THE BLOG
11/12/2013 02:10 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

5 Tips for Millennial Leaders on Working With Older Colleagues

The Millennial Moves Into a Leadership Role


 

Picture this, you are 28 years old and you have just been promoted to manager. You will now be leading a team of 5 people. You are excited about the new growth, yet apprehensive as you haven't formally had to lead or manage a team.

On your first day, you schedule a meeting to get in front of your team and discuss what the change means and give them some insight as to how they can work with you. Your plan is to try to win their hearts and minds. You have always pictured yourself with a loyal team going to battle with you and helping you accomplish great things as you rise to the top.

As you walk into the meeting with your team you come to realize that you are the youngest person in the room and perhaps by conscious choice on managements part, you received the promotion that members of your team also sought. You feel sweat on the palms of your hands as you consider that maybe this team isn't so excited to have a younger boss. In fact, maybe they are flat out ticked off that some punk kid is going to come in and boss them around. There is no pausing now, you cannot hesitate or let them know you are nervous so you charge into the room and call the meeting to order.

What you do next may be what makes or breaks your campaign as manager.

Perhaps this has been you, or this is going to be you at some time in the near future. If this was you, what did you do next? If this may be you, knowing what to do next can make all the difference in the world.

Having been this person and having done it wrong on more than one occasion, I want to share the best course of action in winning over a team of older and more experienced employees as a manager.

Ready? Here are 5 tips that will get you off on the right foot.
  1. Ask Questions: From the first conversation, focus on asking questions that allow the team to provide input and contribute. Stray from "Knowitallism" that will drive more experienced employees (and less) crazy.
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  3. Listen Carefully: The most important part of successfully using questions to lead is to listen to the answers. Don't think that asking questions will work if you don't listen carefully to the answers. If you make the team feel heard they will immediately respect you and your leadership more.
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  5. Be Humble: No matter how qualified you are, don't feel the urge to brag or boast your success. Focus on showing how you are a team player and how you want to help the entire team to be more successful.
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  7. Empower The Team: Empowerment is key to leadership at any level, but when you are dealing with team members with more experience a little extra rope can go a long way. GIve the chance for the employees to show you that their longer tenure means that they can handle more. If you can allow them the opportunity and they seize it then they will realize you are living up to your word of wanting everyone to succeed.
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  9. Embrace Their Knowledge: Many times the employee with more experience has some tribal knowledge that can help you to better do your job as well. Embrace their knowledge. You don't have to compete as it won't help and you are already where you are (the boss). So let them share their experiences to help you do your role better.

Millennial Leaders: One Thing NOT To Do!


 

The absolute worst thing that you can do is walk into the room like a bull in a china shop. While I know the instinct is to show off your chops so they can see why you have been given the job is there. Push that tendency deep down because most of that will come off as mere arrogance.

Instead, focus on the leadership basics. Be inclusive, be humble and show empathy. It may not ever sit perfectly with some of your elder employees that you got the job and they didn't, but in time when they see that you value their knowledge and that you desire to help everyone on the team be more successful you will overtime earn the trust required to achieve the results you seek.

So walk into that room ready to listen and learn, and strive to win over the room by leading with respect and giving dignity to those who came before you. Remember, even if they work for you, they have to work with you. A good leader knows this and shows this in their actions each and every day.
 

Are you a Millennial Leader or have you been under the leadership of a Millennial? Share your thoughts and experiences with cross generational leadership below.