Career progression is rarely determined just by age and experience – it’s very much a function of individual talent and your level of commitment. This means it’s increasingly common for driven, high-calibre professionals to find themselves managing staff who are older than they are – which needn’t be an issue so long as you follow these basic rules.
1. Be confident, not over-confident
It’s perfectly natural for a young manager to question their own abilities now and then, or even to wonder whether your older colleagues will take you seriously as a leader. But there’s a very good reason why you’re in a leadership position at a young age – it’s because you’re absolutely the right person for the job. You’ve shown the qualities required for the role, and your track-record provides clear evidence of your ability to deliver – otherwise your employer wouldn’t have put their confidence in you, and appointed or promoted you to a position of responsibility. Just don’t let it go to your head.
2. Get your older team members on board
It’s highly likely that it’s your people skills as much as your technical expertise that have got you where you are today. So now it’s time to really put them to work, particularly if you want to get the most out of your older team members. Remember, they may not have fast-tracked their careers like you have, but they still have a wealth of experience, and if you bring them with you on your journey, you can both benefit from it. So engage with your more seasoned colleagues in one-to-one sessions, learn about their ambitions and share your vision for the team. And always stay open to feedback.
3. Be honest with your team and yourself
It’s OK to feel insecure in a new role – no one will expect you to walk in and be an expert from day one. So be honest about the challenges you and your team face. Be open about the strategies and approaches you’re considering, and bring your people with you. Show that you’re willing to listen and learn from people who may have been in the job or with the firm a lot longer than you have. And don’t be afraid to listen to their opinions on what’s worked well in the past.
4. Be empathetic
Leaders who are happy to share their time and energy, and even the credit for their success, are most frequently the ones who earn greatest respect and loyalty from their team members. Ultimately, it comes down to generosity and respect towards your own colleagues. So if you take the time every day or every week to consider how you can support your team members more effectively, how you can help celebrate their successes, and how you can make their work more fulfilling, you’ll build a more effective team and deliver better results. And remember that colleagues who are at different life stages may have different value systems, so don’t assume that what excites you will float their boat. Take the time to understand their motivations and you’ll enjoy a far happier and more productive relationship.
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