How To (Successfully) Manage Millennials - MyStartupLand

Developing and implementing the right skill-set to lead a team with different personalities across several ups and downs is a complicated task. Today it is even more complicated because the people managing and to be managed have a completely different view of the working world than what it was ten years ago.

Yes, I am talking about Millennials. A group of people who don’t see employment as a 30 years commitment. Millennials are the people you manage, and the managers you trust to deliver on results you set for your company.

By 2025 they will be making more than 75% of the workforce. Not being able to understand what motivates millennials and how to manage expectations with them will have a tremendous impact on company performance and culture.

Let’s start with a basic fact. I am a millennial, but not really. I was born at the very edge of the group, 1981. For some things, I resonate with them, for others, I don’t.

Understanding Millennials – Where It All Started – My 1st Job (and 2nd and 3rd…)

I still remember how excited I was, when I got my first “real” job after university. Walking into the office, looking for my manager, my mentor, the one who will bring me up in my career to achieve success. I was so happy, eager to say the least.

I walked through the office, relatively early on for a Monday morning in the startup life (9.30AM). Very few people were around. No one was waiting for me. No one greeted me. Weird, I thought.

After few minutes of walking around, I found one person working, who enquired about my presence (so much for security). She didn’t know there was a new guy starting that day. I sat at my desk-to-be and waited.

My manager didn’t show up on my 1st day of work and no one knew why.

Dang! Did she forget about me?

I sat through my first 8 hours in the role I wanted to be successful in, thinking “Why the hell is she not here?”

The 2nd day had to be better, I thought. I was reassured that my manager would be there. I arrived at the office, sat at my desk and nothing happened.

I didn’t know who could be my boss. “Should I walk around introducing myself hoping to pick the right person?“, I thought. Then, of course, I pretended to be busy, while being angry and disappointed. Fun fact, she was sitting 2 desks away but decided to introduce herself only a few hours later.

My boss never became my mentor and never managed me in the way I expected. After 3 months in the job, I was already interviewing elsewhere.

I moved on, had other managers, saw different companies, saw more managers and talked with friends. Turned out that finding a mentor, or a manager who understands you is as easy as finding a pot of gold at the bottom of a rainbow.

Then one day, I had the chance to lead a team:

“Manage and lead in the opposite way you have been managed and led”

This has been my motto ever since. I have made a lot of mistakes but also learned what motivates Millennials and how to create ONE TEAM.

Millennials look at their first years of work experience as a learning playground. Learning is the main keyword in their growth, but that’s not all. Millennials are eager to move on with things, explore and learn even more. Two years in the same role is equal to ten years experience in the “old world”.

Millennials Don’t Forgive. No Mistakes Allowed.

Millennials don’t see any job as their end-job. They know that there’s more than that and they dream to move forward.

The moment, you as a manager, act in the wrong way, you have destroyed their trust. Standing by your team, always, is as needed as being fair to all team members. Fight for them and they will remember. Sell them cheaply and your team will run away. Pretty basic, I know, but so many managers still fail at this.

Millennials thrive in challenging environments but they need to feel safe. They need to know that it’s OK to make mistakes. Mistakes are at the basis of success.

I have managed very junior people with no working experience whatsoever and only by creating a sense of security and reward, they have been able to reach unthinkable results. Creating a risk-free environment will let your team feel closer to you and be bolder in taking decisions, asking more questions and achieving great results.

Allow your team to mistake over and over (in a controlled environment) and you will achieve success. Don’t step in, don’t blame. Let them understand and learn.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes.

Company politics are a reality we cannot escape. We get to understand that as we move up the ladder. However, very few Millennials care about company politics.

Millennials want to hear facts as they are and understand why things are happening. They don’t need the whole story, but rather understand the flow, the “big picture”. If you don’t show the way, you will lose them. Keep them in the loop of things and don’t hide facts from them.

If they don’t understand the “why”, they will think you are not capable of leading them. Millennials care more of the “why” rather than the “what”.

What would you need to hear if you would be in their shoes?

Listen And Listen Again.

Don’t overlook the one-on-one time. Don’t talk only about work. Discover what’s going on in their life. Open communication, trust, and mutual respect are the pillars of a great team. Your job as a manager, a leader, is to talk with your team. Never skip those moments, keep the communication going.

Sometimes it takes longer for one person to open. Other times, you might need more time to understand what communication style to use. Regardless of the situation, listen what they have to say. Understand the underlying message in their words.

When you listen, you will also understand how they see work and what motivates them. Create mutual trust by sharing also your experience and thoughts. Don’t hide things and don’t lie. Remember, Millennials don’t forgive wrong-doing.

Open Doors And Let Them Fly Away.

Millennials need flexibility. You cannot expect them to do one task for one year with no evolution. If the job doesn’t have cross-functional opportunities, be flexible with their role and offer side projects that could interest them.

I work in sales and as a junior sales rep, for example, there’s not much variety in daily tasks. Creating opportunities to travel and meet clients is a replacement for other activities. Giving responsibilities to train other junior reps is an interesting task that will help them develop new skills and keep learning.

Provide feedback on their activities, let them understand that you are there if needed, but they are in charge. And when they succeed, recognize it, not only with them but with the whole team and the company. Recognition is key for Millennials to feel even more confident.

Open doors for opportunities within the company and when the time comes, let them fly away. The greatest pleasure comes when you will see one of your team members take the lead and achieve success at another company


We, as managers, are the ones that develop the workforce of tomorrow. We are responsible for the type of employees we create. We achieve success only when our team does.

Do you have any other tips on how to manage Millennials successfully? Are you a Millennial and resonate with the above tips? Share your experience with us.

Luca is an experienced sales executive and business coach with a background of over 10 years in sales and management. When not working, Luca runs one of the leading online magazines for startup knowledge, MyStartupLand, with the aim of providing meaningful and helpful content to startup founders and business people.

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