Who says 20- and early 30-somethings can't be effective leaders in the workplace? With the right training and guidance, millennials can lead as well as managers wiser in both years and experience. Here are 10 tips for first-time managers who want to excel:
1. Seek a mentor. It's generally easier to take on a managerial role with a sound support system in place. A little encouragement can yield immense benefits for novice supervisors. "Find a mentor and/or role model," says Steve Bailey, president of the National Management Association. "Look at others who seem to be effective and happy in their work. Ask them for their advice," he says. "People appreciate that."
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2. Bridge the generational divide. In the current workforce, it's not uncommon for a millennial to manage a baby boomer. But occasionally, an older worker might be less than thrilled with the idea of being managed by someone who was still in diapers when he or she was well into their first job. Bailey says young supervisors should prep themselves for that struggle. "Of course those conflicts can easily arise," says Bailey. "And someone needs to tell the younger managers to expect them. More importantly, they need to be coached and taught the importance of emotional intelligence—that ability to read others, to show empathy, to listen, and to respect the experience of others."
Misconceptions can also deepen the divide. Millennial managers should strive to defy the stereotype that they're self-entitled. "Many older workers will be expecting a younger supervisor to be full of himself/herself. So don't be!" he says. "But, you're still the boss. You have to give direction to employees, provide feedback, resolve problems, and address performance issues. There's still a job to do."
3. Respect longstanding employees. Workers who aren't necessarily older but who have been in a job for nearly 10 years might not take too kindly to a new boss who makes unreasonable demands, particularly if the employees feel they were unfairly passed over for the promotion this manager received. Bailey encourages new managers to understand this potential discontent, and surmount it by not only respecting the contributions of others but appreciating their past service as well.
4. Spearhead a group outing. By organizing a happy hour or bowling night, managers can halt tensions before they progress. Bonding experiences build trust. "In order to be trusted or to trust others, there must be opportunities for people to get to know one another," Bailey says. "Getting to know their subordinates is a key strategy for younger managers to understand. Be sensitive and never be condescending."
5. Manage your time wisely. Susan Zeidman, a management and communications expert for the American Management Association, urges young managers to make the most of time allotted during a typical workday. "You time will be eaten up by events that you never expected," she says. "So, you will need to set priorities for yourself and your staff that are goal-driven."
6. Respect diversity. Appreciating or even celebrating differences (whether they're age, gender-related, or racial) within your underling pool is a great way to foster a sense of togetherness in the workplace, says Zeidman. She encourages novice managers to be forthright in this effort. "Clearly indicate to direct reports that you value the strength of a multigenerational, multicultural team and their ideas," she says.
7. Network, network, network. Acquainting yourself with a platter of conferences, meet-and-greets, seminars, and workshops is a great way to gain visibility for both you and your organization. "Slowly grow your network throughout the organization so that you and your team can be more productive," advises Zeidman. "Introduce yourself to key people in other departments."
8. Be an open communicator. It's pretty tough to lead a team behind closed doors. Sound interpersonal skills can be indispensable to managers, whether they are just beginning their careers or have been in their roles for years. "Communicate goals clearly and often to your staff to ensure your team's understanding and to help them prioritize," says Zeidman. Giving feedback, she says, is equally as important.
Being an open communicator also means providing your subordinates with a clear understanding of your managerial style. "Letting your staff know how you like to receive information and how you like to work helps to establish your management style and removes ambiguity about who you are," Zeidman says.
9. Establish credibility. Simply landing a job is only the first step in proving your managerial prowess, she adds. "Your experience and expertise might have gotten you the promotion, however, now you need establish yourself as a trustworthy person, a person who keeps [his] or her word and does not make promises [he] or she cannot keep," says Zeidman.
10. Be confident in your team's abilities. Every team needs guidance, but an overabundance of it can prove detrimental. Young managers should trust their employees' abilities to successfully complete their assigned tasks. "Some new managers want to jump in and do everyone's work—they are afraid that the work will not get done right or it won't get done the way they would do it, or they feel very comfortable in the 'doing' role," says Zeidman. "New managers need to motivate their direct reports to do the work. They need to 'let go' of their fears that others are not as competent as they are."
The more confidence the manager has in his team's ability, the more he is willing to let them do their work, Zeidman says. "And if the manager has any doubt about the work getting done, he should have more frequent updates from his direct report to monitor progress."