You’ve absolutely immersed yourself in your career, putting in the hard work to prove yourself, and it’s finally paid off—you’ve been promoted to management level!
No worries, my dear boss lady—Career Contessa has you covered. We’ve put together a handy all-inclusive guide on managing people as a millennial leader (or as a first-time boss). Let’s get started, yeah?
First, A Helpful Table of Contents
Do Your Research on Good Leadership styles
Interviewing & Hiring a Rockstar Team
You must have an in-depth understanding of each position you’re hiring for, and how it affects and benefits your company (especially the bottom line). Understanding the needs of your department and how those trickle down to each specific role is mandatory for any manager.
Have you ever had an interview where it was clear that the hiring manager had no idea what the position you were discussing really entailed? Painful.
As you interview them, keep these thoughts in mind:
- Can you picture them working alongside you on that new project you’re excited about? Do your work values align?
- What are their professional goals, and are they in line with the position you’re considering them for?
- Is their excitement for the role palpable?
If you’re at a larger company your HR department will likely assist with and/or complete the prescreens for you. But if not, a good rule of thumb for each open position is to review the resumes of 50-100 candidates, complete 10 phone screens, invite five final candidates for in-depth interviews, and finally, successfully offer one the job.
Already Have A Team In Place?
If you inherited your team with your promotion, you may have skipped over the last section, but stop right there! It’s still imperative that you familiarize yourself with their roles and responsibilities and consider current team pain points. Read this carefully:
No one will get you more up to speed on your new role than the people surrounding and supporting you.
Don’t be afraid to lean on your team and show your respect for their knowledge. Start always by observing and asking questions.
Establishing Trust and Boundaries
Honest, self-aware, consistent, respectful, and displays good judgment—are these ways you’d describe yourself? Great, because these are the qualities that will gain the trust of your team.
People sum each other up quickly, and first impressions are a one-time deal. Be sure to be your authentic self, and don’t push too hard. Genuine working relationships are built over time and take a little work, but they will develop naturally if allowed.
If you’re still feeling at a loss for how to connect, remember that no one is likely to turn down a free lunch—go ahead and send that invite! Bonding always seems easier over a good meal.
So, how do you strike a balance between the two?
Encourage open discussions among your team and ask for their input and ideas on how to best approach a project or challenge. Not only does this encourage collaboration, but it can also potentially unleash real opportunity for innovation. Set your employees up for success, and then back off.
A great exercise is to ask each employee the following questions:
- What is your favorite thing about working for XYZ Company?
- What do you feel needs to be improved?
- What is one interesting thing about yourself that others may not know?
- What is your personal goal for this year?
- What is your professional goal for this year?
With these questions, you’ll not only gain insight into your employees’ passions and motivations but also how they might benefit you and your company. You can then set about using them in the areas where their talents are strongest. Make it clear you’re interested in helping them find projects they enjoy and tackle new, rewarding challenges. If an employee feels like you are personally invested in their success, they’re that much more likely to feel happy in their role—and their productivity will skyrocket.
Blurred Lines: Boss or Friend?
Feeling uncomfortable, you might worry about how to handle the situation appropriately. You’ve just really started to get to know your team, and speaking up can potentially damage the budding relationship.
Remember that your professional reputation holds more weight than being the “cool boss.” If your boundaries become too blurred, you could open the door to bigger issues, like employees taking advantage of you, or your own manager thinking you don’t have control of your team.
Be sure to address any issue immediately. The key is to be kind, but firm without sounding overly critical. If you can end on a high note or with praise, even better. (e.g. “Maya, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you since I came on board—thanks again for your warm welcome. I wanted to chat, though, because the joke you shared earlier made me uncomfortable—which I’m positive wasn’t your intention. I just wanted to bring it to your attention so we can avoid that in the future.” And then, after the conversations winds down, “By the way, great job on the Smith project—you really rocked that!”).
Managing other Millennials
Millennials are often portrayed as a lazy generation. We’re self-absorbed. We want everything handed to us with little-to-no effort.
We all know that any generalization is unfair and mostly inaccurate. And in reality, managing another millennial will have less to do with your age or generation classification and more to do with how your personalities mix. Hopefully, you should be able to avoid any issues if you carefully hired the best personalities for your team. But sometimes you just have to adjust, especially when it comes to team members you didn’t hire yourself.
Here’s a real-life example
I sat Sara down and discussed her role and performance with her, then asked what her overall goals were in her career and with the company. She struggled to define what her goals were, so I suggested we set some together. I then set aside an extra half-hour, extending our one-on-one to an hour, to give her more of my attention. I decided to be Sara’s cheerleader and build her up to see how it affected her performance.
As I built my relationship with Sara, she began to trust me and feel more comfortable in voicing her opinions. Eventually, she shared with me that she was experiencing a lot of issues personally (hence the frequent callouts), and just didn’t feel passionate about the role or our company. With my attention and offers to help, she could no longer complain and find a scapegoat for her frustration—it wasn’t us, it was Sara. She opted to move on, giving her two weeks’ notice.
In those first few days, I initially (and unfairly) labeled Sara as a stereotypical millennial. But it turned out there were more issues under the surface. The key to navigating this dilemma was focus and intent. Showing interest in my employee’s success helped to pinpoint the source of tension.
How to Manage an Older Colleague
Jacinto advises, “It can be awkward being superior to someone older than you. But it’s your job as a manager to squash that awkwardness on Day One. Treat this team member with respect and let them know you value their expertise and wisdom. Do not patronize, talk down to them, or act in a condescending manner—these types of actions will only hurt you.”
How to Deal with Conflicts and Confrontations
Though we are all professionals, we are also all only human, and sometimes we react to situations in a less-than-desirable way. A manager should always hold herself to a higher standard and conduct herself in a manner that warrants respect.
Jacinto reminds us, “As a leader, it is your job to always remain professional. If you have an employee coming in and raising their voice or acting in a threatening manner, don’t lose your cool. Stay focused and remember to stay calm and handle the situation as even-tempered as possible. Once you tip over to the dark side, you’ll lose that ‘upper hand’ and the respect you’ve gained as the manager.”
Terminating an Employee: How to Know When to Cut Ties
Everyone’s least favorite moment? When you realize it isn’t going to work out with a member of your team. You’ve coached them, given them incentives, and done everything in your power to make the relationship work, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Jacinto says, “It never bodes well for a manager to have to fire someone from their team as it negatively reflects your managerial skills. As a manager, it’s your job to train and guide your team. You need to create open lines of clear communication and outlines for reports and procedures. If someone on your team is behaving badly (missing deadlines, submitting sub-par work, being rude to clients) talk to them about it first. See if they acknowledge their mistakes and if it is possible to start fresh. After the first warning, if they still are lagging, it is time to cut them loose.”
Managing others is not always easy, but it will teach you a lot about others as well as yourself. Remember that attention and recognition go a long way in inspiring and motivating others, so always show your employees that you respect their input and hard work. They’ll reward you for it. With a mixture of your savvy business sense, drive, and these guidelines, you’ll carve a path toward continued growth and success in your career.
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