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Practice Management > Building Your Business

The Rise of the Millennial Manager

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It has been interesting to watch the change in perspective as my next-gen peers who once described senior management in their firms as “incapable” now struggle with the same issues when they become responsible for managing people.

Advancing your career often means, at some point, you find yourself managing others. Here are some tips for those who find themselves in this position.

Remember where you came from. If a management role came through an internal promotion, you have built-in credibility, as your team has likely seen you in action. It can also be a motivational play for them, as they have seen someone excel and be rewarded. Some may try to abuse this, though, and not follow your directions. In these cases, set clear expectations and firm boundaries. Also, remember to be respectful of those who helped you get there. Far too often, tension is caused by managers alienating the people who helped them get where they are.

On the flip side, be sure not to reward only those who have assisted your climb to power. One of the best managers I had was one of my peers at a job during college. He never tried to abuse his position, but he did make it clear that he was now in charge, which we respected because he was a tireless worker.

Also, be careful about shaking things up all at once—some changes may need to be made, but people dislike change, and too much can cause resentment.

Clear and open communication channels. Whether you receive an internal or external promotion, schedule one-on-one lunch meetings with your new team members. This gives you a chance to listen to them and learn what they are seeking from their careers. These interactions also help you discern how best to manage them. Just like dealing with clients, you might have to adjust your style depending on the situation and who it involves. Finally, emphasize teamwork and collaboration. Many of our financial planning firm clients who are experiencing the greatest growth and employee satisfaction have moved beyond the vertical military-type management structure and have replaced it with a more horizontal system.

Dealing with people who were passed over. When promotions are made, emotions run high, animosity can build, and you can find yourself resented by someone who was passed over. Let’s face it, no matter how good a manager or communicator you are, there will always be dissenters. Dissension can make for a healthy organization, but you have to be able to deal with it effectively. When I have managed people who thought they should be in my spot, I found being honest about the situation went a long way to rebuilding the relationship. Even something as simple as saying, “I know you were hoping for the position. I have worked hard just like you, and I did not ask for this, but do feel I deserve it and am ready for the challenge. I know it is awkward, but I hope this doesn’t cause a rift between us because we have a lot of work to do and have to make the best of the situation. Thanks for letting me share that. How are you feeling?”

Connecting with prior generations. These could be people in other areas of the business if you find yourself promoted to something like director of financial planning, where you might have other more senior financial advisors reporting to you. A few ideas to consider are asking them for feedback, which lets them know they have a voice and you are respecting them. Also, since they can be workaholics, consider putting in some extra hours, so you happen to be around when they show up and leave each day. Eric Kies, a CFP at The Planning Center in Moline, Illinois, shared that early on in his managerial role, he learned to focus on finding intersections within every interaction through a clear and shared purpose. He went on to say, “I think a lot of the tension between generations inside firms comes from folks not actively seeking the common intersections of what they believe or want to work toward.”

Develop your own style. Even having loathed managers for years, some new managers will copy their boss’s management style, sometimes subconsciously. This is a mistake if it doesn’t represent your style. What worked for the prior boss might not work for you.


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