Gen y boardroomSo you are young and in charge?  Good for you!  But if you want to keep it that way, be aware that your journey is just beginning.  There are some important thoughts and skills to develop.

Understand that in today’s workplace, we have FOUR generations all working together, and more importantly, the youngest generation – Gen Y (or Millenials) – have developed into management and leadership positions.  Previously we only had to contend with the issues that came with a multi-generational workforce, where the older workers were in the leadership positions.  But now we have younger workers managing older workers and this brings with it a whole new set of challenges. And also some very exciting opportunities!!

Whether you are a Gen Y searching for strategies, or someone who wants to help your new Gen Y Manager, here are some keys to success:


1)  Understand the difference between a MANAGER and a LEADER

Regardless of age, many new managers think that because they have the title of “boss,” everyone will automatically do what is needed and follow them into success.  Anyone can be a manager, but it takes time and effort to be a leader.  To be a successful leader, remember these three words:

  • LEAD
  • BY 

Be prepared to do the work first and demonstrate to your team what your expectations are.  Model the same behaviours, work habits, and attitudes that you expect from them.  Don’t ask of others what you are not prepared to do yourself.  In my post “Hey Leader – Check Your Ego at the Door,” I go into more detail on this subject including a review of concepts from of John Maxwell’s book, The 5 Levels of Leadership.


2) Think long term and have patience

It takes time to develop as a leader.  Be okay with that.

Sometimes it is very easy to get caught up in the pressures of today – budgets, deadlines, issues.  Adopting a mindset of long-term thinking, will keep you focused on what really matters.  Close your eyes.  Imagine the leader you want to be five years from now and ask yourself how that person would handle the issues you are facing today.  Would they rush to judgement on people?  Would they take unnecessary risks?  Would they be calm and assertive?  Whoever you aspire to be, act like them now.  Make sound decisions and don’t get wrapped up in politics.

Always ask yourself, “Is this the BEST decision for my long term success?”


3) Develop your self-awareness and social-awareness

How do you react to challenges or difficult conversations?  How do you handle stress or your emotions?  What are other’s perceptions about you?  Learning about ourself most often is the most difficult thing to do, but can be the most beneficial to our growth as leaders and people.   Personality tests can help, but it is what you do with those tests.  A great resource is StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  Take the time to learn about your natural reactions to situations and control your emotions.

Be aware of how you are perceived.  Perception of us by others is ALWAYS true, whether we like it or not.  The reason?  Because perception is from the other person’s perspective.  Don’t argue against perceptions – work to change them altogether.  Too many times, I have seen people get wrapped up in trying to explain why perceptions are wrong, rather than working on demonstrating the behaviours attitudes, and actions that they want others to perceive of them.  Focus on what YOU can do, not what others say.

For many years, I had a quote posted in my office as a reminder for me to focus on how to deal with my own snap decisions about people.  I struggled with judging people too quickly, and the quote made me realize that it was not about them, but more about me.  The quote was:

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.” -Carl Jung


4) Make it about others

The mark of a true leader is how well they develop others and more importantly, how well they understand the goals, dreams, and values of their team members. Spend some time getting to know the team you are working with and build strong relationships.  If you focus on the long term, then this makes sense.  Here are some great questions to ask your team as you build relationships with them:

  • “What skills would you like to develop this year?”
  • “What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?”
  • “At the end of the year, what would success mean to you?”
  • “What are your favorite activities outside of work?”
  • “What did you do before you began your job here?”
  • “Are you interested in advancing your career or taking on additional responsibilities?”
  • “What suggestions for improvement do you have for the current system?”
  • “What suggestions or advice do you have for ME as a new manager/leader?”
  • ‘How can I help?”

“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar



5) Respect your elders

Let’s be straight-up on this one.  Gen Y has got a bad rap for being young, cocky, and without a sense of work ethic or loyalty.  In my post, “Generation Y and Baby Boomers Together at Last,” I describe many of the differences between the generations and how they can communicate with each other effectively.  But to keep it simple, here is what has happened.  Gen Y has gone through school being told about the upcoming great shortage of leadership, so has prepared to enter the workforce and take charge.  They thrust themselves headlong into employment with expectations of challenging and rewarding tasks in management -chances to prove themselves and advance through the ranks.  But this has been perceived by many older workers as a threat to their own security.  Younger workers then are not mentored properly, are kept in the dark, and in turn, look for employment elsewhere.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As a Gen Y manager, the best thing you can do is respect the system that has been built and more importantly, the people who built it.  Of course you have new ideas and want to prove yourself, but you will gain more respect, trust, and loyalty, by respecting those that have gone before you.


5.5) Always keep learning

These are some basic fundamentals and should help you on the path to becoming the leader you aspire to be.  However, if you want to be a great leader and put your stamp on your career, you have to constantly develop yourself both personally and professionally.  It will not only be rewarding for your career, but investing in yourself is the greatest gift you can give others.  Nothing is more rewarding than leading a team of people who you helped achieve their own goals.  And to see the spark of passion in others will just encourage you to do more!  For more personal development ideas, check out my post, “Are you truly a professional? Then develop yourself.”

I would love to hear any suggestions or ideas on this topic.  Please comment below!

image: Victor1558

Joe Girard
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