Being a 20 something leader is a tight space to be in. You’re still finding your feet, and most professional situations are new. But, what can make it really tough is if your team members are concerned with your age. I’m speaking from experience here.
The concern usually stems from an old way of thinking. I am either not good enough at the front line job (what my employees do), or I simply have not put in enough time to be a supervisor (my age).
The reason I described this as “an old way of thinking” is that a culture shift is happening before our eyes. Employers are starting to realize that a supervisor is an entirely different job from a frontline position. Just because someone has succeeded at one job does not mean they will succeed in another.
So what’s the remedy? Build trust!
To be a good supervisor, you do not need to be the best or the smartest. You just have to be an exceptional leader. Trust is the path to a great relationship and relationships are a leaders best tool. Trust is a necessity, and if you build it, no one will care about all the trivial details regarding your age group. Below I have listed a few things that have helped me develop trust in my team and overcome some of the negativity customarily associated with being a Millennial.
Own the fact that you are young. When I started coaching my older and more experienced employees, I fessed up to it. It’s important to be who you are. They will see right through you if you pretend and you will lose respect.
Come at it with full transparency. Say something like, “I know that I have a lot to learn at this position, but I think working closely with you could accelerate my progress.” This not only shows a side of vulnerability, but it will build the relationship. They have quickly become almost a mentor to their boss. It’s hard for someone to refuse someone who needs help especially when its the leader of their team. The only thing to keep in mind is that it must be authentic. As a Millennial, you have a lot to learn from your older employees so when they agree to help, be a sponge. Absorb as much as you can. Not only will that help build the coaching relationship, but it will also help you be a better you. Be clear
Be Clear Regarding Your Role
Let them know you are the coach, but make sure to let them know why. You are there not to squeeze work out of them. Always assume that fear. Assure them that you are there to put them in a position to be successful. Go ahead and make that promise and hold yourself accountable. As your team sees you living it, they will be more receptive to your coaching and will respect your advice.
Being upfront also allows you to go straight into coaching instead of beating around the bush. Because I chose to be clear in my role as their coach, I can now say “I have a bit of coaching for you” when I have some immediate feedback. When I say that, each member knows whats coming. This is so powerful because it eliminates a lot of unnecessary conflicts. Especially when they see, you are just looking out for their best interest.
Confront the Perception
If you believe that you’re not being taken seriously by one of your employees, talk. Not too long ago I had to have a crucial conversation with one of my employees. He didn’t respect me because I knew less about programming than him yet I was responsible for his performance review. At a One on One, I merely called him out on it. By saying “I get the sense that you don’t respect me,” we were able to turn a troubled relationship into a productive one. We spent 2 hours talking about frustrations and expectations for one another. By the end of the meeting, this individual thanked me for the convo. We’ve had an extremely positive relationship ever since. If there is a barrier between you and a team member, throw it on the table. Do not avoid it.
Trust them First
Building trust takes time and courage from someone to leap. Guess what, the person to leap first gets to be you, the leader. This means that you will need to start with the assumption that they always have the best intention. If they mess something up, stop and think “did they have everything they needed to be successful?” If they get a customer complaint, ask their side of the story before jumping to conclusions. All of these actions show the team member that you trust them to do the correct thing. They will return the gesture.
These few steps have helped me build a team that fully trusts me. They would agree that I have earned the position I am in, and the initial judgments have entirely subsided. My team is awesome!
If you have run into anything similar or would like to share someone else’s experience, please leave them in the comments below. Remember to follow me at @ShaunHallTalk on social media. Thanks!
Recommended Book on Trust: Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. Awesome book go buy it now!