5 Tips for Millennial Managers

US News

Yes, you got the promotion! And yes, along with a new business card in hand -- manager has a nice ring, doesn't it? -- you also have some awkwardness and maybe even tension. It turns out that some of the people you now manage were doing your job when you were watching "Sesame Street."

As Paul McDonald, senior executive director of the specialized staffing firm Robert Half International, puts it, the oldest millennials are entering management roles as baby boomers enter the "sunset of their careers."

So how do you -- a rookie manager with the weight of being a lazy, entitled [insert other stereotypes] millennial -- lead team members who are twice your age? And how do you do it while earning respect and results instead of eye-rolls?

Here are five tips from the experts:

Ask for feedback -- and listen to it. "Whenever you're managing someone who is older than you, you want to know your stuff, but you don't want to be a know-it-all," says Courtney Templin, chief operating officer of JB Training Solutions and co-author of "Manager 3.0: A Millennial's Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management." "Know when to listen and when to recognize, 'Maybe I don't know everything about this situation.'"

Chances are the people you're managing have dealt with issues similar to what you're facing now. "They have very valuable experience and ideas that might not be offered unless you ask for it," McDonald says. So regularly ask for feedback, advice and suggestions -- not as a kid in over his or her head, but as a receptive and collaborative manager.

"Respect their experience, but don't be intimidated by it," says Templin, a millennial manager herself, who suggests that you not be driven by stale logic, such as: "This is how we've always done it" or "We tried that once, and it didn't work."

[Read: How to Leverage Generational Diversity .]

Tweak your communication style. Millennials, Generation X-ers and boomers each have different communication styles in the workplace. "Millennials like immediate and constant feedback," McDonald says. "They want to be included in all communication, know what's going on, know the 'how comes' and 'whys' behind each decision and want to feel part of that decision, too." Boomers and people in the later stages of Generation X, on the other hand, are more used to being told what to do and simply doing it, he says.

Young bosses should be aware of these differences and strike a balance that appeases both generations. For example, while you and other 20- and 30-somethings may prefer hourlong meetings that dive deep into the weeds of a topic, your older attendees would likely prefer a 15-minute, high-level huddle. Find a middle ground -- say a 30-minute meeting, plus time for questions.

Speaking of communication styles, Templin says young managers should become mindful of unflattering filler words, such as "like" or "um." She suggests asking friends and family to point out when you use these words in everyday life, so you notice the habit and, like, stop in the office.

Do your homework. "A challenge every new manager faces -- particularly millennials, who might be newer in general to their careers -- is understanding that management and leadership are skill sets that are different than just the job you've been doing as an individual contributor," says Lindsey Pollak, a millennial workplace expert, spokeswoman for The Hartford's My Tomorrow Campaign and author of the upcoming book, "Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders." You may be one heck of a salesperson, for example, but managing other salespeople requires separate know-how. (Think Michael Scott -- the clueless boss in "The Office.")

To begin honing your management skills, "learn by how you've been led," Pollak says. "Look to the leaders and managers you've had in your career, and emulate the things they've done really well." Similarly, think of the bad bosses you've had, and steer clear of their approaches, she adds.

Take advantage of any leadership and management training your employer provides, Pollak says, and educate yourself with classic books such as, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "The One Minute Manager." "There is so much available talent and information around you," she says. "Tap it."

[Read: 10 Tips for New Managers .]

Find a mentor. Another way to tap a well of experience and know-how? Learn from someone who's been in your shoes. It's not necessary to actually call this person a "mentor," if that sounds too formal, Pollak says. This should ideally be a boss or colleague you've met in your career whose management style you admire. If no such person comes to mind, you could also look to your college's alumni network or tell your company you're looking for a mentor, she says.

When meeting with this mentor or with co-workers, remember that you probably have skills to teach, too. Templin calls this a "reverse mentorship." Maybe you can show people unfamiliar with social media how to build their personal brand on Twitter. Or if you've got a leg up on software sense, teach a few Excel shortcuts.

[See: The 100 Best Jobs .]

Get to know your team. Templin, McDonald and Pollak all urge young managers to take time and effort to learn about their team members. And the good news, Pollak says, is that millennials tend to be good at building camaraderie.

Meet with team members as a group, McDonald says, through off-premises activities, such as lunches and team-building exercises. "What we [at Robert Half] really like to do is volunteer activities to be socially responsible," he adds.

Pollak suggests going on a "listening tour," in which you meet with everyone individually and learn about his or her personal life, inspirations and motivators. Keyword: listen.

"Being a great manager is not about how many years of experience you have -- it's about results," McDonald says. "And the best results come from managers who know and care about their employees and put them as people first -- not as just part of their org chart."



More From US News & World Report
View Comments (0)