I received my first management position at the age of 22.
I thought I had it all together. I just graduated from undergrad, had my own place, car, money, and now I was the boss at work.
But I sucked as a manager. I thought I was prepared to manage others because I had gained plenty of leadership skills while I was apart of various organizations in college. Unfortunately, being president or a leader in a campus organization is totally different from being a boss for a company, especially when the people that you lead are older than you. The skill of management is something that is deep-rooted in some, and developed over time by others. While I know I was born to lead, I can look back now and see that there were so many things that I should have and could have done better.
Fast forward to a few years later, I have gained more experiences as a manager, and I have even received a few promotions along the way (so I guess I didn’t suck that bad). Nonetheless, I have taken my good, bad, and very ugly experiences in management as a learning experience and as a challenge to become even better.
From my years in management, I have learned that doing the work can be easy, but learning how to manage, develop, and motivate people is not always a piece of cake.
Listed below are a few pieces of nontraditional advice from a modern, Millennial manager that’s in her 20s. By reading this, you will learn some of the things that I wish someone would have told me, and you will learn how to not make the same mistakes that I made.
1. Always be prepared to answer the “How old are you?” question.
I can guarantee you that if you haven’t received this question yet, you will definitely get it once you are in a management position. While some people consider it rude to ask someone their age, people still do it all the time. If someone asks you this, I recommend that you answer it with confidence and honesty. Don’t lie about your age to seem more “mature or qualified.” Brian Wong, a young entrepreneur, mentioned in an article that if you look at your age as a crutch or disadvantage it will become one. But if you look at it as a positive thing, it will be a positive thing.
2. Don’t try to learn by example.
I think the biggest mistake that I made when I became a manager was trying to emulate how my boss led when she was the manager. When you are new to management, you will not find a lesson on managing people that is unique to you. Completely clueless on what to do, I copied my boss’ management style, and I expected to receive the same amount of success as a boss. Of course, this did not work. It wasn’t until I analyzed myself to see what my likes, dislikes, skills, and values were that I became a better manager. I learned that people truly lead differently, and what worked for one manager may not work as well for you. If you are impressed with your boss’ management style, ask him or her for advice and tips, but also see what works for you.
3. Adjust your management type.
There is not a cookie-cutter style in managing people (trust me I know). Organizations are filled with diverse people with different backgrounds and personalities. How you reprimand or show praise to one person will not work for another. Studies show that different generations work differently, and being aware of this is important as a manager. In your company, you may be a Millennial, and may manage older people in other generations like Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and older Millennials.
Studies show that Baby Boomers are known to choose work over personal life. They typically do not trust authority, but they can be open to change. They love receiving personal gratification, and at work they normally have a sense of entitlement. Generation Xers are considered the “slacker” generation. They naturally question authority figures and believe in the concept of work/life balance. They also tend to be more independent than other generation groups. Millennials are known to be very team-oriented, are easily bored, loves challenging work, and seeks gratification in their work.
As a young manager, you will supervise people in different generations so it is important to know what their work style is like, and how you can adapt your management style to be an effective leader.
4. Be confident and don’t be afraid to delegate.
You have been given the opportunity to lead, and it wasn’t given to you by mistake. When I first became a manager, I wasn’t only the youngest manager in my office, but all of my subordinates were at least 10-15 years older than me (and some even had more years of work experience). I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t intimidated at first because I definitely was. I felt slightly inadequate and I was a little too nice. My timid and overly nice personality started to become second nature, so I didn’t notice that I was a pushover. If you are feeling like you may be a pushover, I would advise that you find more self-confidence, and believe in the power of your role and your responsibility to be a fearless leader. Also, do not be scared to delegate.
5. Good bosses know how to get the work done, and delegate when necessary.
Delegation was also a skill that I didn’t have when I first became a boss, but I quickly learned my lesson. I remember when I first started out in management, I thought it was my responsibility to literally do everything since ultimately I was responsible for everybody and each project. It wasn’t until I realized that I wasn’t getting any sleep, was skipping out on lunch, and saw my assistant pinning away on Pinterest during work that I knew a change was needed. I realized that my lack of delegation was not only exhausting and hurting me, but it was also hurting my employee. Failing to delegate prevents employees from learning and stifles their professional growth. It doesn’t matter how old an employee is, they can still professionally develop, and it is your responsibility to equip them with the right tools to do so.
6. Know when to ask for help.
When I realized that I was failing as a manager, I reached out to other managers, and looked up self-help articles online. I also talked with my boss and discussed my concerns. I wasn’t afraid or ashamed to admit that I wasn’t doing a good job, and neither should you. The advice that I got from other people was extremely helpful, and it showed me things about myself that I didn’t notice.
7. Ask your team for feedback.
A good boss or leader is open to criticism, feedback, and finds both necessary to grow. As a boss, it’s okay to be vulnerable and seek advice from your employees. Whenever I have one-on-ones, I always ask my employees if there is anything that I could do better, or if they need anything from me to be successful. This is a question that not only helps me out and teaches me to be better, but it shows your employees that you are open-minded and value their opinion. I’ve learned that asking this question is favorable among my older employees because it gives them a chance to be heard.