During my time as the CEO of a recruitment company, I was often invited to talk with experienced managers about generational differences and how it impacts the management team within multinational companies. It is a fascinating subject since, according to the United Nations, there are more than 1,8 billion young people globally, and 87% of them live in underdeveloped countries. Just think about how your industry will need to adapt to tend to the different needs of these groups when their purchase power starts to increase in the coming years.
One question, repeatedly came up during the conversation: “As a manager, I understand that I need to listen and be flexible to lead people who are younger than me. But at the same time, why do younger employees not stop to listen to what the most experienced managers are trying to say?”. This question came again to my mind last weekend when I was watching “The Wisdom of Time, with Pope Francis,” a Netflix documentary which shows young people interviewing older people to learn from their wisdom and previous experiences.
The fact that I have assumed leadership positions early on in my career made me make mistakes that generated significant learnings for me throughout the journey. Based on that, I have created a list that works for me as a guide. I am sure it is not a final list, as I hope to continue this journey for many years. Here are my four main insights that may guide leaders, especially those at the beginning.
1. Lead by example
You are sending a message from the moment you enter the office – or show up in the Zoom call – as a leader. Are you on time? How do you treat people? Do you walk the talk? Do you work overtime? These are questions that can go unnoticed, but it sends others a message as it shows a pattern. You have to be aware of that and you can use it for the company’s good – reinforcing the behavior you expect from others and building a coherent culture.
2. Take the time to recruit the right person
The departure of a person from your team can catch you off guard. The easy solution – finding someone as quick as possible to fill the job vacancy – is not necessarily the wisest decision. If you can, spend more time searching for someone who has the skill set necessary to perform the job and will potentially align with the current team and the company’s culture. The tradeoff between a flawed hiring process and a good one is tremendous.
3. Understand your finances
Even for leaders who do not have a financial background, understanding and explaining your financials is crucial to your success. You do not need to be a financial expert, unless you are a CFO or in a related position, but it is essential to feel comfortable enough to interpret financial figures and understand how your company’s bottom-line can influence strategic, tactical, and operational decisions. Financial education is not something that can be outsourced by people who want to lead relevant organizations.
4. Build trust
Trust is the kind of concept that is hard to define, but everyone can understand when it is present. For me is the source of highly efficient teams. To put it into practice, I like to use the framework I have learned from Gianluca Carnabuci, associate professor of organizational behavior at ESMT Berlin: trust can be defined as a cognitive trust, which is the delivery capacity of a person or team, and affective trust, related to other’s character and values. Building a team that knows and respects each other’s values and has the correct delivery capacity seems to be a golden rule.
These insights and many others that everyone builds throughout their career are worth sharing, and it is vital to be open-minded and humble all the time. Perhaps we can become better leaders by increasingly integrating the wisdom of the time.