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Why Young Managers Can be a Menace

I see it all the time.

New managers are often proud that they have been promoted and think they have “made it”. Their actions can be downright scary to more seasoned managers. The big thing is that their journey has just begun and if they don’t see that, they can do big damage to the organization. Young people often get promoted into management because they have proven themselves to be:

Keep Coaching Young Managers...
Keep Coaching Young Managers…

• hard working

• reliable

• ambitious

• smart

• task oriented

• focused on their own performance, looking for credit

• non-confrontational

Great managers are:

• patient

• nurturing

• flexible

• great communicators

• vulnerable

• respectful of differences

• focused on team performance, pushing away credit

• willing to tackle tough issues head on

It is often said that being a leader or manager is a learned skill. We have all seen that some people “get it” quicker than others. Young new managers need a strong mentor and lots of coaching and feedback. Anything short of this is just too big a risk to your organization.

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  1. Why is it that instead of addressing the subject, there are a few who decide to create “rabbit holes”?

    What I see all to often is, change the subject and abandon the topic. The theme to be addressed, as I understood it is, young managers, and how to help them be the best that they can be. That is a reality, not stereotyping or ageist.

    There is an attitude of well, what about _______, (fill in the blanks) and that is not productive. This detours the importance of the topic.
    I have a hypothetical question.

    Would you want a 22-year-old surgeon operating on your heart for the first time in his career, or a seasoned 50 year old with 40 operations behind him doing that triple bypass?

  2. I agree with Amy. This article is stereotyping, and ageist. There are competent and capable people from all age groups, and less competent people from all age groups. Wisdom and maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age.

    • Thanks for the comment Richard. I can see I touched a nerve and I understand how I did that. I totally agree that there are competent and capable young managers out there. I start my engage workshop talking about just one young lady. A 27 year old Program Manager who set an old guy (me) straight on a few things. Things I did not learn until I was much older.

      Can we agree that the reasons many people are promoted into management for the first time have less to do with the fact that they have the skills to be a great manager and more to do with their individual strong performance?

      When I was first thrust into management I understood the saying “promoted to your level of incompetence.” I truly wish that I had some good training and a mentor to talk to. For me that came much later. I hope for all new managers young or otherwise that their organizations provide that support early.

  3. I have to disagree. I don’t think it’s fair to pigeon hole “young” people. There are several “seasoned” managers who have negative qualities, as I sure there are several young manager who are quite successful. People should not be defined by their age demographic but by how their job gets done.

    • Thanks for the feedback Amy.

      My main point is that first time managers of any age need a strong mentor and lots of coaching and feedback. Demographics do tell us that most new managers are young.

      That first time as a manager is a formative time and the best time to make sure that the timeless principles of leading and managing people are taught and learned. I don’t see this happening as a rule, but rather as an exception. Most new managers, in most organizations (including me in my formative years) are left to figure things out the hard way.

      I was sure it was “not me” that was the source of problems with my employees back then. In retrospect is was almost entirely my actions that caused the issues.