Managing is never easy but it can be even more challenging when managing someone more senior, more experienced, older or smarter than you. In these situations, managers can quickly lose confidence or experience the imposter syndrome.
Differences in age, experience and seniority can make relationships complex to manage. But don't panic: if you are the manager and not someone else in the team, there's a good reason!
Here are 10 practical tips for managing someone more experienced than you.
1. Be self-conscious
Start by analyzing the situation. What are you afraid of? Having less expertise than those you manage? Not feeling credible? Lacking assertiveness or charisma?
Try to identify the specific points that make you uncomfortable so that you can better understand them and work on them. Being clear on why you are struggling is often half the answer.
2. Remain confident
Capitalize on your comfort zone, list the tasks you are comfortable with and be aware of your qualities. What makes you a good leader? Your track record, your ambition, your ability to listen, your leadership skills, your ability to take risks? Avoid comparing yourself to your predecessor.
Instead, try to focus on your own qualities, on what makes you unique. Are you competitive, pragmatic, resilient, available, creative, honest, realistic, reliable? What adjectives best define you? Keep your qualities in mind! Don't hesitate to ask those around you to help you if you find this exercise too difficult.
3. Look for new ways to learn
Learning goes both ways: from the manager to the team members, but also from the team members to the manager! Don't forget to be open-minded, to remain curious and to listen to your team members. Ask them technical and thoughtful questions to better understand what they bring to the team, but also to learn from each other's expertise and missions.
4. Acknowledge their expertise
Good managers recognise the work of their team members, celebrating wins and achievements with them. Every achievement is proof that your team is working well. Don't see this as a threat to you, on the contrary! Let them know, in front of the other team members, that you value their professional experience and expertise.
Letting their best skills shine will give them confidence and foster collaboration and solidarity in the team. It also shows that you are humble and respect their experience!
5. Admit that you don't know everything
The manager’s role is not to know it all. As a manager, you are there to support the team, to encourage them, to give them ambitious but achievable goals. You have the right not to know everything or not to be aware of everything.
There is nothing to be ashamed of. Think of the CEO of your company: he or she is probably less of an expert than you in your field of expertise!
6. Ask for advice
Don’t hesitate to share your concerns and seek help from your peers who have experienced similar challenges. You will feel less alone. Be humble, every advice you get can help you!
7. Give room to your team members
Avoid micromanagement. Intrusive control will frustrate or irritate your team members. The best gift you can give them is a cooperative attitude. Don't withhold information and, above all, don't forget to delegate: this will strengthen the cohesion of the team and will show that you trust your team members. Everyone in the team will then feel more involved.
Adapt your management style to their way of working. While millennials are very comfortable with new technologies, it might be less natural or intuitive for more experienced employees. Make sure everyone is comfortable with the tools they are using, and when you make changes in the team, do it with a flexible approach.
8. Challenge your team to help them grow
Give your team members the opportunity to progress. Set ambitious but achievable goals with tham. For example, test the OKR method: it has the advantage of empowering them but also making their work more meaningful and inspiring. The SMART methodology can also clarify the objectives of each team member.
Also help them to progress in their careers: “Where do you want to go? What do you want to learn? How can I help you so that you can achieve this personal goal? ”
9. Ask them for feedback
Stay open to discussion, encourage the sharing of ideas and information. Give feedback, but also listen when you get feedback from your team members. Confront, with benevolence, the team members that may be questioning your legitimacy.
10. Be the big picture person
Finally, remember that a manager does have to be totally involved in day-to-day operations. If you are a young manager, it is quite normal that you do not have the skills of your team members. Don't try to be an expert, your team is there for that.
Your role is to take a step back and coordinate the work and skills within the team. This is how you will help your team move in the right direction and achieve their goals!