TIPS FOR GEN Y MANAGERS WITH AN OLDER TEAM – Part One
“Older workers reporting to younger managers” is not a totally new phenomenon. But it is a growing and potentially problematic trend, as the large generation of Baby Boomers stays on in the workforce longer and the large generation of Gen Y or Millennials eager for promotion rise along with Gen Xers. They bring new management styles and often anxieties owing to lack of management experience and training.
For some guidance, young managers can look to the stories of some CEOs who were faced with the upside down reporting relationships early in their careers and happened upon a formula that became one of the pillars of their considerable business success.
Bob Pittman, chairman and chief executive of Clear Channel communications was 19 when he was given about a dozen people to manage as the programmer of a radio station in Pittsburgh. He had no idea how to manage people but realized he was functioning as a team leader. The command and control model would have been ineffective: “ When you’re 19 no one’s going to accept you as the big boss.”
He saw his job as the team leader who needed to sell his older team members on his ideas and “to keep selling them, listen really well, let everyone have a voice and to let there be some dissent.” As told to Adam Bryant for his New York Times Corner Office column that was the origin of the style he has used ever since.
Another younger manager/older workers story comes from Amy Errett, chief executive and co-founder of Madison Reed. When she was 23, she was plopped into a huge job of managing hundreds of people in a bond-processing department of a bank. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “There were all these people who had been there a really long time, and I was probably half their age. I was just terrified…Where do I even start? I set up a meeting and nobody came.”
Following her instinct, Errett learned that the essence was the relationships and trust she could develop. It was about including them. She reached out to each person and said, “I want you to tell me in the most honest way what you don’t like about your job.” In this way she started to really understand their ideas and implement those. While the first reaction from many people to that question even today in another industry is “Can I trust her?” it actually started the trusted relationship.
The next post, Part Two, will provide lessons and tips for succeeding as a younger manager with older staff and a few reminders to help the older generations in this situation.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com