Author Jan Ferri-Reed

It’s only a matter of time. The leading edge of the Millennial generation, now in its late 30s, is loading up the ranks of management. Over the next 20 years, Generation Y supervisors and managers will steadily replace Baby Boomers and Gen Xers at supervisory levels, including the executive suite. But are they ready for big roles?

The good news is that, for the most part, Millennials are excited about having the opportunity to manage and lead. As a group, Millennials are believed to be confident, ambitious, skilled and well-educated. They expect to do well in their careers and strive for an opportunity to exhibit their skills.

The Challenges Facing Gen Y Managers 

The first problem facing newly appointed Millennial supervisors may be the “perception gap” that exists between Generation Y and older generations. Older workers may suspect their Millennial supervisors lack the work ethic that got their predecessors promoted.

Millennial managers may also harbor certain stereotypes. They may view their older workers as stuck in their ways, staunch in their beliefs and late (perhaps hesitant) adopters of technology.  

Of course, these perceptions are generalizations. They may not be fair to individual workers and could interfere with Generation Y’s abilities to build trust and the older generations’ abilities to succeed under new, younger management. 

Millennials may also tend to underestimate their older employee’s skills, knowledge and contributions to the workplace. With less tenure in the company, they may not always be aware of the organization’s history, traditions and cultural expectations.  

Collaboration styles

Millennials are widely regarded as having a collaborative style of communication and teamwork. Unfortunately, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers may not have always had the pleasure of working for collaborative supervisors. After decades of management and organizational development, “top down,” formal styles of management are more familiar to many older workers. Employees who are accustomed to explicit direction may not respond well to supervisors who solicit input and give employees autonomy.  

There is also a risk that a Generation Y’s relationship with members of their own generation may suffer when they receive an appointment to management. This isn’t strictly a generational dilemma. Workers elevated in the ranks often find their former coworkers regard them as friends rather than superiors. This can become problematic when supervisors must give corrective feedback to an employee who remains a friend. It can be difficult to maintain the balance between being a good friend and an effective leader. 

Supervisory Strategies for Millennial Managers 

Most successful supervisors are made and not born. By implementing strategies for taking charge of the work team and building trust and respect, new Generation Y supervisors can be sure to get their management careers off on the right foot. 

Establish Two-Way Communication and Build Trust 

A great first step for a new millennial supervisor is to conduct one-on-one discussions with each of their employees. This time should be used to become acquainted (as needed), discuss the employee’s expectations and review the team’s goals. This is the best way to prevent future communication breakdowns and the best way to begin establishing trust with each employee. 

Establish Expectations 

Most employees are anxious to find out what their new supervisor expects from them as a team, as well individually. While it may not be necessary to establish new office rules, it may be best for new supervisors to review existing policies. This is a good time to clarify expectations, explain one’s management style and determine communication and coaching preferences. 

Celebrate Successes 

Ultimately, a team supervisor is responsible for ensuring that their team is successful in meeting the company’s goals. This also means that supervisors should provide positive feedback in addition to constructive feedback.  By celebrating team and individual successes, newer supervisors can gain leadership status and credibility with employees. 

Leaders of the Future 

There certainly are many other tasks, functions and skills that supervisors should learn if they plan on long careers in management. Will these Generation Y managers confidently take the reins and lead their organizations to greater levels of success? Or will they crash and burn? Perhaps only time will tell, but there’s good reason to hope for the best. 

About Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed

Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed is a seasoned consultant and President of KEYGroup®, a 33-year international speaking, training and assessment firm. She is co-author of Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What To Do About It, and author of Millennials 2.0 – Empowering Generation Y.  Jan will be presenting her program at IMS New York in December. Learn more about Dr. Ferri-Reed.

Author and coach Bill Hawkins

I’m constantly telling leaders that probably the most important element of coaching is providing feedback. People need to know what they’re doing well, and they need to know what areas are in need of improvement. This may seem obvious, but research shows that many managers find it awkward and uncomfortable―and even embarrassing―to tell someone their performance needs improvement. So we put it off, hoping the situation will improve on its own. Many times it doesn’t; in fact, it may get worse.

In my coaching practice I’m frequently asked, “Is there a better way to do this?” The answer is yes! Of all the coaching and feedback models available, I do have a favorite.

Here’s why:

  • It respects the dignity of the person receiving the feedback.
  • It’s structured in a positive way to increase that person’s ability to really hear and accept the message.
  • There is a future―what you’re going to do differently―that should produce an immediate positive adjustment in performance.

Step 1: Describe the Problem Concisely

For some, this may seem impossible. “But there’s history and context, so I need to build my case.” Don’t. No long-winded build-up, no history, no blame. Keep it in behavior terms and avoid a discussion about attitude. You don’t know “why” the behavior occurred; just describe what was done.

Example:

“In our last meeting with several members of senior management, you interrupted the discussion three times to talk about issues you’re experiencing with the reorganization.

Step 2: Describe the effect of the person’s behavior on others: you, the department, the team, the customer―and themselves.         

Example:

“In meetings like this, bringing up problem after problem without suggestions, alternatives, or success stories brings the whole team down. And senior management may get the impression you aren’t doing your best to make the changes a success, which can negatively impact your opportunity for promotion. I need you to help me set a more positive tone.

Then, if possible, say something to minimize potential embarrassment (yours and theirs): “This isn’t like you.”

Step 3: Ask, “What Happened?”

Now give them an opportunity to “explain.” You must listen―really listen―to their explanation. Don’t interrupt. Don’t argue. Even if they get some facts wrong (and they might), and even if you disagree (you probably will), don’t argue. Instead, try to see it from their perspective.

Step 4: Get Their “Buy-In”

Helping this person take a share of responsibility for the situation is key. Notice I did not say their fair share, because who determines what is fair, anyway?

You want different behavior next time, so your goal is to get the other party to accept a share of the responsibility and move forward.

Example:

“You are right, it was a new situation for you, the instructions weren’t clear, and there were other people who were also negative. I understand that. Let me ask you, what could you have done differently?”

Step 5: Develop a Plan

Ask, “Faced with the same situation, what would you do differently next time?”

Once the person is aware of the situation, there’s a good chance that he/she will be able to come up with alternatives for the future. If not, be prepared to offer help, but my experience is that they will have ideas.

Resist the temptation to perfect their plan. If they are anywhere close, go with it.

Effectiveness is an equation:

Results = (quality of the idea) multiplied by (the motivation to implement that idea)

The idea may be good, but whose good idea is it? If it’s not their idea, the motivation to actually implement the idea decreases significantly.

Although they may nod and accept your great plan, it is still your plan. (And if it doesn’t work, your fingerprints are all over it.) You’re much better off with an acceptable plan that is theirs to own.

Step 6: Get a Commitment

Most people you work with take their commitments very seriously. So get one. Say, for example:

Example:

“The next time this situation comes up, do I have your commitment that you will do this?”

Step 7: Show Confidence

Finally, finish the conversation by stating your confidence in the person. For example:

“I have every confidence that you will.”

This quick 7-step process puts some structure to a difficult and uncomfortable task for many leaders. You won’t use it every day. When you need to approach a sensitive subject and you anticipate a difficult conversation, use this. It works.

About Bill Hawkins

Bill Hawkins leverages the latest research on leadership effectiveness to design and deliver high-impact practical leadership education workshops. He has worked with over 20 Fortune 500 companies in 17 countries, co-authored 5 books on leadership, and is listed in the Who’s Who of International Business. 

Bill will be presenting 4 more programs for IMS in 2019: Chicago in September, and Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and Toronto in December.