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I’ve been working for a Credit Union since I graduated from college eight years ago. Three months ago, I was promoted to Assistant Branch Manager and am excited to meet this challenge. I have four direct reports, one of which is old enough to be my mother. She’s clearly not taking my position seriously. She’s attended less than half of our weekly team meetings and when she does, she openly “corrects” me. I’m quickly losing credibility and confidence in my ability to manage. What strategies can you give me to connect with my older employee?


Answer: Congratulations on your promotion!  You’ve proven your ability to get things done as a dedicated individual contributor. Now, you have a chance to get things done through others. That’s a position that can be daunting for any first-time manager. You’re correct to identify that your resistant elder team member should be a top priority. Here are some suggestions for building a bridge across your generational divide.

Persuasion over Power.  True leadership isn’t about having a certain title. If you want to succeed as a team manager, you’ll need to master the ability to invest in and inspire people. Even if you’re the best fit for the Assistant Branch Manager role, your older employee has experience that can help you accelerate team results. The time she’s spent learning the industry and developing her skills can be a resource for wisdom and insight. The best managers openly solicit feedback and even constructive criticism. Schedule some one-on-one meetings with your elder employee to let her know that you value her experience, and part of team success will mean tapping into her as a resource.  Focus on gathering insight, feedback and even constructive criticism, while directing your team toward a common goal.

Different Preferences, Common Goals. Older generations have always been skeptical about whether the next generation can lead.  There’s a term for it – Juvenoia. Start connecting with your older employee by helping her see that your goal is not to change everything that has been built before you. It’s to keep the team in touch with the value that the Credit Union offers your Members and the community at large. First, ask her to share examples where she has seen that the Credit Union has improved the lives of others.  Next, tap into what she feels should not be changed about how the Credit Union serves the Members and the community, and where she sees improvements can be made.  Finally, ask her to help you craft a way of staying true to the mission of the Credit Union while making incremental, continuous improvements in how the team can be most effective.

To be an effective leader in the long run, you’ll have to rinse and repeat your ability to persuade through work toward a common purpose.  You might find John Maxwell’s The 5 Levels of Leadership, a helpful guide for reflection along your leadership journey.


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