The younger leads the older

Image source

Introduction

This is the second installment in my conversation with G.J. Hart, CEO of Texas Roadhouse.

**********

The fire

The combination of good fortune and hard work landed G.J. Hart as a plant manager responsible for 500 employees at the tender age of twenty. He described it as a great opportunity and a trial by fire. He went on to explain that nearly everyone in the plant was older, more experienced, and more knowledgeable of the industry.

The first question

While listening to G.J. talk, two questions bubbled up in my mind. I think I interrupted him when I asked, “What did your mentor see in you that motivated him to put you in charge of 500 experienced employees?”

G.J. wasn’t troubled by my interruption. He casually responded, “Probably the things you would expect.” There was a pause. I waited.

G.J. began explaining qualities he learned from his parents, qualities imprinted in his DNA; the will to persevere and the will to succeed. Dual qualities he connected to the toughness his Mom demonstrated by surviving six years in Japanese concentration camps and the stubbornness of his Dutch Dad.

The second question

The second question was less personal and more technical. I asked, “How does a young leader earn the respect of older more experienced workers?” Without hesitation G.J. listed two qualities in succession.

  1. You respect them.
  2. You are there to serve them.

You have to respect a young man with that kind of wisdom.

I asked the Facebook fans for their thoughts on younger leading the older.

  • Jean Radeztsky, … “Know that you were selected for this role because of your leadership skills.”
  • Kerry Bural, “The “spirit” in which one leads is critical to the outcome.”
  • Eric Jacques, … “Asking for their feedback and giving them plenty of time to accept me in my role.”

*****

Pt. 1 “A Dealer in Hope

Pt. 3 “A Different Kind of Courage

What are your suggestions for those charged with leading/managing older more experienced employees?