I'm a freshly minted sales manager in a small (15 employee, $5MM) company. I've just hired an older person with a wealth of experience as an account manager. Frankly, I'm a bit nervous about how to manage him, as the remainder of my team is all 5-6 years younger than me and I have been with the company longer then them.

Anyone have any insight or thoughts or experiences with managing older directs?

jhack's picture

Treat them no differently. All directs should be treated with respect. Employ the techniques of one on ones, feedback, etc. Ask their opinions on matters where their expertise will be relevant.

I've worked for folks younger than me, and have had directs older. As long as there is mutual respect, there should be no issues.


juliahhavener's picture
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I think John summed it up. He's an employee just like any other - I suspect that the one minor difference I've seen managing someone older than I am is due more to personality type than anything else.

WillDuke's picture
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I have a couple of people working for me that are older than me. I find that they appreciate the respect I give them.

I also have a couple of people working for me that are younger than I am. I find that they appreciate the respect I give them.

Hmm. Interesting trend here. It seems that both sets appreciate respect. I think I might be onto something... :wink:

regas14's picture
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Immediately in my mind is an adage I've heard Mark repeat several times:

"You're not that smart. They're not that dumb."

I don't mean to imply that you were calling anyone dumb, but I think this is helpful to keep in mind with all employees. The manager should not consider herself or himself the expert on every area. Certainly everyone of your directs knows more than you in one way or another. They can all offer something. You're not so smart that there is a DR who has nothing on you.

Treat them all that way and you'll grow to value the knowledge, skill, expertise, experience and perspective of all of your DRs and what they have to offer to making your team complete and effective.

vinnie2k's picture

3 thoughts: 1 on 1, feedback, coaching.

Yes, coaching even for the less recently educated gentleman. If you can find an activity where he struggles a little bit (organization? technology? analysis?) and where you can effectively coach him, that should win you his confidence.

Experience: I am managing someone who is old enough to be my father right now. It all goes well when I remember that INTSTNTD :P (hint: someone else posted it already). I also try to tap into his experience and to ask him for data as much as I can.


tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

Anyone have any insight or thoughts or experiences with managing older directs?[/quote]

I'm in this situation, too. In fact, everybody who works for me now is older than me. (I'm 46, only one of my directs is under 50.) In my previous branch, I was in the middle.

For the most part, it's the same, except that the older guys are generally more experienced and self-directed. They need a little less mentoring, and a little more coaching.

The older guys have slightly different interests that come up in one-on-ones. The last regular round of O3s had three of my guys talking about taking their kids off to college. There is less discussion of the weekend little league games, and more about dealing with pool contractors and vacation homes at the beach. Fewer trips to amusement parks, though Disney World remains popular. The younger guys would get offers to join professional organizations. The older guys get offers to join AARP.

The older guys are less likely to talk about promotions, and more likely to talk about the next big project. For my team, people still working on the Hubble Space Telescope want to know when they will get to transition to working on the James Webb Space Telescope. They are fine with a plan that says "Fall of '08" as long as they understand the plan, and how they will wind down their work on Hubble in the next year or so. (After we complete the work on Servicing Mission 4.)

The older guys are less likely to get injured, but more likely to get sick. In my old branch, bike crashes or pitching injuries (one semi-pro baseball player in particular) happened at least once every quarter. Usually when it was really inconvenient! In my new branch, somebody is out for some kind of screening exam (e.g. colonoscopy or fasting cholesterol) almost every week. We are all either in or approaching the prime time for first heart attacks, and being in a sedentary business, none of us are in the shape we'd like to be.

Injuries are never fun, and bike crashes can leave really horrifying wounds, but you can generally get an idea of how long recovery will take after a few weeks. (The biker didn't get back to 100% for more than a year, but we knew it would take a year within about three weeks of the accident, and he came back to work in about five weeks.)

Being ill can be very uncertain. One of my peers is dealing with an older DR who is going through a second round of chemo, where the impact is fairly modest, but the duration is very uncertain, and there is the very real, persistent fear that the chemo will not be successful. The point being that I find it harder to gauge the duration of illnesses, which makes it harder to manage through the crisis.

At the extreme end, older DRs are thinking about retirement. (I have one guy in this situation right now; two of my peers have had someone retire in the last year.) Succession planning with the older guys can be a little easier, since you can have literally years to transition somebody else into a role. Somebody two or three years from getting out of the business entirely is less likely to leave on short-notice like the younger guys.

When it comes to coaching, the older guys often seem to me to need more of a critic than a teacher. Being able to give feedback effortlessly can be very helpful here. Almost never will I say to one of my guys "Let me show you how I do this." Much more often it's "When you do it that way, I see this reaction. How could you do it differently."

But at the end, it doesn't matter much. They're people on your team who need (and probably want) to be well-managed.


Mark's picture
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I generally find generational approaches to be flawed, in that they attempt to lump people together by age rather than by the individual.

I'm the same age as Mike, but you'd do better managing me if you knew Kate, my daughter, as opposed to Mike.

Get to know the individual...unless you want them to treat you like a whippersnapper.

Tom gives a good overview, and I love his ending. They want to be well managed.

To me, that starts with people and communication and performance.