I care that they commit to providing them all.
* Point out problems without offering solutions
There aren’t suggestion boxes anymore because they never hold suggestions. They only ever generate whining, complaining, and people tattle-telling on their peers without ever offering an actual suggestion. When you come to the table with a problem, also come to the table with a solution. I know it’s broke and I genuinely appreciate you pointing it out each week in our staff meeting, but if I knew the best fix it wouldn’t still be broken. Work with me here and throw out a couple ideas.
Want to know which one of your peers are succeeding? It is the ones doing the opposite of the list above. Take any one you know as an example run them backwards through the list and I am sure you will see the traits very clearly.
A few of the articles that I read as I was writing this post are below.