16 Sep 2013
in employmentskillsbehaviours
Reference: HBR; Forbes; businessweek

Being a leader can be challenging at the best of times, but leading people older than you can bring its own set of challenges. There may be animosity from your team when you start because ‘they know more than you’ or they wanted your job’; maybe they’ve seen younger managers come in before that let them down or never bothered to understand what they do. 

The first ninety days is when they’ll be scrutinising your every move, so don’t go in all guns blazing, shouting about being the boss – you need to earn your stripes:

Make a genuine effort to get to know your team on a more personal level. Try to understand what matters to them most. They may have families and if you don’t yet it’s important you understand their commitments.

Work out what their strengths and weaknesses are; what you can learn from each individual and where you can help them to develop or approach things differently.

Appreciate the experience that they have, their ideas and principles and what they know about the area of business you’re just stepping into.

But these three actions are only half the recipe for success: your team are still expecting you to lead them – they may be half hoping you will fail doing it, but there is a half that hopes you will be the one to steer the team towards greatness and make them more successful as an individual. To truly lead them you need to earn their respect:

Be strong and confident
Present your ideas strongly and clearly. Show your team that you know where you want to take them.

Ask for feedback not permission
Although you should listen to their ideas and feedback on how you’re doing as a manager, you shouldn’t ask for permission or make reference to your inexperience. It will only undermine you and make you look weak.

Blend the old and the new
Find ways to make your new ideas work with their current thinking. Help them to accept your concepts as worthwhile and make it work together.

It’s all about finding a balance: confidence, not arrogance; assertiveness not a tendency to trample others; soliciting feedback not asking permission; appreciating traditions, but not being afraid to introduce new ideas.

It can be difficult to show leadership qualities when your team seem much more experienced than you, but you are in this position because of what you have achieved, because you are competent, energetic and creative. Believe in your talents and use them.

For leadership training, workshops or leadership coaching contact Claire 07771 332204 or Margaret 07837 951213.