I asked a relative, who is in his 60s and has enjoyed a long and successful career in electronics engineering, the question which my friend asked and which I have posted above. I consider his answer spot-on so decided to share it hoping it would also benefit others. As the intent is to spread his wisdom, I hope he won't mind, and might even be flattered?
Enjoy, and please upvote and leave a comment if this resonates. Note: emphasis is mine.
When I started at (...) many years ago there was a massive layoff of folks a couple of months after I started. Dept. head walked up to me one day and said here is the pager and you are the shift lead. There were 4 or 5 techs that I would be responsible for two of them were at least 15-20 years older than me.
When we had our first meeting I told them I was very surprised that I been chosen as the shift lead? Must be working on the Peter Principle rather than seniority and experience. I told them I had managed electronics and appliance technicians in my previous job so I did have some experience. Also, said the I know that if I help you be successful it will benefit all of us and the company. Also, told them that when we are talking about our working relationship I prefer to say they work with me not for me. We are all in the grinder and a job needs to be done.
My job is to make sure that I help facilitate their ability to do an effective and efficient job. I will not ask any one of them to do something that I would not do myself, I strive to lead by example not arm chair quarter backing. I will be the first one there and the last one to leave. If you call for help I will do my level best to make sure your request are answered in a timely manner.
A manufacturing environment can be a brutal place to work there will be times that we agree to disagree but we will respect each other’s opinions and admit if we are wrong. I don’t know everything and never will but collectively we can get the job done.
First and foremost when you are working on that 1 million dollar tool and you have a question stop what you are doing and call me, call the group supervisor or call the equipment manufacturer before you do more harm than good. The telephone is your most valuable asset. These days email would be part of those assets.
Note, when you are dealing with older workers that have not moved up the ladder there is a reason. The two older guys that I managed were both very bright but had other issues that would not make them a good candidate for management. Once they have been passed over a few times they really don’t have a deep seated hatred for a younger supervisor. I always told them I felt lucky to have guys with their level of experience.
My next job I was the engineering manager, facilities manager, process engineering manager and on and on. It was a one man show. However as time went on I hired technicians, facilities people, a process engineer, and an electrical engineer. We were close to the same age so there was little to worry about on the age side of it. I used pretty much the same philosophy of you work with me not for me and my job is to help you get you job done in the most efficient manner. I was never a micromanager. I told them if I have to micromanage them I will be finding someone else to do the job.
I have done some projects in my consulting were I am the project manager and I have managed a wide variety of folks all the way from the parts runners to the PhD that new his field of expertise but little else. All treated the same all given a healthy level of respect, no Napoleon complex here!