Guest Post by Arika Pierce. I was promoted to vice president of a publicly-traded company at 31-years-old, and I had zero experience in leading a team. While I was excited about the new opportunity, I was terrified about becoming the “boss” overnight and leading a mix of colleagues who were both my peers and older than me. Did I make some mistakes along the way? Yes. But I learned from those missteps and, over time, earned the trust and confidence of my senior staff — which built a stronger team overall. Based on my experience in managing older employees, here are the three things every Millennial leader should know.
Don’t be afraid to be the boss
When it comes to being a great leader, it’s not about seeking approval in everything you do. You’re not going to please everyone on the team (at least not right away), and that’s okay! It’s important to remember that you were picked to lead for a reason. Doubt leads to uncertainty when managing older employees, which can make it harder to become a good leader — especially since many people will be looking to you for direction.
Remember: leadership doesn’t always have an age attached to it. While leadership does improve with experience, some people are natural-born leaders. It’s not about being infallible (even the best leaders have room to grow), it’s about being confident enough to lead and flexible enough to grow throughout the process.
Always value your staff
Once you become a leader, it’s all-too-easy to fall into the trap of us versus them. While you don’t want to try too hard to become friends with your staff (you’re the boss, you have to get used to that change in dynamic), that doesn’t mean you don’t need to get to know your team.
It’s important to use the combined experience of your staff to your advantage. The more you get to know them, the easier it becomes to identify their strengths. And guess what? It’s okay for them to know more than you.
Great leadership isn’t about having all of the answers. Instead, be supportive and collaborative while creating an environment where everyone can succeed and grow.
Strive to understand what motivates your team
When it comes to managing older employees, it’s critical to understand that everyone is different. This might seem obvious, but I’ve seen leaders fail to recognize the unique qualities that their employees possess — which can lead to a troublesome dynamic in the workplace.
It’s not just about strengths and weaknesses, it’s also important to recognize what motivates your team. No one wants to feel like a square peg being squeezed into a round hole — the more you understand your team members, the easier it becomes to ensure everyone is satisfied and producing their best work.
Encourage two-way communication between you and your team and create a feedback loop that allows for open and honest dialogue. What you prioritize might not be what they prioritize, and that’s okay! Maybe they’re more interested in family time versus happy hour, or they’ll jump for the opportunity to lead certain projects.
Managing Older Employees Successfully
The important thing is to remember that great leadership is about establishing trust. We use tools like clear communication and decisive action to help create an environment where every person feels valued and recognized. However, no matter how old your team is, they need to be able to trust you and you need to be able to trust them. Without it, even the best leaders will struggle.
Arika Pierce is a GenZ & Millennial Success Coach who helps younger generations succeed in business, leadership, and life. She is the author of The Millennial’s Playbook to Adulting, a one-stop resource on everything from personal branding & networking to job hunting, finances, and health. Follow her on Instagram @themillennialsplaybook.