As a general rule, most people don’t like to be bossed around, told what to do. Even fewer people like to be bossed around by someone younger than they are. This is the challenge young CEOs may face in their company. Luckily, there are appropriate ways to deal with this challenge, and I’m going to give you seven of them.
1. Positive criticism
George S. Patton advised, “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” It is not an easy role to be the CEO of a company. If you are a young CEO with older executives, you may be faced with even more challenges.
The first advice professors of creative writing always stress is, “show don’t tell.” This advice can be applied to all aspects of communication. It’s important to show your employees how you expect them to perform. Of course, as a CEO you will have to do some telling as well; but, remember, children and adults never really like to be told what to do. Be sensitive; when you want something done your way, deliver your message authoritatively but perceptively too. Let’s not disregard the fact that the ego is a complex area for people.
2. Investigate and assess
Have a clear idea of how the executives administrate the workload among employees. You can have a monthly anonymous survey that goes around the office. This gives you direct feedback on what’s going on across the office. When an executive administrates his or her work properly and successfully, then great. Let them know. Everybody enjoys a compliment every now and then.
However, when you collect negative feedback about an executive, the age difference between you and your employee is irrelevant. You simply disclose the facts to your executive and discuss with the executive why he or she supposes their coworkers and employees believe they are falling short of their expected performance.
3. Make it concrete!
Lead training courses on how you expect your executives to perform. If you want your employees to perform a certain way, guide them with a suitable training course on how to perfect their skills more closely to what you envisage from them. As Samuel Ullman once said, “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind.”
As an advanced, sophisticated CEO, it is your role to manage your employees. Age is irrelevant in this circumstance. You have goals and ambitions; articulate with your executives what you expect and train them how to get there.
4. Get a head start
Be there from the beginning. If you are starting a small company and have the time to interview your employees, it won’t matter who is who’s senior. The situation is clear. When you hire your executives directly, there will be no time for confusion or ego trips. It becomes apparent that the executive’s career is dependent on you, no matter if you are 21 years of age or 65 years old.
Make it clear you are a team. You all work together. The success of the company reflects the success of the individual and vice versa. The company is a codependent structure. While there may be a hierarchy within the business, as all businesses have, each individual is a necessary component to the future success of the company. Together, you are one unit. Make this clear, make it smooth and make it work.
5. Establish strong guidelines
You are the CEO. You are the leader; go for some leadership training courses to polish your own skills first. Then set some clear guidelines of what you expect from each and every employee. This is a vital rule for managing not only experienced executives, but all employees. It is your role as the CEO to raise the bar and set the expectations clearly and authoritatively. Don’t be shy; let them know what kind of production you expect out of them.
6. Don’t be apprehensive about asking
Jo Burston, founder and CEO of Inspiring Rare Birds, explains, “Learn how to manage up as well as down. Most people I meet in their 20s are busy fulfilling the notion of managing less-skilled colleagues, when the real skill is managing up to more skilled and experienced people.”
When you have more experienced executives working for you, be open to their ideas as well. It is highly probable they are skilled in an area you may not be too familiar with. Discover what those areas are, and don’t be afraid to ask them for their opinion on certain matters. Show them you regard their opinion.
7. Distribute the authority
You can easily release the tension of “’I know better than you” as you make it clear that you and your company are a team, one entity.
Kevin Lynch, who is the chief marketing officer at Open Colleges, advises, “Learn from your team: As we progress through our careers in our 20s, we need to learn not just from those above us, but also from our broader team …. I learn most from my team, the people who surround me. These are the people who make the magic happen; they are far smarter than I am. Our people are what make us. We aim to ensure that we continue to build on the terrific culture here and ensure it is a great place to work for our staff …”
Demonstrate that you value the work of your employees and executives. Every team needs a leader and you, the CEO, play that part. However, share the floor when appropriate. A strong management skill is knowing how to distribute leadership roles befittingly.
Illustrate to your executives how you respect their intelligence by giving them their own respected roles. Set up the responsibilities for them yourself and allow them to interpret and project their role in their own way. Set the goals, set a deadline and permit them to manage the project.
As the saying goes, “What goes around comes around.” Offer respect and receive respect, and don’t be afraid to set those standards higher and higher.
Erica Caramol is the strategic account manager at Coggno.com, a website that aggregates online training courses, leadership training courses and a free Learning Management System.