General Question

ashek1's avatar

How to lead a team of people elder to you?

Asked by ashek1 (130points) February 3rd, 2011

I have to lead a team of consultants at work for pharma client, from work distribution standpoint I would be the single point of contact, all communications from both sides would be routed through me, in this team most people are either elder/older to me or are roughly of same age.
Want to know how to lead them, since they may not obey or might not like me being too bossy. How to make sure people work enthusiastically without any problems
Is there a way I can be polite as well be a good leader ?

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18 Answers

marinelife's avatar

You need to be confident that you know what you are doing. Their age does not matter as long as you act confidently.

Summum's avatar

I agree with @marinelife just show them that you know what you are doing and they will respect that. Be a leader with being confident.

Sunny2's avatar

Add to the above: Make your goals clear. Listen. Call on people who aren’t talking and ask what they think. Don’t be too abrupt. Be a guide rather than a dictator.

blueiiznh's avatar

You need to gain respect and certainly not show that you are capable. That being said, the age thing should not be an issue as much as what the attitude of the others on the team. A good team is age blind. Its about how you function.
I understand your concern as it can be undaunting if you think about it. I went through it early in my career. I was promoted into a group of other Engineers that had 25 or more years with the firm and I was less than 25. The called me “KID”. so when i had to lead a group of people that had more years in the company than I was old, I was worried.
Bottom line, focus on doing a great job and show new energy and vision. Forget the age difference and do a good job and you will have their respect.
Leading a team is about being a good facilitator and finding how to mesh all the resourses and talent you are leading.
Good luck.

marinelife's avatar

@blueiiznh Certainly not show that you are capable?

blueiiznh's avatar

edit…certainly show you ARE capable…. @marinelife thanks for the prof read

6rant6's avatar

Prep for your meetings. Most people don’t prep and the one who does gets to drive the agenda. Once they see you doing the work, most people have a tendency to relinquish control (if that means they have to do less).

Be nice but always know what you want to do next. In short order, you’ll have clear sailing.

Praise people in the group for what they contribute. That makes it appear you are the leader.

One last thing, if something goes a bit wrong, accept responsibility. “I should have anticipated that. My fault.” That’s what people want their leader to do. They’ll feel safer ceding leadership to you if they know you won’t come after them if something goes wrong.

Jaxk's avatar

I’ve been in both situations with older people working for me and I’ve worked for people younger than me. Neither case was a problem. Most of the issues are handled just as they would be with any group. Any decent management class will teach team building skills and consensus building but never forget that management is NOT a democracy. Whatever happens good or bad, you will be accountable to your management and to your team. It doesn’t matter if it was Joe’s idea, if you ran with it you will be responsible for it.

Also don’t hesitate to give credit where credit is due. Both to your management as well as the team. If Joe’s idea worked great make sure your management knows that Joe came up with it. It won’t diminish your success but if you are seen as the guy that steals another’s ideas, it will diminish your credibility.

Last point, don’t be a pass through. If you have direction from your management to make something happen, don’t tell you people, ‘there’s nothing you can do, orders from above’. It sends the message that you are not in charge and they should be speaking to your boss. It reinforces the idea that your just a kid that needs permission.

You likely have an immense storehouse of knowledge, take advantage of it. Make sure you listen but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do it their way. Sometimes you’re listening but the answer is still no.

wundayatta's avatar

Why were you hired for this job? None of these older people were hired. So that means that they aren’t interested in management, or if they are, they weren’t considered good at it. If there is a person who was passed over for you, that would be a person to try to draw back into the team, especially if they have attitude. Either that, or some people would fire them. I wouldn’t think that would go over well, though.

But assume that none of them wanted to manage. That means they are scientists or something and they like to be left alone to do their jobs. They have no interest in management. If that’s the case, they are probably grateful that someone is doing it, so long as they stay out of their way.

The first thing you have to do is go around and talk to everyone about what they are doing and how they do it. Do not make any changes until you have done that. Canvass them and ask them what things could be done to make it easier for them to do their jobs. You’re management. You’re their servant. Don’t forget that. Most people think it’s the other way around.

If you think of yourself as a servant whose job is to help everyone else do their job, you’ll have a good start. Now you may have to redirect them a bit, depending on the goals of the company, but if you explain it well, they will go along with you. And if you make it clear you are going to protect them from whatever shit it is they don’t want to be involved with, you’ll win them over.

Most people just want to be left alone to do what they are good at. They hate meetings. They just want to be told to go and then left to go. Let them go. One of the worst things you can do is micromanage them. They need to feel trusted to do the right thing without close oversight. When you have a meeting, make it short and sweet and only do the things that you absolutely must have people work on together. If someone doesn’t need to be there, than make their presence optional. Let them know the meeting is happening so they don’t feel left out, but also let them know their presence isn’t required.

Sit yourself down in the middle of everyone. Talk to everyone every day—informally. If your desk is in the middle, people can stop and chat whenever they want to or need to. This is very important. If you have a corner office, ditch it. You’re there for them. If you keep that thought in mind, you won’t have a problem. As long as you are always prepared.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
twothecat's avatar

I’m a supervisor of a small group. I’m right in the middle age-wise. It takes a lot of diplomacy sometimes. The younger ones get attitude with the older ones, who then feel disrespected. The older ones feel like they should get the easiest jobs because of their seniority, which makes the younger ones kind of resentful. My job is to listen to everyone gripe, and to diffuse as many problems as I can before they get out of hand. Both sides can be really childish, which is frustrating. Sometimes I feel like their parent.

Jeruba's avatar

Are they expected to obey you, @ashek1? Or is this a team?

@6rant6, are you responding to something on this thread? I can’t see it.

ashek1's avatar

@Jeruba not ‘obey’ in literal sense but yes they should follow the way client wants things to be done (communicated by me). not whatever they feel is good, easy or best know what i mean ..right.

Jeruba's avatar

@ashek1, no, I didn’t, and that’s why I asked. Leading a team is not like commanding troops or ordering servants around. I wondered if you were starting out with a definition of your role that might lead straight to conflict if your expectations were different from those of the team.

A collaborative model is most apt to be successful, and that is about clear shared priorities and a common understanding of roles and responsibilities much more than it is about obedience.

In a 40-year professional career on both coasts of the U.S., I never heard a single boss, manager, team lead, supervisor, or director use the word “obey” to describe the duties of the staff. “Follow guidelines,” yes, “comply,” “adhere to procedure,” “take direction,” “accept guidance,” etc., yes, all those things, but never personal obedience as if to a commander or a master. This is not quibbling over words; it represents an attitude. I imagine that a team of pharmaceutical professionals would bristle at the idea that you were expecting them to obey you; and that, rather than age differences, will make it difficult to lead them.

ashek1's avatar

@Jeruba not to literal sense, sorry for using the word, never knew it sounds so bad thnks for that but you know it might be regional difference. But maid idea is to get a hint on how to lead a team and get things done, since you know in a team of highly qualified people everyone thinks is the best and uses his/her own discretion which might not be the wanted thing by the client as well as may not be the desired solution. So how to make sure people adhere to the bigger common goal

Jeruba's avatar

My response, above, contains several suggestions of the sort you are asking for.

twothecat's avatar

I don’t lead professionals, I lead laborers. They actually want and need me to tell them what to do. I don’t bark orders, I just give them their duties for the day. If they don’t do them, they’re not doing their job.

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