I have a new friend. He has been a reader of my blog and the other day we met! He likes some of the advice that I have given about managing teams. So, he asked me about my experiences with being the youngest member of the team and by the way, that youngest member is now the manager. Well, I have been blessed with that experience! It made me think back…
I was a new second lieutenant in my home town US Army Reserve unit. It was my second month of drilling with my new team. It was family weekend. I invited my parents to attend. Many of the unit had their families there as well. We quickly realized that my dad knew many of the members in my new unit. A few of my team’s kids were high school friends of mine. Ouch…
A few other times in my career, I have had opportunities to lead teams that were older than myself. He wanted to know what would help him moving forward. Here are some of the items I discussed with him:
- Is there really a problem? When it happened to me the first time, I really was the one with the problem, more so then my team. I asked my commander or senior manager if the team’s performance is different since I had taken over. Each time, I was told seems like the team’s behaviors are the same. Problem was in my head! My age, my problem.
- Discuss it with you team. Someone may have a problem with your age (besides yourself). When I took over that military unit, I did have a couple of senior NCO’s that were put off by a friend of theirs son was now in charge. We talked about it. Looked for challenges and ways to move forward.
- Ask for their help! I guess I was really lucky with my first experience. It was in the military. Senior NCO’s can make or break a new leader. I learned while attending New Mexico Military that as a 2LT or any grade, that your NCO’s are your life line to success. Treat them with respect. Ask them their opinion. Ask them for help. They have more to teach you than you will ever learn.
I shared with him, that most of the problem with being the leader and the youngest is probably a larger problem in your own mind. Get over it! Everyone has a job to do. You will get older… Treat your team with respect and use their knowledge and experience to help you. Listen, ask and thank them for all of their help. You will be a much better leader of any team!