Lazy. Entitled. Unmotivated. No sense of loyalty. These are just a few of the terms being thrown around to describe millennials in the workforce. Although evidence does seem to show that every generation misunderstands the one following it, millennials seem to get an especially bad rap. The recruitment and retention of qualified millennials has been a trending topic amongst corporate senior leadership in almost every industry.
But what about when the millennial is the boss? Is he/she still viewed through the same lens?
When I became President of RM Friedland, the largest privately held commercial real estate brokerage company in Westchester County, in November of last year, it was clear that I had a challenging journey ahead of me. In a company of almost 30 employees, about 70 percent are men and the average age is around 45 years old. The most senior brokers in the company, who generate the highest revenue, are primarily men over 60 years old.
How was I, a millennial women, going to get these people to listen to me? Did they think of me the way it seems many do about millennials? As I prepared for my first town hall meeting with the company, I did what I often do when preparing for a big speech: I rehearsed in front of the mirror. As I stood there, I reminded myself that despite my age, not only was I qualified to do this, but I was the right woman for the job.
Now that I’ve been at RM Friedland for nearly a year, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks about how to succeed in this role no matter what comes my way. Here are a few key things that I have learned about being a millennial at the wheel that can apply to anyone who finds themselves in a leadership role, no matter their age:
Treat everyone with respect for who they are and what they do in the organization: This is similar to what we tell children about treating others the way they want to be treated. In my business the brokers are the revenue generators, but the staff play an equally important role in how they support those brokers. It is important to show everyone how grateful you are for their talents and what they bring to your organization.
Meet everyone at eye level: This goes both ways. Don’t look down at anyone and don’t be intimidated by anyone. Be confident in yourself. With the senior brokers (who in some cases are men almost 30 years my senior), I always speak with them on their level. Age should not be a factor in how you carry yourself.
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Stand your ground on things that matter: Don’t overcompensate for your lack of gray hair by flexing your muscles on things that are not important. However, when something is important you must put your foot down and firmly. The adage “pick your battles” rings true.
Lead by example: I’m very far from perfect, but I do my best to set the tone that I want in the office through my behavior. This includes being positive, working hard and trying to always be fair and ethical.
Don’t be emotional: Business is business. Try to approach everything in a level-headed manner and never let your emotions get the best of you.
Admit what you don’t know: As a millennial, it is a fact that we have fewer years of business experience than the generations that precede us. Just because you are the head of a company doesn’t mean that you know more than everyone in your office, and don’t be afraid to admit it. Find allies and mentors in the office whose experience and perspective you trust, lean on them for advice and ask others to do the same. Don’t feel because you are the boss that you have to know everything.
Sarah Jones-Maturo serves as President of RM Friedland. Prior to joining the company at the end of 2015, Jones-Maturo spent her entire career at CBRE, being promoted three times and completing over one million square feet of transactions in 2014 and 2015 alone.