5 Things To Do That Will Make You a Successful Young Manager
The idea of being a young manager can be an absolutely amazing thing (think about all the fun that Kevin had when his family went away in Home Alone). Yet in reality being a manager is not all about telling everyone what to do and always getting our way.
First off, no matter how many people we have working under us, we always have a boss too. Heck, even when you are CEO you have a boss (aka the Board of Directors). Then there also is all the paperwork, documentation and “cleaning up” behind your direct reports when they do not complete 100% of their jobs.
Regardless of the hassles, managing others can be a rewarding experience. Moreover, as a young professional it can be a very valuable experience that will reap endless benefits as our career develops. I am of the belief that your ultimate success is business is not what you do but what you can get others to do, so managing people early in your career will put you leaps and bounds ahead of others as your climb the corporate ladder.
In my corporate experience I have managed a diverse cross section of people; some older, some younger, some the same age. No matter what the age of your employees, your business function (from accounting to sales and everything in between) or the size of your company and industry, there are some key things to keep in mind in order to be make your people forget that you are a young leader with little management experience and focus on the fact that you are just a leader that bring extraordinary value to the table.
Here are 5 important rules that when not followed can derail your ability to manage your team to its full potential:
- Look the part: As a young person you want to dress like you are a manager. It is ok to dress up a little more than others in the office. While most people in my office wore khakis and a dress shirt, I wore suit or sports coat (no tie). This communicates a sense of formality and will make people take you more seriously than if you were under-dressed. Moreover, if you can change your hair or overall look to appear older it will help. I can look fairly young for my age so I grew a goatee which made me look 7 years older.
- Don’t mention your age… at least not right away: It is not a good idea to go around broadcasting that you are young and inexperienced, especially when you are managing people. Once someone knows your age, it tends to create resentment. Employees older than you will think you don’t deserve to be a manager and those the same age will think that they can be your friend, eventually taking advantage of you to get special treatment. I made an effort not to let anyone know my age, however in one position my peer announced to the group a few days before I changed jobs that I didn’t have much experience and was a recent college grad. This ended up creating an obstacle I had to overcome in order to be seen as credible. We don’t need to hide your age forever, though. In fact, once you have proven yourself and have a track record of doing amazing work, telling your age can be a good thing. Once you are accomplished people are impressed and admire you for getting so far at a young age.
- Make it seem like you are more experienced than you are: Talk abstractly about your experiences. When speaking to my employees in my first management job right out of college I would refer to experiences I had at different companies through internships. I wouldn’t, however, explicitly say that I was an intern. I would say that in a “marketing position in a previous I did xyz…” I also played with vaguery even more, since I traveled for a few months between graduation and starting my job. So when my people asked if I came from right school to this job I mentioned that I did not, instead saying that I traveled between school and work (I did not mention it was only for 6 months though). Don’t say you had this other position 2 years ago after your junior year, instead refer to the passing of time as “a few years ago.” The same is true for interacting with your boss or peers; it is generally best to keep your age to yourself.
- Don’t talk about college all the time: I have seen many recent college grad colleagues consistently reference college experiences like they were yesterday. This is great to do when you are amongst other recent grads but it can lead co-workers older than you to look down on you or focus on your lack of experience.
- Help your people, don’t command them: As a young manager the most important piece of advice I can give is not to power trip. Being boss does not mean your first job is to tell people what to do an exert your authority. Job #1 is to support your people and help them do their job better. If you view your role from the point of view of a servant then you will motivate your people to listen to you and support your vision.
It can be great to be the boss, especially when you are young because it forces you to teach others how to be successful in their jobs (and the old saying says that you retain the highest % of something when you are teaching someone else how to do it), i.e. teaching makes you learn. But remember to “teach” (or coach) in the right way without committing any of the blunders above that will create a wall between you and your employees.
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