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  • Writer's pictureJeff Orr, TEDx Spkr, MBA

4 Quick Tips for Millennials Leading Older Team Members

Jeff Orr, MBA, MSL, TEDx Speaker, Author, Millennial Leadership Expert

Finally! You've been given the opportunity to lead a team at your organization for an important client. You're smart, energized, and have some great ideas on how to take on this project. It's your chance to stand out and show what you can do. Except...

Your team consists of two hipster Millennials, a single mom, three middle-aged individualists, and a sometimes-cranky-near-retirement dude. How do you bring this group of individuals into a cohesive, vision-driven team?

You've been given the title of project/team leader so you could just tell them what to do. After all, they have to do what you tell them, right? Or, you could take them all out for a coffee and build rapport and make everyone feel just oh so special. That worked somewhere with someone.

Leading teams is a challenge even when everyone is getting along and knows each other well. It is even more challenging with a typical group like the one described above. Challenging, but not impossible. Leadership is all about influence, so break out your best influencing chops and bring the team together. Here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Do connect relationally with everyone on the team.

You have to get to know your team and let them know who you are to build mutual respect for each other. You also need to determine skills and experience in order to put the right person in the right place on the team.

2. Set expectations.

Talk about the expectations for the team, communication, deadlines, etc. Do this up front to save yourself a whole host of headaches down the road.

3. Check in often but trust your team to get the job done.

Most people don't want to be micro-managed. Check in with your team and ask how you can help them achieve whatever they need to get done. One of your jobs as the leader is to provide the resources they need to be successful.

4. Encourage and inspire.

Everyone gets pounded each day from negativity. You can have a huge impact on their work and life just by encouraging them, inspiring them, and keeping them focused on the 'why' of what you are doing.

A note about leading team members older than you:

Consider what your older team member might be going through. Many older workers feel disrespected and cast aside for newer, shinier models (aka, you). Some feel threatened. Some feel unneeded. Your older teammates have a wealth of experience you can benefit from. When engaging an older team member, show respect for them without being condescending. Ask the older team member their opinions or thoughts on how to approach the task/challenge you face. Incorporate those ideas as appropriate to the work.

Encourage/inspire where appropriate on the value the older team member brings. Do your best to understand where the older team member is coming from. They need you as much as you need them.

Leading teams isn't rocket's relational.


Jeff Orr, a TEDx speaker, is an expert in leadership and he coaches executives, business owners, and individuals with the tools and skills to lead more effectively, build high-performing teams, and experience true success in their careers and personal lives. As a dynamic and energizing keynote speaker and corporate trainer to Fortune 500 companies, Jeff has helped thousands grow in their leadership to impact their organizations and communities. Jeff engages his audience through humor, real world stories, and a genuine care for the people he speaks to, helping them to build lasting success internally and externally. He is also author of the highly acclaimed book, Succeed In The New Normal. Through his coaching company, InDemand Leadership, Jeff empowers his clients to experience internal growth, which then translates into sustainable external success.

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