Not Everyone Gets a Trophy - Book Review

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy is a book with specific advice on managing the "Millennial generation" - the generation born roughly between 1980-1995. I found the book a refreshing read, finding a few new ideas to think about. A lot of what I read was less of a surprise, but more a confirmation. This might be as on my team people are mostly only within this generation. I am also "millennial" myself, so reading about what characterizes my generation from the view of the author was interesting.

The good

I found the book to reinforce many things that I already did day to day. I liked how the book was split into the actual management lifecycle (recruiting, onboarding, day to day things, retaining). I also liked how the book is relatively short, can be read in one or two sittings.

Where it could get better

This book has a very US-centric view on the Millenial generation. The examples are limited to this region and culture. Working at an international workplace, there is quite a cultural difference between millennial and millennial from different parts of the world, many of the examples not applying in the book to e.g. people from Southeast Asia.

I found the first part of the book a lot more engaging and felt the book being slightly dull towards the end. Also, while the grouping on management tips within the typical employee lifecycle (from recruiting to retaining) was a good start, I missed a concise collection of some key do's and donts that worked well, in the author's opinion. As I took notes, I ended up grouping much of my experience and examples from the book to a few groups (see below).

Overall ★★★★☆

I do recommend the book, mostly for people who are already managing or leading people. The book made me rethink how I do some things and reaffirmed some of my existing habits, adding a few new ideas to them.


Below are the notes I collected, as I went along.

What I learned about the millennial generation within the workforce


  • Set and communicate expectations clearly.
  • Be authentic. This generation, more than any other, will sniff out if you believe in what you say or if you're just conveying a message you're not onboard with.

Share the "why". Have them know the "why?" and the impact. This makes a huge difference in feeling a part of something vs feeling one is just a screw in the machine.

  • Involve people in planning.
  • Empower them. This is a lot harder than it sounds! It might start with teaching people how to do things well.
  • Celebrate. And perhaps have them involved in organizing the celebration as well!

Personalized growth. Learn about where people want to grow. Support these with opportunities.

  • Challenge people, push them out of their comfort zone at times.
  • Have them teach. This is helpful in multiple ways: better mastering of what they are teaching, better satisfaction and might help in shaping the next generation of leaders/teachers.
  • Give feedback on how they can improve.
  • Help them present their ideas.
  • Do regular self evaluations with them.

Key Thoughts

Reading through the book and taking notes, I collected much of the advice to a few to successfully managing this generation.

  • Clarity. Be clear on their role and on expectations.
  • Feedback. Make it specific and frequent.
  • Challenge, master, teach. Challenge them with things that push them out of their comfort zone, help them master things and have them teach. Rinse and repeat.
  • Treat them as equals as best as possible. Be transparent, share news and decisions. Involve and empower them.
  • But be sure to give coaching and mentoring, otherwise you might be setting up them for failure.
  • Be invested in their success - and let them know that you are!
  • Fun is really important! And encourage having fun, celebrating and so on.

Chapter by Chapter

As I went along, I took the following notes, chapter by chapter. As I said, I did like how the book went through the lifecycle of people at a company (starting from recruiting, all the way to retention and succession planning).

Recruiting (Chapter 2: Get onboard with the right message)

  • Have a meaningful recruiting message.
  • Don't oversell the opportunity to people! "Scaring", then "testing" them often works a lot better. (Note: I second to this: I've seen us lose people after a few weeks whom we oversold opportunities, at Uber as well.)
  • Keep communications open: don't go silent.

Onboarding (Chapter 3: Onboard quickly)

  • Onboarding is super important!
  • Invest in preparation for how you onboard new people.

Day to Day Management (Chapter 4: Manage (a bit) like you were a parent)

  • Care. Invest time. Be authentic.
  • Set clear boundaries and expectations.
  • Setup a points system (Note: this was a part I could not make much sense with and disagreed - perhaps in the software engineering, this is not a good approach)

Giving Context (CHapter 5: Given them the gift of context)

  • Help them understand how they fit in.
  • Teach them to rock presentations & meetings. (Note: it was pretty cool to realize I was doing this many cases already.)
  • Exposure can be a reward, with the right context.

Customer Service (Chapter 6: Help them care about great customer service)

  • Customers are everywhere: everyone and everything can be a customer. Find opportunities to improve.
  • Teach them the basics of good customer service.

Managing Self (Chapter 7: Teach them how to manage themselves)

  • Help set priorities. Help set long-term goals.
  • Teach how to plan. Encourage taking notes or creating checklists.
  • Be clear about what being a good citizen is. *(Note: I found it an "aha" moment, realizing how at Uber we have a whole section on perf reviews&promotions dedicated to citizenship, with many examples)

How to be managed (Chapter 8: Teach them how to be managed by you)

  • Set ground rules, but no too many.
  • One on ones: setup a regular cadence & focused routine.
  • Focus on soluitons, not problems. Keep track of their performance.

Retaining the Best (Chapter 9: Retain the best of Gen Y one day at a time)

  • Push out low performers
  • Find out what to do to keep them
  • Give the best the attention they deserve

Build Up the Next Generation of Leaders (Chapter 10)

  • Teach and support people. (Note: this section was quite short, almost like an afterthought)