Episode 80: Millennial Management with Emily Tsitrian


February 22nd, 2022

45 mins 45 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Welcome to Professional Service Manager and author of the new book Make Me The Boss: Surviving as a Millenial Manager in the Corporate World, Emily Tsitrian! We talked with Emily about being a “newer career” manager, why she wrote her book, and lessons she learned along the way.

We asked Emily how she got into professional services (which is a lot of project management, implementation, and customer success), and she told us about how in college she wanted to be in tech, since tech changes the world (for better or worse). She started at an enterprise health solution company, and after 7 years she wanted to join a start-up and ended up at a unicorn where they experienced hypergrowth as the company scaled. Suddenly Emily and her peers were in management.

When a friend asked her what books she recommended about how to be a manager, Emily realized the right book for her didn’t exist, and she decided to write one. She started, put it aside because of….life…. and picked it back up with the pandemic and finished it!

We asked Emily how she discovered her voice as a manager. Her first point was that managers are always learning. At first she was overly invested emotionally, made everything a hill to die on, and built the team around her vs building a team who could replace her.

Growth can be uncomfortable and vulnerable, and people in management positions are vulnerable because everything is on display. All of a sudden, people around us see when we look at our phone, look into the meaning of what we say, and overthink a lot of our reactions. Being in management comes with “a lot of crap” according to Emily.

We discuss being strong and using the word “no” to protect both ourselves and our teams. Drawing boundaries helps us protect ourselves.

We ask about the difference between being a millennial manager vs Gen X or Gen Z. Emily explains how millennials have grown in a hyper-connected world, changing societal norms in positive and negative ways and how it affects management. They also have lower life expectancy, accumulated wealth, and live for experiences and happiness. They’ve turned the world of professionalism upside down and shown us that we need to be aware if we want to attract millennial talent. They’ve shown us that if you don’t run your business with morals, employees will walk out.

Millenials are more likely to want to communicate with a screen. Emily wanted to help people address the whole person.

We ask the first piece of advice Emily gives to new managers, and she breaks it into people who are managing their peers vs managing a new group. For the first group, Emily talks about managing at least one person who didn’t get the job.

She said to make sure that you keep business continuity -- don’t let balls drop. Then think about both relationships with team members and relationships with new peer group. She also invites people to talk about what it’s like being managed by someone who was their peer. Be ready for the difficult relationships.

She advises to step back from close relationships with people on the team; make sure everyone has equal access to you, and focus on being their manager vs their friend.

Another tip from Emily is that when you become a manager, don’t lose that thing you can coach people on. If you’ve mastered something as an IC, don’t lose it. Again, it helps with coaching and credibility.

Your team needs to feel that you’re able to represent them at a meeting, so public speaking is a critical skill to have as a manager. How do you get better (other than reading Emily’s book)? Give a toast, be a podcast guest, watch some TED talks, ask a question in a meeting... there are a lot of good ways.

We ask about evaluating potential new managers if you’re making a job change, and Emily has some great tips. 1. Does the company invest in their management teams? Ask how well managers are supported. 2. Insist that you talk with the person who will be your direct manager. 3. Ask that person hard questions (which is happening more and more) about how they manage, give feedback, and think about growth.

Millenials get more and more community from work which makes people invest more in their workplace than ever before.

We ask about how to retain millennials in this tough hiring environment. Emily is intentional on focusing on the high performers vs the people who are struggling. This goes against relation-driven millennial instincts to nurture, but making sure you can focus on building your best people so that you don’t lose them. She also tells companies to invest in their new managers and to start training potential managers and help them go up a half a notch.

Good managers are building their next generation.

We ask about a manager’s biggest challenge for 2022. Emily acknowledges the huge foundational shift in the workplace, and tells people to stay curious, invest in knowledge and be authentic without being married to past ideas.

Liz adds the need to be flexible and caring….while staying relevant, curious, and open. We’re in a big inflection point -- let’s embrace it!