Because age ain’t nothin’ but a number
This content is appropriate for people of all ages. And that’s the point. The days of targeting media and products at people based on their age is over.
The Perennials. We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages.
We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle.
We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic. Perennials are also vectors who have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation.
Lady Gaga + Tony Bennett, Lena Dunham + Jenni Konner, Beyoncé + Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Fallon, Pharrell Williams, Justin Trudeau, Ellen DeGeneres, Malala, Sheryl Sandberg, Mick Jagger, Michelle Obama, Emma Watson, Elon Musk, Bernie Sanders, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lorne Michaels, Ai Weiwei, John Oliver, Aziz Ansari, the little girl on Stranger Things … #Perennials
The Millennial Cliché.
If you are older than 36, the upper limit of Millennial age, chances are you’ve done your fair share of trash talking about this generation. I’m a culprit. But, I stopped cold once I remembered I was far worse back in my day. My partner Amy and I began our careers in the dot com biz when the internet was as fledgling as our ability to run a startup on angel funding. Amy was 27. I was 32. My accountant-trained parents asked how my company was going to pay back the million dollars I raised from investors. I said, verbatim, into my Motorola StarTAC, “Earned revenue is very 20th Century thinking, Dad. It’s all about eyeballs right now. You wouldn’t understand.” At least, Millennials can’t stand their moniker and are even harsher critics when it comes to judging their contemporaries, so why rub it in? It’s time we rewire our collective Pavlovian response, Millennials = entitlement, and find the overlap between all ages.
The term generation used to refer to parents and their offspring every 25 years. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that it mutated to describe the social cohort we are born into. The Baby Boomers (1946–1964) are the first and only officially recognized generation by the Census Bureau because of its clearly defined characteristics. Leap forward to 1991 in Generations by Strauss & Howe and the moniker Millennial is coined. It took another decade for marketers and the media to up-spin Millennials, whose birth years fall within the range of 1982-2004 as “the next greatest generation” and begin focusing all their efforts to woo these limelit consumers, voters, and likers. As for the rest, born before 1982, well, the rest is history … irrelevant and in the past.
Tolerance feels unattainable when there are hard lines drawn between decades, and terms like Boomers, GenX, and GenY keep us separate and at odds. The media’s adoring gaze is focused solely on the Millennial timeline and it’s light’s out for everyone else. In a recent article in the ABA Banking Journal it’s suggested, in fact, that:
“attitudes and habits that are widely thought to be millennial-specific may actually be quite widespread among the general population.”
I spent the past year ruminating on an appropriate sobriquet to describe a set of people based on psychographics not demographics that would include Millennials, as well as people of all ages. I began floating the term Relevants to see if it stuck until a wise New York Times journalist pointed out that saying “I’m a Relevant,” could be misheard as “I’m Irrelevant.” So, I turned to my husband Dave, the dude who writes NextDraft and king of catchy headlines. He was dozing off next me on an airplane, “I got it,” he said, “You should call them Perennials.” I quickly searched all definitions of perennial: enduring, perpetual, ever-lasting, recurrent, ever-blooming. Thus, Perennials was born.
Netflix and chill.
It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification. By identifying ourselves as Perennials, we supplant our constricting label with something that better reflects our reality online and off. Amazon and Netflix get it right with recommendation engines that target people based on behavioral data over outmoded generational stereotypes, so why shouldn’t we?
In the ancient academic tradition, on Tuesday (18 April 2017) the School of Thinking bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Lateral Thinking to recognise and thank Nigel Gaunt for his long and generous support over 30 years. Nigel, literally, put the School of Thinking on the Australian map!
He was the man behind the inauguration ceremony of the School in Australia, in Canberra in 1988, where Nigel thoughtfully arranged for both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister to attend. On that historic occasion the idea of Australia as “The Clever Country” was initiated.
The traditional degree is Honoris Causa, which is to say an Honorary Degree, and his citation read:
... in recognition of his foundational assistance during the establishment of the School in Australia in 1988 with the Clever Country initiative and his sustained support for thirty years.
Most sales and service organizations have invested more time and effort in the past five years in improving managers’ coaching of reps than they did in the previous 50. This makes perfect sense: research by the Sales Executive Council shows that no other productivity investment comes close to coaching in improving reps’ performance.
But not all reps who get coached, even by good coaches, do better. In fact, our research shows that coaching is almost worthless when it targets the wrong reps. And our work suggests that management targets the wrong reps all the time.
Left to their own devices, sales managers often skew their coaching efforts dramatically toward the “tails” — the very best and the very worst reps on their team.
They engage with poor reps because they feel they must in order to meet territory goals, and they work with their best reps because, well, it’s fun. Few managers can resist the lure of reliving their glory days by passing along their wisdom to the one or two reps who remind them most of their younger selves. To combat managers’ tendency to coach just laggards and leaders, companies implement elaborate systems to allocate coaching equally across the sales force. They imagine that “all boats will rise” as a result.
Unfortunately, our data show that both managers’ coaching tendencies, and companies’ response, are misguided. In research involving thousands of reps, we found that coaching — even world-class coaching — has a marginal impact on either the weakest or the strongest performers in the sales organization. You’d think that coaching the lowest performers would pay off because they have nowhere to go but up. Actually, that’s often not true, particularly for the bottom 10%. These reps, we’ve found, are less likely to be underperformers who can improve, and more likely to be a bad fit for the role altogether. That’s not a really something coaching can fix. It’s likely a different kind of conversation altogether (often involving HR).
Likewise, star-performing reps show virtually no performance improvement due to coaching either. While our research shows that there are some important retention benefits from coaching your high performers, it would be nice to think that great coaching (especially from former high-performers) makes your stars just a little more stellar. But that’s just not the case.
The real payoff from good coaching lies among the middle 60% — your core performers.
For this group, the best-quality coaching can improve performance up to 19%.* In fact, even moderate improvement in coaching quality — simply from below to above average — can mean a six to eight percent increase in performance across 50% of your sales force. Often as not, that makes the difference between hitting or missing goals.
At the end of the day, who your managers coach is just as important as how they coach. The data clearly suggest that organizations should do away with coaching democratically and instead shift the majority of their coaching focus away from low and star performers and towards the core.
This may be a hard pill to swallow. Despite the evidence, we find that this recommendation doesn’t sit well with all sales leaders or sales managers. Sales leaders argue that coaching should be delivered in an egalitarian fashion and balk at the notion of targeting coaching by performance level. Managers are quick to point to their own success turning around low performers through intensive one-on-one coaching. Several years after we first unveiled it, this finding continues to be a white-hot topic of debates among sales leaders.
How does coaching work in your sales organization? Is it democratic, targeted, or just non-existent?
*In our research, we defined “performance” as a rep’s gap to goal (i.e., percentage of quota attained).
Matthew Dixon is Managing Director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Service Practice, Brent Adamson is Senior Director of the Sales Executive Council, a division of the Sales and Service Practice.
A philosopher’s lifelong quest to understand the making of the mind.