Leading Older Workers? Use Mentoring for Success.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It’s the age old question (no pun intended): How do I, the younger yet more higher-level leader get the older, yet more lower-level employee to respect and listen to me?  This is a big topic for many of the senior (and younger) leaders I coach.  Early on in their new assignments, some have trouble getting the lower-level, but longer tenured employees to get on board with their leadership style and strategies.  It’s understandable since often times, it’s the newer and younger leaders who want to make a lot of changes and shake things up a bit when the more tenured employees are quite comfortable and content for things to remain the same.

If you are a leader facing this issue, one thing that works well is to use your more tenured employees as your mentors. Despite the fact that they are at a lower level, they have been there longer and have knowledge that you don’t.  Ask them to mentor you and guide you in the areas where they are more experienced.  Not only are you sure to learn a lot but it also demonstrates that you have respect for them and their years of experience.   As you use them as mentors, you also develop a relationship with them, which makes it easier as you begin to implement new strategies.

Developing a relationship with these employees via a mentorship means you will naturally seek their advice and opinions.  This works wonders to help people get on board with your ideas and strategies.  Once you develop that relationship and there is mutual respect, they are more likely to support you instead of resist your leadership style and strategies.  The other thing the mentoring relationship can do is provide an opportunity for you to act as a “reverse mentor” to them.  This is where you impart your wisdom on them regarding things they are less comfortable with.  Technology is a great area for reverse mentoring, as is education about generational differences (which works in all types of mentoring).    Mentoring is a wonderful tool to use if you are in this situation where you are seeking support from your team, especially those who are more tenured than you.  Give it a try and let us know how it works out for you!

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