Talent

Are Your Young Leaders Trained to Bridge the Generation Gap?

With more and more large universities and high schools adding degrees in hospitality to their course offerings, it’s clear that the industry is gaining attention from millennials. (A millennial, commonly referred to as Generation Y, is anyone born between the 1980s and early 2000s.) The increase in the number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management means the average age of the workforce is beginning to drop.
Younger, educated workers are entering the industry at a rapid pace and are quickly working their way up the corporate ladder. However, many of the novice leaders have yet to determine their leadership style and are fairly inexperienced.
One of the largest issues facing these new leaders is learning how to lead a team of older and more experienced members. Speaking as a millennial who had to navigate his way through unfamiliar waters, I would like to lay a framework—for a young leader in any industry—for successfully building and leading a team of people who are, in some cases, twice your age.
1. Give respect
The worst mistake a young leader can make when leading team members who are their seniors—one that virtually guarantees your team will be more difficult to lead—is not giving them enough respect. By giving respect, I mean respecting their age, years of experience, and ideas. If you expect them to respect your position and you personally, you must make giving respect a top priority.
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I was promoted to my first leadership position while I was still in college. Every person working for me was older than I was, and I had the least amount of experience. Once I became their leader, I quickly realized that the thing I could do to get them to perform at their best was to listen to them and give them as much respect as possible. I knew my position came with a certain amount of respect, but if I wanted to continue to progress through the industry, I needed to be known for being a leader who was respected because he respected his team first.
2. Leverage their experience
The number one advantage someone who is older than you has will most likely be the experience they have garnered over the years in the industry. Usually, with more experience comes a level of certainty in the work they are performing. I found that many of the team members that I began leading knew much more about the industry and property management systems than I did—however, I was still promoted over them.
I had to leverage the experience they had and use it to help me through some tough situations. I was able to build a team that had years of experience and was willing to share what they had learned to help me become a better leader. My team began to trust me more and, in turn, I was able to get them to want to perform at a higher level. I saw it as a resource that many leaders were too prideful to tap into.
Once they realized that I respected them and appreciated the experience they had, they became willing to explain how they had dealt with various issues in the past. As a college student, I may have had “book knowledge” that they didn’t, but I was certainly lacking in the on-the-job experience they possessed. Again, in order for me to get ahead and continue an upward trajectory in my career, I utilized the resources that were around me, which, in this case, happened to be leading a team of experienced individuals.
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In tomorrow’s Advisor, Tommy Beyer will give us the last two best practices for young leaders—plus, we’ll explore an effective leadership training resource for employees of any age.