Many leaders manage teams made up of junior or mid-level employees. But what about the leaders who are managing experienced people?
Managing experienced people is not all that different. The main difference is that they are more likely to demand respect and want to have a bigger say in how the team operates, because they’ve seen a thing or two in their time.
Let’s take a look at some simple ways of successfully managing experienced people in your team.
1. When Managing Experienced People, Give Them Autonomy
There is nothing worse than a micromanaging boss. But micromanagement becomes even more painful for experienced people who know what they are doing.
For more information on autonomy, read this post: Why Leaders Struggle to Provide Autonomy at Work.
You aren’t the puppet master, pulling the strings.
Your experienced people need a sense of control in order to feel like they can achieve results. The key is to make sure your goals are aligned with the goals of your team members.
If goals are aligned, then you should all be heading in the same direction. Exactly how you get there should not be a key concern (unless your people are engaging in corruption, bullying or other bad practices!)
You should aim to guide your team and help them to course correct. This is different than telling them exactly what to do and how to do it.
2. When Managing Experienced People, Build Your Network
When managing experienced people, you need to make sure your network is strong.
Because when your network is strong and broad, you’re more likely to hear about what’s happening in your whole team.
You won’t have time to keep track of all the actions and opinions of the team members beneath you, so you need to make sure that important information can reach you.
Your network is like a spider web. A spider feels when a fly touches the web and knows its location, so it can go and eat it.
You’re the spider.
You need to be connected and accessible, so that you can hear feedback easily, including complaints, compliments and anything else. This will help you to guide your team members and stop smaller problems before they become big issues.
Most importantly, getting early access to potential issues or good feedback allows you to respond. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as a leader who is out of touch and ineffective.
Your network will help you provide autonomy to your experienced people, without you being out of touch.
For more on successful networking, read this post: https://www.ccl.org/blog/top-6-rules-leadership-networking/
3. When Managing Experienced People, Be Careful Not to Undermine Them
As a leader, you probably want to be helpful. But sometimes, when you jump in and take over, it sends the wrong message to the people around you.
Consider the following situation.
Patricia manages Neil, who is a senior person in her team. Speaking to Neil, Patricia finds out that there is a problem in one of his projects. One of the stakeholders Neil is dealing with is unhappy and starting to cause trouble.
Immediately, Patricia organises a meeting with the disgruntled stakeholder and attempts to smooth things over. Now the stakeholder is satisfied.
Patricia may have solved the immediate problem, but what she has done is started to create another. When she jumped in to solve the problem, she took the power away from Neil.
Now, Neil’s stakeholders don’t think he can fight his own battles or solve his own problems. This reduces Neil’s credibility and the next time, the angry stakeholder might just come straight to you.
What Should Patricia Have Done Instead?
In my experience, it’s always better to work with your team members to come up with a plan, than to run in and try to solve problems yourself.
This would show Patricia’s support for Neil, without Neil having to lose credibility by having someone fight his battles for him. Only if Neil was struggling should Patricia offer to step in and help, and take the lead if it was really needed.
Undermining your team members can happen in many situations. Open disagreement in meetings or overruling a decision in front of others can cause a similar issue.
Whilst it’s important not to undermine *any* team member, it’s even more critical when your team members are experienced people.
Remember: Your experienced team members are leaders and role models too. They may not directly manage anybody, but the people around them value their expertise.
Therefore, they need respect and credibility to do their jobs well.
Have you managed experienced people? How did you handle it? Post a comment below and help out other leaders!