Managing people more senior than yourself

I’ve been there. The whole “Wait, I’m managing her? She should be managing me!” thing. Maybe your direct report has more experience than you. Maybe they know more than you. Maybe they’re just older. Whatever it is.

Here’s the thing: your value as a manager doesn’t have much to do with your experience as a do-er. The best managers are honest, caring, challenging, empathetic, vulnerable, and reliable. None of those require you to have more experience with technology X than your people.

I love this quote about NBA coach Gregg Popovich:

A lot of coaches can yell or be nice, but what Pop does is different. He delivers two things over and over: he’ll tell you the truth, with no bullshit, and then he’ll love you to death.

Chip Engelland (Assistant Coach)

Honesty and love. Can you do that? Then you’re fine. Stop trying to be impressive, and start trying to be warm.

And if you’re worried about it, then that’s another thing you can be honest about. There’s nothing wrong with telling them you respect them so much that you feel uncomfortable managing them. Let them know that you promise to do your best for them, and you’ll need them to give you feedback along the way.

You’ll do great.


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