Much has been written or discussed about millennials and how managing them is different. Some have dubbed their group as the "trophy" generation - a reference to being raised in an era where all sport or activity participants receive a trophy regardless of winning. This approach was designed to help build self-esteem and confidence when exploring new things. I will leave the debate aspect around the pros and cons of this approach to the childhood development experts. The answer will certainly vary depending on whom you ask.
In business though it remains clear that trophies or spoils only go to those that succeed. This reality is a sharp contrast to what we have rewarded millennials for as they've grown. In result they often expect a trophy solely for developing a pretty design, clever campaign, or new operations approach. The trouble is primarily that they expect the trophy for their efforts regardless of the success or failure of the work. Figuring out how to reward and encourage your team without falsely compensating their actions is a tough balancing act for many to achieve.
Success in business is often a journey where the small victories along the way help result in ultimate success. How do you motivate and manage in this environment? While I often find myself frustrated by the "trophy" generation's need for positive reassurance, it is truly the new reality and must be dealt with properly. I find the best way to manage in this new age is by clearly defining overall success for both the business and then for each project individually. Success measures are results based and not tied to feelings or activities. Once we define success, we layout the milestones to get there and the key points to celebrate along the way. With the completion of a milestone we can pause to celebrate each achievement and use that milestone to re-focus and remind us of the ultimate goal.
I am now reminded of the Chicago Cubs who during this past season came from out of nowhere to play way above expectations. Much has been said about Joe Madden's team celebrating each round of the playoffs win like it was the World Series. He clearly wanted his team to revel in each step on the journey even though they missed out on the ultimate prize. Yet, if they come back next year and win the World Series, everyone will say Joe Madden was brilliant for building his team and leading them on a journey that ultimately delivered long term success. How you frame this and what you define as the ultimate success - will lead how you then reward your own team and choose when to celebrate at which points along the journey.
In business, the spoils only go to those that succeed, it is just not always clear what succeeding means. I think it is critical that you have a clear and shared definition of success with your team. That way you can hand out trophies along the way, when they directly impact your team's ability to reach success goals, but not just for participating or completing a task at work.