With every passing year, India gets younger. This demographic dividend means that the average age continues to drop in Indian firms. When each fresh batch of graduates join, the previous lot of 20-somethings are asked to lead teams at a younger age than their predecessors. This creates challenges - for team leaders, their managers and older team members. So, how should each stakeholder deal with this phenomenon?
If you are young and have been promoted to manager, know that it is only the beginning. Apart from your area of expertise, you will now have to deal with the people who work under your supervision. From absenteeism to appraisals, hiring and firing and from being 'one of us' to being 'one of them', there will be new challenges. You will have to deal with polarised personalities, ambitions and agendas, while having to take responsibility for everything.
Begin by learning about your new role by observing. Talk to each team member individually and be sure you know more about each person than anybody else in the organisation. Plan out your day to reserve time for this. Try to understand each person, his motivation and ambitions. Learn to enjoy being involved with people. Keep your own emotions and troubles out of the communication with your team. Be consistent in your logic and behaviour. Be the team's biggest supporter to keep them going when the chips are down. You set an example with your energy.
Even while you build relationships, keep an eye on team goals and tasks. After you learn about your new role, identify the goals for the year and make a plan. Along with the team plan, chart out a growth path for each member. Discuss these plans so that each team member is aware of his role. Be honest with yourself about your shortcomings. If you are weak on something, make sure someone has it covered.
The next step is to devote time to developing relationships with stakeholders outside your team. This includes bosses, parallel teams, clients and vendors. Periodically schedule time to review and measure the progress of the team. If all of this sounds too much to do, it would do well to learn the art of time management.
Are you an experienced employee reporting to a new 20-something manager and facing the challenges created by the age dynamics? As long as you do not have a fundamental problem with this status, you can work things out. Start by respecting the skills and expertise the young manager brings to the table and make it easier for him to respect your experience. Understand that he may have a method and style of working that is different from your previous supervisors. Adapt to his communication preferences for, say, e-mail to meetings as you would adapt to any new manager. At the same time, do not copy him to identify with his age. You are valued for the inputs that come with experience. When the opportunity arises, learn from what he has to offer and enhance your value within the firm. Consciously avoid competing with him since it distracts you from the tasks you have to complete. Finally, do deliver the results that are expected from you and make sure that you communicate your progress to your manager regularly. Eventually, that is all that matters to both your career and his.
If you are the manager of a young team leader, then you are as responsible for his success as he is for the success of his team. If the work place offers a formal training program for new managers, make sure that the young leader participates. Either assign a senior team leader as a mentor or guide for the first few months or take on that role yourself. Most times, the young manager will learn from observation. So give him a chance to work with and observe other team leaders and his mentor solve problems and deal with people. Make sure he understands what is expected of him and knows that he is accountable for his own and his team's performance just as he is expected to hold his team members accountable for their performance.
The average age of workers in any Indian company will be in the twenties over the next few years. This means that there will be an incredible amount of energy available to power the progress of the organisation. With the right attitude and contribution from you and your colleagues, this could very well be the best time to be part of burgeoning corporate India.