fingerGenerational diversity can be a competitive advantage in sales.

Remember when your parents told you to turn down that loud, obnoxious music? Actually, they yelled, because otherwise you wouldn’t have heard them. They griped about “kids today” and wondered what this next generation was coming to. Many of us have turned into our parents, and now we deliver the same message to our kids and grandkids.

We worry about what’s going to happen with the Millennials … and all the generations that follow. They never put down their phones. They communicate by text. They can’t put a sentence together. Will they ever be able to have a conversation?

Maybe, maybe not. But it’s time to stop pointing fingers and face the truth: For better or worse, the world is changing, and it’s not the younger generations’ fault. So instead of griping about them, maybe we could learn a thing or two from them.

When the Students Become the Teachers

Jamie Notter’s Social Fish post, “The Problem Isn’t Millennials,” puts this issue into perspective. Here are a few snippets:

It baffles me that we haven’t figured this out yet. Think about history. EVERY SINGLE younger generation is blamed as the problem as they enter adulthood. Xers (cynical slackers) were blamed. Boomers (long-haired, disrespectful hippies) were blamed. There are “kids these days” quotes dating back thousands of years. So if this happens EVERY SINGLE generation, then why hasn’t it occurred to us that it simply can’t be true? I mean, if every generation was going to drag us down to the depths, wouldn’t we have drowned as a civilization by now?

The world is different today. Customers are different. Expectations are different. Everyone in every industry complains that the pace of change has gone through the roof. Yet we’re still using management techniques that were invented in the 1930s. Our structures, our “leadership development” activities, our approach to organizational culture, and the way we collaborate internally are out of date, and we’re not changing fast enough.

If anything, the Millennials can help us change … If your organization does not make sense to Millennials, then you’re falling behind. (Read the rest of the article.)

Notter is absolutely right. Rather than complaining about the younger generations—who, in turn, complain about us—maybe it’s time we started listening to each other. Then we could open up a real dialogue and learn from each other.

Bridge the Generation Gap

Boomer that I am, I probably won’t stop talking about the “good old days.” And I certainly won’t stop encouraging Millennials to strike a better balance between technology and human connections.

On the other hand, I recognize the value of technology in today’s business world, and I know that if I don’t keep up with the changing times, I’ll fall behind in my sales career. So I listen just as much as I lecture.

And I encourage sales professionals across generations to do the same thing. Instead of letting our differences be a source of animosity, why not turn those differences into competitive advantages?

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