If you’re a young business founder, it’s extremely likely that many of your employees – especially in senior roles – will be more experienced than you.
This is a good thing! You need their knowledge and know-how to drive growth and make your business run as smoothly as possible. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll automatically feel comfortable steering the ship, especially if you’re intimidated by their experiences or backgrounds. It’s a perfectly natural reaction, but one that shouldn’t make you second-guess every decision, nor one that should make you feel as if you don’t know how to do your job as a company founder.
So if you’re feeling out of your comfort zone when it comes to managing employees who are older than you, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Know the difference between confidence and arrogance
Launching a company is no small feat, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being confident – so long as you don’t become arrogant. While confidence is an important quality for a CEO, arrogance is one that will leave a bad impression. Don’t presume you know everything or act like you have unparalleled business acumen – it is possible to be confident and humble.
2. Be willing to admit when you need help
One of the most important lessons for any leader to learn and become comfortable with is the fact that they do not know everything.
Everyone has knowledge gaps and weaknesses, including company founders and CEOs. So when you need help with tackling a challenge or need to be educated on a particular topic in order to make a decision, don’t be afraid to ask your senior staff members for assistance. They’ll welcome the opportunity to counsel you and will know that you value their knowledge and experience.
3. Avoid micromanaging your employees
Though entry-level employees or those who are new to the field may need a bit more attention paid to them during onboarding and training, it’s likely that your senior staff members will not. Even if they come from corporate cultures that are different from the way you’re running things, that doesn’t mean that you should micromanage them and their daily responsibilities. Allow them space to work, and check in with every now and then to see how things are going. This will signal that you trust them to do their jobs, which will lead them to respect you as a leader.
4. Listen well
When the time comes that an older employee comes to you with a question or concern, listen to them carefully. It’s likely that their feedback or needs for assistance will be different from that of younger staff members, so it’s imperative that you hear them out and don’t assume you know what they’re going to say. If you don’t have an immediate answer or solution for them, let them know that you’ll get back to them – and be sure that you do.
5. Welcome advice
In the event that a senior staff member would like to offer you advice, it would be wise for you to accept. After all, there’s a good reason you hired them. Even if you feel you well-versed in the topic, hearing what they have to say and learning from their experiences will help you have a better understanding of their perspective and how they think through situations. And who knows – maybe they’ll provide you with a new strategy to consider.
Overall, managing employees older than you don’t have to be a constant generational battle – so long as everyone is respectful and willing to hear each other out, it should make for a healthy, robust working environment.