April 3, 2014
Just because you’re a millennial doesn’t mean you can’t successfully manage a team of older colleagues. If you’re approaching your first management role, there are tried and true strategies that will ensure your success. You just have to be prepared.
Imagine getting your first promotion into management with a team of five people to lead. You schedule a meeting to introduce yourself and win their hearts and minds. You have always pictured yourself with a loyal team going to battle and helping you accomplish great things.
As you walk into the meeting, you realize that you’re the youngest person in the room. You received a promotion that members of your team also sought. Your heart races and beads of sweat form on your palms as you consider that maybe the team isn’t so excited to have a younger boss. Some even seem ticked off that a kid is going to come in and boss them around. There is no pausing now. You cannot hesitate or let them know you’re nervous. So you charge into the room and call the meeting to order.
What you do next will either make or break your campaign to be a respected manager.
Can you relate to this scenario? Have you, like me, lived it? Maybe you’re getting ready to? If so, knowing what to do next can make all the difference. It’s common for young managers to overcompensate for their nervousness by storming into the room “like a bull in a china shop.” The instinct to show off, brag about experience and appear forceful typically backfires. You don’t want your new team to think you’re just an arrogant kid.
Since I have been this new millennial manager to older colleagues—and have done it wrong on more than one occasion—please learn from my experience. I’ve outlined strategies that ensure you will win over your team of older and more experienced employees.
From the first conversation, focus on asking questions that allow the team to provide input and contribute. Avoid from “know-it-all-ism” that will drive experienced employees crazy.
The reason to ask questions is to listen to the answers. Don’t forget that part. If you make the team members feel they’ve been heard they will respect you and your leadership more.
No matter how qualified you are, fight the urge to brag. Focus on showing how you are a team player and how you want to help the entire team be more successful.
Empower The Team
Empowerment is key to leadership at any level, and when you’re dealing with team members who have more experience a little extra rope can go a long way. Provide a chance for employees to show you that their longer tenure means that they can handle more. If you allow them opportunity and they seize it, they will realize you are living up to your word about wanting everyone to succeed.
Embrace Their Knowledge
Many times the employees with the most experience have some tribal or institutional knowledge that can help you do your job better. Embrace their knowledge. You don’t have to compete. Let them share their experiences to help you perform better.
Whether you’re a millennial leader or have been managed by one, please share your learnings and observations.