Conquering the Fear Factor: Older Managers and Young Turks

The workplace is becoming increasingly competitive, and established management is more and more often facing a corporate tendency towards promoting the best and the brightest – of the youngest. Just when these managers feel that they’ve finally paid their dues and proven their company loyalty, when their skills are sharp and focused from years of experience, many of them fear being replaced by a bright, technologically-savvy and impatient member of the generation climbing the corporate ladder behind them. They know that the powers that be consider these “Young Turks” to be smarter than they are – and the knowledge makes them tremble.

It’s a valid fear. There’s absolutely no doubt that some corporations are willing to ditch their over-50 management (whom they feel sure will lose their edge sooner or later anyway) in order to put brilliant, revolutionary “Young Turks” in their positions. In their fanatical desire to get an edge on the competition and insight into new market potential, what these corporations often forget is that the new generation is not well known for a strong work ethic, people skills or company loyalty. These companies will get what they deserve then, won’t they? But the end result for the over-50 manager remains the same – an early retirement laced with feelings of loss and resentment – or worse, frantically searching for another position in a similar corporation with a similar mindset. Sad to say, this situation isn’t uncommon.

Fortunately, there are other alternatives. Many 50+ leaders have left the corporate rat race to start successful and lucrative consulting businesses of their own. These new “midlife” entrepreneurs have built the kind of businesses where their hard-earned experience, solid work ethic and finely-honed people skills bring a direct benefit – to both their clients and themselves.

Or there are those who’ve decided to turn the tables and transform this challenge into an opportunity. They’ve turned it all upside down. Instead of fearing the “Young Turks”, they welcome them. They aren’t worried about their young team members being smarter than they are – they WANT them to be smarter. That’s right – they actually want it that way. These sharp managers know that it’s in their own best interests to take the new generation of up-and-comers and deliberately bring out the best in them.

When you take this position, you’re truly being a leader; you know that you want your team to achieve as a group. Each member of your team will have different talents and different weaknesses. If you’re smart, you will use your experience, people skills and one of the excellent assessment tools available for this purpose to identify their individual strengths – and use that knowledge to build a stellar team where each member contributes a special talent to the whole.

Yes, building a team that puts each member in the best possible position for them will inevitably mean that you will lose them to other departments and to promotions. Of course it will. You’ll be showcasing their talents and others will notice them. Some managers worry that consistently building a team of key talent will cause them to pale by comparison. They wonder if it will affect their own position within the organization to have a brilliantly structured team of superstars – all of whom have strengths and talents that the manager herself does not have. And it will. Most definitely.

The manager who consistently builds such a team, keeps it running smoothly despite frequent promotions and changes, and develops an environment that values individual strengths, draws new talent hoping to be developed and then time after time cultivates that talent – well, she’s simply a winner. She’s the manager who is revered within her organization as the one who finds good talent; the one who inspires them to join her team; and the one who creates an environment where they flourish. This consistently benefits her organization in the highest possible way – by keeping it full of exceptionally happy (and loyal) key talent. And she becomes the star for doing THAT.

If you consistently build teams whose members are sought after and promoted throughout the company, you’ll be able to watch your own status in the organization ascend at mach speed. That’s exactly what smart companies today are looking for: leaders who know how to attract the best and brightest; a manager who can inspire them and bring them on-board with the company vision; someone who understands how to retain key talent through developing an environment that values and rewards their contributions.

It doesn’t really matter whether the “Young Turks” are smarter than you or not…You’ll always have a lot to teach them. From you they can learn about good leadership, about self-directed growth, about opening their minds to new perspectives and about becoming the best possible versions of tomorrow’s leaders. You’ll be showing them by example how to be the kind of leader who deserves the respect, admiration and appreciation of teams that have been built through identification of strengths, strategic placement and consideration of talent and desire. Now that’s a secure position.