Managing older managers

Load them up on context. Even more than with other colleagues, you should over-communicate your company vision, industry objectives, and company-wide targets. Without it, they will perceive the ship to be rudderless.

Avoid getting too granular. Senior, experienced people like nothing less than having you interfere in their day-to-day work. You should therefore avoid this lever unless one of your senior managers is not performing. Then the most effective way to communicate that is to tighten your grip on operating metrics and methods.

Let them know that you are working long and hard. Because you have less natural authority when working with older people, reinforce your “moral right” to demand hard work by showing that you demand even more of yourself.

Show that you are calm in storm. Good senior managers will follow people they think have good ideas, good judgement, and are cool under pressure.

Seek their opinions, even when you don’t really need them, especially on topics that aren’t within the reach of their roles. Ask for opinions often. Your senior managers will trust your process and feel that their experience is valued.

You have natural perceived advantage when it comes to dynamism. Leverage it. Make sure your energy level sets the pace for the business. Demonstrate your zeal for your industry.

Don’t be afraid to pay them more than yourself. If it takes more scrip to recruit key senior colleague, don’t sweat signing up for it. You can explain that you’re paying them more than yourself; doing so will signal the value you place on their experience.

At the end of the day, remember that this is your business to lead. You should invite the insights of your colleagues and benefit from their experience. But do not defer to their judgement when it contradicts your instincts.

• From an article by Michael Fertik on Harvard Business Review Blogs.

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