Thursday, December 6, 2012

Managing An Older Team As A Young Manager

Guest post by Sean McPheat:

With more and more graduates finding themselves in a managerial role fresh out of university, it’s interesting to analyse the way that young managers are able to manage and interact with their older team members.

I myself was a young manager, working with a team of much older and more experienced sales people in my role as Head Of Operational Planning at only 21 years old! Half of my team were twice my age and yet I was expected to command the respect of these people who had been in the business longer than I’d been alive – a daunting task to say the very least.
I was with that company for nearly 8 years in the end, and I learnt very quickly how to overcome my fear of being a young manager with a much older team. Here are my top tips on how to manage your team as a young manager – because at the end of the day, age is only a number.

1.    Steer clear of any “Big Boss” talk

Although it might seem like a good idea to start with, acting the big “I Am” with your new team is never a good idea. Whilst you might think you are being authoritative and making your mark in your new role, your team are sure to take an instant disliking to you and are likely to go on the defensive with you from the word go. 

Instead of trying to exert your new power over the team, let your team know that although you are in charge, you see your role as being there to help and support them far more than just bossing them around. Make it clear that you are there to help them do their job better and make it easier for them to achieve their goals.

2.    Get to know your team as individuals

Whilst this rule is paramount for any team leader, getting to know your team as a young manager is especially important to ensure that you can communicate fluently with each of them and to help you learn more about their career motivation within their role.

Not only will this help them to see that you do care about them as individuals, it will also help them to warm to you as a person and allow them to see you as being more than just their boss.

3.    Tap into their knowledge and expertise

Don’t assume that just because you have been given a managerial role in the company that you are the most knowledgeable and experienced person in your team. You can learn so much from your team in terms of their knowledge and understanding of the business, and you can also learn a lot from their past experience with the company.

Your team might have some really valuable ideas about how you can progress and develop your department, and they may not have been given the chance to voice these ideas to their previous manager. Not only will you learn a lot from your team, but you will also ensure that they feel valued in your department and that their opinions do matter to you.

4.    Be confident in your abilities

Although I have recommended against acting the Big Boss with your team, you also can’t afford to act like you have no idea what you are doing and that you are scared to tread on people’s toes. Your company has employed you to manage your team, and you need to demonstrate that you know your stuff and that you are not afraid to actually MANAGE your team.

They will respect you more if they can see that you are confident in your abilities as a manager and that you are not going to shy away from the nitty gritty that is involved in your role.

Author credit:
Founder and MD of international management development firm MTD Training, Sean McPheat is widely regarded as a leading authority on modern day management and leadership. Sean is a bestselling author, and has been recognised for his own business building skills through the British Business Awards and has been featured in the Who’s Who Of Britain’s Business Elite. Click here to follow Sean online.


Jim Taggart said...

Today's workforce has very different challenges for both new, young managers and older workers (namely baby Boomers). When I became a manager in my early thirties back in 1989, my peers and I had a different deference towards older non-managerial co-workers.

Gen Y and Gen X are much more willing to challenge authority, and that can be highly constructive in a fast moving, volatile competitive global economy.

My view is that as painful as it might be, we Boomers need to get over it and realize that two new generations are moving upwards in our organizations. Despite more older workers having to remain in the labor force longer (some voluntarily), we need to find better ways of working together. An emerging five inter-generational workforce demands that of society.

Ashok Vaishnav said...

One major difference that can have significant impact on the relationships of the young manager and an older team is the physical experience. As the disclaimer in the modern financial investment products world goes, “past may not be the barometer of future performance”, but it does make all the sense to keep an open ear to the colleagues’ past experiences for any of the current initiatives being mulled by the young manager.

From my own personal experience, I would vouch for a sincere appreciation to ‘that’ experience. Of course, one should certainly use one’s own drive and judgement in extrapolating ‘that’ expreinces(es) to the present and / or future.

Karen Eriksen said...

Thanks, Sean for this great post! It certainly is a major challenge that young managers will have to overcome -- learning to manage teams with members much older than them. It can be difficult to attain the respect desired, especially if one does not work very hard at it and lacks confidence. Chin up to all the young managers out there, these are some great tips to follow!

Kumar Gauraw said...

Thank you for this awesome and very insightful posts full of tips on managing in modern atmosphere.

I liked the point number 4 about being confident especially because it is the cornerstone for all the other 3 things. Without self-confidence, nothing is possible. I think that is the key to everything else.