Leadership: How should I lead people who are older than me?
I was asked to comment on a question from Quora.com, a questions and answers website – ‘How should I lead people who are older than me?’
Reading the responses previously written I found myself agreeing, at least in principle, with the comments “…With professional humility, respect, and the knowledge that their experience may well be far more impressive than yours…” and “…Scheduling some recurring one on one time for your own learning”; that said, I couldn’t help but feel that something was being missed, in that the assumption is that the referred to person was a model employee. With this in mind I wrote the following:
I totally agree with Yuval Ariav and Fred Gandolfi’s comments; however, in my opinion their age is irrelevant; any employee can be grumpy and cantankerous or positive dependant on their own individual circumstances. A person, no matter what age, can have a negative approach to life or a positive one.
In my experience, communication is always the key, open considered dialogue with an understanding of the individuals life experience, knowledge, skills and what makes them tick will generally win anyone round.
A good leader will look to utilise their team’s skills and attributes to best effect and not be concerned with individual team members having more defined skills than them. As already stated, I would look to utilise these skills by actively engaging the employees in the overall objectives and purpose for which the team was created.
If the employee simply doesn’t want to play the game then you owe it to them and the rest of the team, to address the root cause of their problem. Sometimes the only option is to help employees move on to something more relevant to their life expectation. They will eventually thank you for this support, if you approach it in the correct way.
Once again, I don’t see a difference between an older employee and a younger one; simply they both have different life experience which has led them to where they are now. Treat them as individuals, engage them in the bigger picture and if they show willing delegate tasks (thus showing them respect) recognise their contribution and give them self-worth. By applying a proactive approach to employee engagement you will release their talent and have a better team as a result.
As a caveat to this response I would also like to add:
I sometimes feel that we lose sight of the true problem when dealing with an interpersonal relationship assuming that we, as the person responsible for the overall delivery, are the one at fault or who has the deficiency. Management and Leadership are skills which require consideration and review every step of the way, but sometimes we doubt ourselves unfairly. In this instance I wonder if the question was more to do with a problem employee than their age. We will never truly know the answer, but sometimes it might be worth considering if the question you are asking is the correct one? Or just an easier one?
If you are interested in reading the full questions and related answers section on Quora.com then please take a look at the link below and comment, if you feel so inclined?
*All comments are based on my personal experiences and given freely. That said, you need to make your own choices. I can’t and won’t accept liability for you employing any recommendations. Business is all about risk. It’s your choice.
Nigel stone has, over the last fifteen years, started, led, consulted and nurtured both UK and European businesses to achieve quite outstanding results.