They have the experience; you have the title – now what?

One of the most interesting and challenging dynamics for a young business leader is working with older executives who have more experience, understanding, and skill than their boss. It could be an uncomfortable situation – and often is – when it’s not handled properly. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s absolutely no need for the “young upstart” versus “the old guard” mentality to set in at your business.

Always start with clear expectations.

They have the experience; you have the title - now what?

Assumptions are corrosive to morale and relationships. You need to let people know what you expect and how all of you can work together to achieve those goals. Don’t be coy or domineering. Be matter of fact, and take time to listen. Getting feedback now could save you heartaches and headaches later. Be sure, though, to address what you will and will not tolerate, and stick to your guns. Nothing erodes leadership quite like setting a standard and failing to uphold it.

Talk to your new hires.

Be directly involved in the recruiting process. This doesn’t mean you should not outsource or delegate some responsibilities, but you need to meet and speak with everyone your company hires, especially in the beginning. You are working to build a strong company culture, and recruiting is an indispensable step.

Set a tone early.

It’s likely your experienced people will be set in your ways. They will not know what to expect from you. Set a strong, competent, and direct tone. They will be more likely to respect you … and your directness can help weed out anyone likely to cause problems down the line. There will be a few who won’t want to listen to you just because of your age. You don’t need those people. Let them become someone else’s problem. Conversely, don’t give them any reason to dismiss you “because of your age.”

Establish and maintain a dialogue.

This could take the form of regular meetings, one-on-one interactions or surveys. Choose the method that works best for your team. And make sure it’s worth everyone’s time. Don’t meet just to meet or talk just to talk. Establish goals, metrics, and action items so everyone can enjoy the benefits of this ongoing conversation.

Finally, help them get even better.

Want to get your best people to support you? Give them opportunities to get even better. Training, professional development, tough tasks that will stretch them.

So, what do you think? Did any of these suggestions resonate with you? What are some ways you can establish rapport and earn the respect of your better-qualified employees?

Chris Burch is a venture capitalist and founder of Burch Creative Capital.

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