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“HOW TO” manage a YOUNG team?

In the recent stint of my career, I had an opportunity to work with a very young team. It compelled me to share my views on the management of young subordinates in today’s business environment.

The average age of my team including me would be close to 25 yrs and that number is significant when you have a team of 10 people! I have realized over time that managing the young generation is an art in itself. They want to make quick impact and achieve more in short span of time.

 This generation has very different expectations as an employee and they want to be managed in a certain way to get the best out of them. This generation is most tech-savvy of all and possesses multi-tasking skills. Managing such a young team can be frustrating for older managers since they do not find young employees in sync with the older professional customs. In the earlier times, growth in terms of position and responsibilities use to come by the virtue of spending substantial amount of time in a particular role/position/function; however the younger generation wants all that to happen out of turn.

It took me some time to realize the way to manage the young minds and bridge the gaps. Below are a few pointers, which have helped me to be able to play the role for quite some time effectively.

Let’s call it ’8 ways to manage a YOUNG TEAM’: 

1. Set up a clear communication channel:

Younger employees depend on technology a lot for information and hence it becomes very important to clearly define the communication channels within the team. It’s always beneficial to give preference to face-to-face communication. Clearly share the expectations of when a face-to-face discussion is required and when technology (mails, messages, IMs) should be used. Establishing communication guidelines pro-actively help in avoiding miscommunications down the line. You should clearly define the rules of communication with senior management and it should be understood well by the team. This will prevent any embarrassing situation to arise for the team members, you and well as the senior members in the management team.

2. Be a listener:

Listen to your team members when they speak. Show that you are interested in their point of view. If you do not completely agree, agree with whatever you can and interject only information that they can use to strengthen their ability to handle the tasks. Young employees will have many things to say and they need to be heard patiently. At times you might get some out of the box suggestions which can be employed immediately, however sometimes you might have to turn down the employee. Do both appropriately with due diligence.

3. Be flexible:

One thing that young employees find most motivating is the flexibility at work. It might not be always possible to offer flexibility but it should be done wherever possible. This is a key area to keep the young employees motivated. If they don’t feel like they are able to balance their work and personal lives, they will find another job quickly.

4. Leverage Their Strengths:

Young employees have many positive attributes that they bring to the workplace. To get the most from this generation, find ways to leverage their strengths. Provide them with tasks and assignments where they can add value. If you can find ways to utilize their skills and channel their energy, you will experience productive results.

5. Treat them with respect:

This might sound very generic but it’s not actually so. Frequently, young employees complain about being treated as their “manager’s kid” rather than their employee. They also feel they are chastised because they are viewed as having limited experience as compared to other employees. Young employee tends to ask a lot of questions and challenge the status quo. Resist the urge to brush them off because of their age and show them the respect that everyone deserves. You will have to give your team the confidence that you are there to support them in any situation.

6. Share information:

You can’t expect your staff to act in a particular way if they don’t know why they are expected to do so. You don’t have to tell them everything, but don’t keep them in the dark, either. Good employees will care more and be more responsible if they understand why organization makes the decisions it makes. It can be related to anything; from an Organization Restructuring to diversifying the business to splitting up of functions or anything like that. Do not hide information from your team since they would anyhow get to know about it. However, the version of that information might not be completely legit. You would not like your team to know about things from some unreliable source or a facebook group!

7. Be a Coach:

If your team comes to you with their challenges, don’t tell them the answer. Coach them by asking questions that will help them evaluate their situation and lead them to working out their own solution. When they do come to you with problems, ask them for the solution. If they do not readily have one, give them a concept to go on and ask them to start there and return with a solid solution. Tell them to apply the concept of ‘5Ws and an H’. (These are 6 questions that should be asked whenever you are stuck in something – WHO, WHY, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW.) If they are still stuck and the solution does require your expertise, go ahead and advise, but make sure the team member is the one who actually performs the work associated with the solution. Do not do it yourself. This will help them the next time they are in a similar situation as by doing the work they will build confidence and add tools to their problem-solving toolbox.

8. Build a sense of belonging:

Young employees want to genuinely believe that they are playing an important role. They want a sense of belonging, connecting, and ultimately being attached to real results. Make the team realize that they are a part of the bigger picture and their work is adding value to the organization at the broader level. Make them aware of the developments in the oraganisation and help them relate themselves to it. Do not leave things to them for their own interpretation but try to talk it out as a open group discussion. This helps in clearing mis-conceptions and doubts if any within the team members.

Managing young employees doesn’t have to be as difficult as some make it out to be. The key is to set clear expectations and establish open lines of communication. Follow these tips for a positive experience with your young team. They will be the future leaders of the business world someday. Let’s take the time now to foster their success.

6 comments

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  1. Tangy Tomato Twist

    good post. Now a days we want more in less time … and sometimes handling a young team becomes very difficult .

    1. Manav Lalotra

      Exactly! Today managing the APPLE generation is the toughest task for OLD-SCHOOL managers!! Hope this post helps them.

  2. Priyanka U

    Completely agree with your viewpoint.
    Today’s generation is very restless, aggressive and wants to prove their worth in a very short span of time. Hence, it becomes all the more important to provide them with the right perspective whenever required. I believe you require a good mentor throughout your career span who can guide and support you but as they say “The strength of a building depends on its foundation”, hence having a good mentor during your initial career days assumes all the more importance.

    1. Manav Lalotra

      As a young professional, one does want to achieve a lot in short span, however one must appreciate the fact that few things must take its time for development. A fruit will take its time to ripe and then only it gives the taste! Having said that, there are means and methods to ensure that the span of growth is shortened without compromising on the learning and deveopment of skills and competencies.

  3. Rajesh

    Rightly said. When you are young you tend to have the aggression and the attitude to succeed in your career. So it becomes very important to be in right hands. A supportive manager guides you in every phase of your career. He who mentors, understands and guides you at the right time. This is how people develop and enrich themselves.

    1. Manav Lalotra

      I concur with your views Rajesh. To add to it, I feel that you need to blend the attitude and required skills to perform a job in order to succeed. Set a goal, find a mentor to guide you across and then be committed to it – none can stop you from soaring high!!

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