What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You Are

images (50)What have you always pictured your boss looking like? If you are anything like me, you’ve always pictured them as a grumpy old man. Or a grumpy old woman if you want to get all modern. However, there is one thing that I’ve never really pictured my boss as being – younger than I am! However, this is starting to happen. Firms are starting to put Gen-X folks into senior management positions. What should you do if this happens to when you are in the CIO position?

What’s Going On?

So just exactly how did you end up having the CIO job, but working for someone who is younger than you are? It turns out that one of those natural generational shifts is currently underway. The baby boomers who have been running things are now starting to reach retirement age. What this means for firms is that they are starting to replace their leaving senior management with members of the next generation: Gen-X. The Gen-X’ers were born between 1965 and 1980. This switch is happening at a lot of firms that you may recognize: McDonalds, Harley Davison, Cisco, and Microsoft.

One of the reasons that firms are moving to put a younger generation of managers in charge of (you and) the company is because they are highly aware of what is coming their way. The next-next generation of workers has already entered the workplace: the millennials. This new batch of workers are looking for different things from their employers. What matters the most to them is flexibility. In order for them to remain at a job for any length of time, they are going to have to feel engaged in their job – they need to feel as though their actions count.

Another reason that firms are moving younger workers into senior management positions is because they are losing market share and they feel as though they need new thinking in order to turn things around. Both Harley Davison and McDonalds are currently dealing with declining market shares as their traditional customers become older. The firms are going to have to start to create products and services that appeal to younger customers and the firms appear to believe that they need younger management in order to make this happen.

What Will These New Leaders Be Doing?

As a CIO who is in charge of an IT department, any time there is a change in your management, it may have an impact on your department’s ability to get work done. What this means for you is that you are going to have to understand what your new, younger, management is going to focusing on. If you can determine what they want to accomplish, then you can position your department to help them to be successful and hopefully you’ll get the support that you need.

One of the things that is going to distinguish this new crop of senior managers from the one that they are replacing is that they are willing to take more risks. They’ve all been raised around computers and so they are generally more tech savvy and they understand the importance of information technology. What all of this means is that they tend to make decisions faster than the managers that they are replacing. What this means for you is that your department’s requests for resources and funding should get an answer quicker; however, I’m not saying that you’ll always get the answer that you want!

Finally, in order to work closely with your new younger boss, you need to understand what is going to be on their minds. One of the most important things is going to be the hiring process. Expect them to spend a great deal more time working with HR trying to find out ways to attract the best talent to join the company. It won’t stop there. Also expect your boss to be very focused on trying to figure out what the company is going to have to do in order to retain the talent that it has. As a CIO, this is good news for you!

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing. As CIOs we may soon find ourselves in a position in which the boss that we’re working for is younger than us. At a number of firms, Gen-X staff are starting to be moved into senior management positions. Is this going to be a problem?

As CIOs we need to understand what is going on here. The markets that many firms are competing in are rapidly changing. This means that they feel that they need to have leaders who can more quickly change with the markets. Gen-X staff are starting to be placed in senior leadership roles. What you are going to discover is that what they focus on is going to be different from the management that they are replacing. Specifically, what is important to them will be staffing and keeping the staffing that they have. You should also notice that they react to market changes quicker and make decisions faster.

No, it may not be easy working for someone who is younger that you are – “that should be my job!” However, you will need to adapt to this new generation of management. It can be a very good thing for you because things will happen faster and you should be given a freer hand to focus on the needs of your department and keeping them together.


Is An Innovation Contest What Your IT Team Needs Now?

images (43)How’s everything going for your team right now? I suspect that like most IT managers you’d say that everything is going “OK”. Yeah, yeah, things could be better, but they are not too bad. You and I both know that that’s an acceptable state to be in; however, you could be doing better. What you really want is for your team to be working together with a great deal of both energy and enthusiasm. What you need is a contest!

Why Contests Matter To Your Team

Contests are not easy. When you are able to use your IT manager skills to find a contest that you think that your team could compete in, you are going to have to have a discussion with your team. The heart of this discussion should be the difficulty level of the contest. Does the team think that they might have a shot at winning the contest? Expect the range of opinions on your team to vary from member to member.

One of the most powerful parts of participating in a contest is that they generally have very tight deadlines. Things that if left up to your team to complete on their normal schedule could end up taking months if not years generally have to get done in a very narrow window as a part of a contest. 90 days seems to be the norm. You are going to need to use this tight schedule to set time lines and deliverables that will allow the team to quickly get something out the door.

What’s going to be the most important to your team is your level of motivation. If you are highly motivated, then very quickly this will start to drift down into your team. What you are going to want to use your IT manager training in order to see is that everyone’s moral is running high. It’s going to have to. In order to successfully compete in the contest, the members of your team are going to have to get up early, stay late, and even work on weekends. However, this is going to be easy to do if the members of your team are motivated and really want to be involved.

How To Use Contests To Make Your Team Better

Just entering the contest can have the effect of bringing your team together. This is good news. However, what you really want to do is to win the contest! No, you won’t always win but there will be times that you do. When this happens one of the decisions that you’ll have to make is what to do with the prize money. Your company may have rules regarding this; however, as an IT manager you want to make sure that at least some of it gets spent on your team. A very nice party is a great way to celebrate everyone’s involvement and efforts.

Your team’s participating in the contest means that you’ll have publicity. You’ll need to come up with a plan to make the most of that publicity once the contest wraps up. If you are the winner, then it should be easy to get interviews with the various news outlets. However, you’ll need to make some decisions about what you’ll be talking about. You need to discuss the contest, your team, what they did, and what this means. You’ll not want to leave anything out.

No, your team won’t win every contest that you may enter. What this means for you as an IT manager that you need to have a Plan B created. If the team doesn’t win, then there will be the expense of participating, the loss of moral, etc. You’ll need to take action to point out to the team what they were able to accomplish and the successes that they achieved. Make sure that they understand that they did a great job working together as a team and that you think that they they’ll probably win the NEXT contest that they enter!

What All Of This Means For You

What every IT manager wants is for their IT team to be working together like a high performance racing engine. However, what most of us have is a group of people who pretty much get along and who can get things done eventually. In order to motivate our team and ramp up their energy level, what we need to do is to accomplish some IT team building and get them involved in a contest!

There are a lot of different contests out there sponsored by everyone from private organizations like the X Prize Foundation and the government’s DARPA. Find a contest that requires the skills and talents that your team has. In a perfect world, what your team would be working on would relate to what your company does. This means that the work that they pour into the contest can be reused back at the office once the contest is over. Getting your team involved in a contest can help to create team spirit, speed product development, and just might generate some free publicity for everyone who is involved.

I wish that I could offer you a big bag of raises that you could distribute within your team. Or even better than that, how about fancy new titles for everyone? At most companies both of these types of motivational rewards are always in short supply. As an IT manager you are going to need to get creative as you search for ways to keep your team motivated and working at high energy levels. Finding a contest that they can enter can be a great way to bring the team together while both benefiting themselves and the company as a whole.