What it’s like to manage people twice your age

26 thoughts on “What it’s like to manage people twice your age”

  1. Ive actually never managed anyone younger then me. I’ve found mostly what you’ve said here. Instill trust, make decisive decisions, and try to look out for your employees. Do these things and regardless of age most of them will pull for you.

  2. The best managers I have had are ones who are willing to learn from their team and trust me with autonomy (grant ownership). They have also been the managers that are tough in order to make us stretch and grow, but are fair and honest. I have a lot of respect from those who manage teams (and individuals) well… it is not an easy task!

  3. This is my life. When I was 24, I was promoted to manage a team of 12 business analysts. 24. Of course, I took the opportunity because who wouldn’t, but man was it difficult. Many of these points hit home for me. I think the biggest thing I learned was to learn from other people. More than anything, I now know that those on my team are intelligent and extremely capable people and I should trust them.

    1. Wow, nice! Sounds like you had the right attitude during it all, too. Learning from those around you…even if what you’re learning is what NOT to do, is a critical technique to keep improving.

  4. This is great advice. I think the combination of respect and listening, while still maintaining decisiveness is key. Make sure that everybody knows that are being heard and considered fairly, but also that once you make a decision it is time to move on to the next issue. That balance is often difficult to find in a manager of any age.

    1. True that, Matt. It’s not easy to make decisions without knowing all possible outcomes. But still, you gotta do it. Otherwise, you can’t be an effective manager.

  5. “As I’ve said before, it’s not hard to look good in corporate ” <=== So sad, yet so true.

    If you can learn the corporate game early on, your career and income will benefit. By understanding have to navigate Corporate America and personal finance, its as if you have this doubling effect from the increases in income and decreases in your spending.

    It is how a lot of my wealth was generated right out of the gate.

    1. It really is all a corporate game, isn’t it? Game is played differently from place to place to an extent, but largely, the concepts are the same. Learn it. Play it. Then, retire early.

  6. Great perspective Steve. I was promoted to manager in my IT operations group. The tough transition for me was I was working with a number of friends that I helped recruit into the department. They didn’t take to kindly at first from me going from coworker to telling them what to do. Overtime, working together, challenging them, being fair, I earned their respect.

    1. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it Brian? It is tough going from coworker to boss. At first, it is strange to both parties, but with time – and smart management – things get much more natural.

  7. Management has never been of interest to me. There are times when I think of ways to change or improve the system, but then I realize with management comes more meetings. More sitting in a board room for an hour and listening to people talk with little getting done. Let me stay a soldier for now, maybe in the future I will change my mind….

    I am sure it feels good to be the manager of your own life now! Nice summary of ways to manage others, but managing yourself seems more fun.

    1. I’m with you, Dads. Managing ourselves IS fun, but ironically, it’s also something that so many people don’t take all that seriously. They can manage a team effectively, but sometimes, it’s amazing they can figure out how to dress themselves in the morning. 🙂

      1. True dat. The manager can sometimes be a buffoon in their personal life. Ahh….the corporate world. Well kudos to you for leaving it….maybe I can join you one day in an RV caravan!

  8. I really enjoyed this post . . . along with your ‘not important’ post . . . I, too, rose to high administrative ranks at my university (while still in my 30s). I learned alot. I also learned alot that I wish I wouldn’t have . . . In our 20s and 30s, we’re all still in a ‘should’ mode if you ask me . . . you should do this; you should do that. There’s something damaging about this approach . . . and it’s nearly impossible to avoid because it’s part of the American ideal/culture (i.e., work hard, climb). Stepping back in my own career (afterward) has given me more perspective than I ever thought.

    1. Oh me too. Perspective is definitely wisdom, but you gotta put in the time before that comes. Like you, I learned a lot too. I like to think it’s made me a more well-rounded person, but that probably depends on who you ask! 😉

  9. I didn’t think about it before reading your post, but I’ve never been ‘managed’ by someone younger than me, nor have I managed someone older so it was interesting reading this. Not sure how I would perform in either situation lol. I so agree age is a state of mind though. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Well said, Steve. As an “Oldster”, I’ve been in the position you were in, and on the other side as well. As I crested the hill and started down the other side I moved out of management and back into a more “normal” position and my manger was a younger person I had hired and trained. It could not have worked out better.

    If I had one piece of advice for those rising up the ladder it would be that there is no difference between business and personal. It’s not like you are one person in a tie and another in a polo shirt. Be yourself in every situation. Own your shit in every circumstances and the people who report to you will respect you. The natural extension of that is that when the day comes that you report to someone else again, it is more likely that it will be someone you respect, because they learned how to lead from you.

  11. I too took over a technical team at a relatively young age. I got the “honor” of leading the manager that got demoted from the position I was filling, the person who hired me several years earlier and yet another of my previous managers. I never found age to be a determining factor. I treated everyone with respect and I had good and bad staff members. I found the determining factor was their attitude and work ethic, the lazy didn’t like me the hard workers did.

  12. There’s a lot of management gurus that believe they know all the secrets to managing people. I’ve read all those books, and took many classes on the subject…

    You know what worked the best for me over the years? Staying humble. Not tooting my own horn and learning from other people. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the relationships with your employees.

    As you said, age doesn’t have a lot to do with that.

  13. They selected you for the position because they saw you as being qualified. Becoming a director of a large department at such a young age is quite an accomplishment. From an HR point of view, you handled the situation perfectly. Once you start to treat people differently, you have to be careful of not discriminating against anyone. I use two tools. I use the job description and the handbook. This is your job and these are the rules. People complain about policy, but once you get into management they are a good scapegoat. When in doubt, what does the policy say?

    1. Very true, Dave. Treat people differently and you’re setting yourself up for possible backlash. For me, it was just easier to treat everyone with the same level of respect. I didn’t have the time nor the inclination to pick and choose my level of respect. Everyone got the same.

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