A generational gap can be one of the most challenging obstacles for leaders of young sales teams to overcome. What should just be a gap in age can manifest itself as a gap in communication that grinds productivity to a halt.
My own transition from college to the professional world has exposed me to leaders who have bridged a generational gap with different degrees of success. My biggest takeaway was this: Your relative age should not determine the quality of relationship that you have with your team. However, that doesn’t mean bridging the gap doesn’t take a little work.
To guide our discussion, I’ve brought along my favorite enigmatic celebrity: rapper Kanye West.
As a successful sales professional, you might be asking yourself: What can Kanye possibly teach me? Well, I’m glad you asked…
1. Let your team learn from their failures.
“So if you learn from your mistakes, then I’m a genius.”
The above quote is the Kanye-version of the old adage, “everyone makes mistakes.” Your young team will make rookie mistakes. They are, after all, rookies.
As their manager, some of these mistakes will frustrate you. Step back. Take a deep breath. It is important to resist the temptation to take the reins away from your team. Allow them to fail and learn from their own mistakes. They will use these learning experiences to grow into the job and become the salespeople you want them to be.
2. Love your job.
“Come on now! How could you be me and want to be someone else?”
Kanye West exudes exuberance when talking about Kanye West’s job. He loves being a musician and lets his passion be known.
Young professionals want to work for an exuberant boss that has the same passion for work as Kanye West. A study published in USA Today early this year shows that millennials’ preference is for a centralized work environment that is collaborative over working alone from home.
Enthusiastic leadership that genuinely loves coming to work drives a collaborative culture. Your young team loves that.
3. Be challenging and engaging.
“A lot of people were wondering what I was going to do if I didn’t win anything. I guess we’ll never know.”
Kanye went to the 2006 Grammys desperate for an award. As a young artist just entering the professional world, he craved recognition. While all the artists involved certainly wanted to win, Kanye had a unique motivation to establish himself as a musical elite. And when he did win, he couldn’t help gloating a bit, in true Kanye fashion.
As newcomers to sales, your team will also crave the recognition of their leadership and peers in the office. What better way to provide it than contests that reward sales behaviors?
Find new and creative contests to keep your sales staff motivated and engaged. A young sales staff will be particularly motivated to earn recognition from the boss. The winner can even take home a Kanye West t-shirt!
4. Believe in yourself and your team.
“I put (a poster of) me on the wall because I was the only person that had me on the wall at that time. And now that a lot of people have me on their wall, I don’t really need to do that anymore.”
Kanye West had a poster of himself on his wall.
Once you get over how crazy that statement is, you can start to appreciate the genuine lesson behind it. Yes, it is an act of a massive ego, but it is also a statement of self-belief. That poster signifies that Kanye believed in himself long before anyone else believed in him.
Show that kind of belief in your own young team. Entrance into a new career or workplace can be wracked with doubt. A sense of belief from leadership can go a long way toward increasing seller confidence. And a confident team will not only be happier at work, but also more productive.
By this point you might be feeling like a sales management genius. Or as Kanye himself has put it:
“For me to say I wasn’t a genius, I would just be lying to you and to myself.”
And that’s okay, because you’ve now got some stellar new tips for sales coaching.