business coaching · leadership · sales · succession planning

Millennials Are Now Your New Managers

Millennials and boomers are having a moment. They are getting into Twitters fights with each other on who is better. “Ok, boomer,” and “okay, millennial” is daily fodder. One of my favorite sketches Saturday Night Live does is a gameshow between boomers and millennials. There is even a board game called Millennials vs Boomers.

The big topic of discussion used to be how to manage millennials. The differences at work between boomers and millennials. How to manage these young bucks who don’t value all the same things as their bosses did. Millennials got a bad rap and boomers in their c-suite offices would complain about the new generation who, “just don’t get it.” Generation X is just sitting in between them saying, “you’re both a little crazy.”

I must confess that I’m a millennial. I’m a grandma millennial – the oldest possible millennial born in January of 1981. Because of how older generations spoke about millennials, I always identified with Gen X. I didn’t want to be “lazy and entitled.” I remember rotary phones, life before the internet, and sitting next to the boombox to be ready to hit “record” when my favorite song came on the Top 10 Countdown. I feel like my secret is safe with you, though.

Every generation has its issues. What makes businesses prepared for the future is to create leaders from within. While Gen X is taking over the C-suite, it is millennials that are becoming organizations’ new leaders. Instead of complaining about what millennials value and expect from work, it’s time to look at how expensive it’s going to be to lose them.

The Harvard Business Review says that the average age someone receives their first leadership promotion is age 30 and their first leadership training is age 42. (More on that gap in just a minute.) Millennials are born between 1981 (ahem) and 1996. The average age of millennial is 32. Your new managers at your company are millennials.

I specialize in the guiding the transition for people in sales to sales leadership, and talk a lot about what this next generation of leaders expects in order to stay. We don’t need to talk about how high turnover affects businesses. That most people understand. But have you thought about the leaders who directly impact your frontline workers? There is no bigger influence over someone’s success than their direct manager. In sales, these frontline leaders are the pulse of their organization. They have the biggest impact over your revenue creators, the sales force. Let’s talk about your new managers and what they expect.

85% of millennials value professional and personal development. They crave it. 71% of millennials said they will leave their company if they aren’t being developed enough. Millennials aren’t job-hoppers, but they also won’t waste time in an organization if they don’t see a path towards growth and opportunities. Boomers were okay putting in their 20 years and then getting the corner office. Millennials don’t want to wait that long.

Knowing that development is critical to the people who are now taking over the managerial ranks, you would think that companies are providing that training. I recently conducted a survey with over 150 sales leaders and they said otherwise. 88% of sales leaders said that a formalized training program was appropriate for new sales leaders. Only 44% of leaders said they got that training before receiving their leadership title. 80% of sales leaders said they got NO training after becoming a sales leader and had to learn as they go. (The Harvard Business Review said people get leadership training on average 12 years after getting into leadership so this adds up.)

Leadership succession becomes difficult if the next group of emerging leaders aren’t being prepared. 97% of my survey respondents said that mistakes would decrease if new leaders were trained better. It’s not that leaders won’t eventually figure it out. It’s about how much time and money an organization is willing to continually lose as that learning curve gets up to speed. When new leaders are trained effectively before getting promoted into leadership and during their first 90 days in leadership, they find wins faster, create a stronger foundation, and create momentum for a team that everyone is excited to be on.

Do you have an organized succession plan?

Do the next level leaders (who are now your individual contributors) know that they are being considered or groomed for leadership?

What do you base your qualifications for leadership on? How well they perform as an individual contributor? Because those skills won’t help them become effective managers and leaders.

What sort of structured training do you have for these emerging leaders that will help them gain confidence, competence, and gain leadership skills that will drive revenue?

If you would like the PDF of the full survey results or are interested in how our Leaderboard to Leadership™ curriculum could help your emerging sales leaders, email me at, or check out my website

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