For all the anxieties over generational differences on the job (or in general—see every “OK boomer” meme), much has been made of Millennials’ role and attitude toward the workplace. But for every generalization about Millennials job hopping or wanting participation trophies, there are realities that this generation faces as it moves out of the entry-level and into mid-career.
Learning how to segue into management is one of the skill sets often ignored by think pieces about how to manage this Millennial sea change. Professionals in their late 20s and 30s are increasingly ready to assume leadership roles. But once the promotion comes, how do you manage the changes in responsibility?
1. Find the right management mentor
When you’re moving into a managerial role, it can be tempting to show how independent and wise you are—after all, you’ve been entrusted with great responsibility. But that doesn’t mean you’re done with mentorship and coaching at this stage of your career. People at every professional level can use a little guidance and encouragement. Knowing that you have a trusted someone to act as a sounding board or to identify gaps you can work on is not a sign of managerial weakness—if fact, it’s the opposite.
Identify managers in your company or your industry whose style you like and respect. You’ll develop your own style as you go, but a little modeling (especially at the start) will help you build confidence and skills.
2. Be flexible
Having a growth mindset will help you find a balance between helping others grow and succeed and making sure that you’re growing and evolving as well. Understanding that you don’t necessarily know everything from day one doesn’t mean you’re undermining your own authority—it shows you’re aware that everyone has room to grow. Embrace challenges, don’t ignore them. Be open to the idea that other people’s ideas may be the way to achieve your goals, even when you initially thought your way would be the best one.
3. Be honest about your limitations
Owning your own gaps and mistakes models to your team that you aren’t some remote, unbending voice of authority. It shows leadership to demonstrate that failures and deficits are a fact of professional life—and can be valuable learning experiences as you get back on track.
This is not to say you should spend your time publicly examining your skills or your decisions to show humility. However, being upfront about what you do well—and what you’re working to improve—gives your team members the freedom to be honest and proactive about their own challenges. A growth mindset is key for any successful manager.
4. Be mindful of differences
This isn’t about being mindful of basic diversity (which, of course, we should all be doing). Rather, it’s about understanding that there might be generational dynamics at play. You could end up managing people older than you (perhaps significantly), or young upstarts. Just like Millennials are often underestimated or generalized as a group, it’s important to understand the cultural frameworks that your team members might have.
5. Make people skills your priority
Giving individualized attention to your team members is one of the most important management tools you have. That’s not the same as micromanaging them (which is almost universally a trait people dislike in their managers). Make sure your team members know they can be honest with you about ideas or concerns. Whenever possible, schedule periodic one-on-one check-in meetings—not just to understand what their workload is, but also so that all team members feel heard and important.
When all else fails and you’re feeling frustrated as a manager, think back to what you have always valued most in your own managers along the way. Those old feelings can get lost in the day-to-day demands of managing your work and others’, but if you stay in touch with your values, your priorities, and your sense of what works and what doesn’t, you’ll be a more thoughtful and effective manager.