Many organisations, including the UK police force, are now placing bright young things into senior positions within their organisation. This often leads to ‘fast-trackers’ being placed in senior management roles where their workforce is considerably older than they are.
This can place tremendous pressure on these young leaders for a variety of reasons, credibility being one. How can a fresh-faced young Superintendent with no street experience possibly be able to supervise lower ranks who have been there and done it all before?
So, how can you overcome these challenges?
Get to know your workers
If you’re not married and you don’t have kids or grandchildren, it can be very difficult to relate to a whole company of subordinates who do. However, you can still take steps to forge a personal connection with your workers by taking an interest in their lives. Ask about their families, their career aspirations, and their past work experience.
Making the effort to communicate in this way will help you to understand what motivates your workers and what is most important to them, helping you to become a more effective leader and bridging the generation gap.
Learn from your team
One huge asset that your older workforce possesses is experience of both the company and the industry in general. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you know enough or more than your workers. Instead, use this asset by asking their opinions on new processes and systems that you are considering implementing and take steps to actively involve them in the decision-making process.
One major problem experienced by young leaders is a perceived lack of respect from their older workers. The worst thing that you can do is to avoid confrontation with older employees, assuming that they won’t be receptive to feedback or coaching because you are younger than they are. This can be a really costly mistake and can lead to a slide in employee performance and a perceived lack of management.
It is highly likely that some of your older workers will look at your age and wonder if you are up to the challenge of the job, but it is up to you to prove to them that you are. By tackling problems head-on, and working through them with your employees, you will win their respect; avoiding the issue will only lead to mutterings that you lack confidence and credibility.
Managing a much older workforce undoubtedly comes with a unique set of challenges for leaders. By getting to know your subordinates, cultivating an environment of mutual respect, and being prepared to learn from your workers’ experience and industry knowledge, you can overcome the major challenge of a perceived lack of credibility.