Part III of our “…To The Wise” Triptych
…To those currently at the top of their game.
Wanna stay there?
Well then; in the words of Adele Nazeem*, “Let it Go!”
We’ve talked about the New Kids appreciating how much experience yet remains after graduation in order to season and weather them into the amazing Creative and Technical resources they are going to be; we’ve addressed the danger to our industries in bestowing lofty titles to the unseasoned and the damage that represents to quality of product delivered by these industries as well as to the crimps and obstacles that puts into the aforementioned developmental pathways of the New and NextGen.
So, part three of this set is for us Old Guys; those who’ve been around and working for a while and aren’t in any way ready to leave…and who may feel just a tad threatened by the Whippersnapper Brigade. All those irritating, bright eyes and fresh, unwrinkled skin and ability to pick up any digital device and just freaking use it…
Buncha know it all’s…
Except; they’re not know-it-alls…more to the point, they’re want-to-know-it-alls…
In Illustration: A Personal Anecdote of a Key and ultimately Pivotal Moment in my own, Professional Life that enlightened me to the fact that ageism can just as often be in the mind of the Older than that of the Younger…
After the Crash of ’08 and returning to NYC in ’09, in Survival Mode, I ended up being brought on as a Specialist @ Apple SoHo. Entering the store on my first evening, which happened to be an all-store meeting; my already-low spirits plummeted. I was clearly the oldest person in the place by at least a factor of two, and for the most part very nearly three.
So, it had some to this. A grey-haired old guy amongst this Ocean of Youth. At that moment I felt that I may as well have become a Walmart Greeter, I felt so immediately irrelevant.
But. I. Was. Wrong.
Grey is just another hair color; and the dynamic on the floor is collaborative, organic, supportive teamwork; playing to everyone’s strengths and interests. The level of curiosity emanating from pretty much everyone in the place as to what others bring to the proverbial table is a powerful force; giving me the opportunity to call forth and apply my own tenets of Experience Creation in the creation of my own experience at Apple…and everywhere.
The most salient of the five being Exploration of Assumption.
I’d assumed a lot about how I’d fit.
What I learned was how curious and willing to explore, how intrigued and hungry to learn were all these nimble minds with which I was now surrounded. How could anyone not be open to learning, with the myriad, disparate minds in Collective?
The population consisted of everyone from the Ohio fratboy to the Arizona Cheerleader, the blue-haired Dancer from Denver to the toughass dyke from Brooklyn, the Irish lass from Boston, the nerdy music guy from Houston, the German, the Dutch, the Theatre geek, the Beauty Queen, the Singer, the writer, the former nurse, the marine, the never-even-thought-about-the-closet Downtown boy, the jock…all on the level playing field of technology… Sharing and teaching all at once on the level playing field of technology and teaching.
Historically, I’ve always tended to pick out YPP’s (Young People of Potential) on my teams and give them more than they might think they can handle, though what I know they can; tossing them in with me as safety net, giving them opportunity to discover what’s possible.
I now seek and embrace every opportunity to be around, to teach and enlighten, mentor and guide younger men and women, especially students, because
- a) they are so hungry to learn and apply what they know and
- b) one cannot help but Learn Right Back!
So, back to our conversation and context:
New and NextGen in our workplaces and on our workforces are a huge opportunity for all concerned. They want to learn from you, from us.
At the same time, no one wants to look stupid: and, this is Key…
Remember; on the one hand, these YPP’s come with a fresh body of knowledge from whatever institution or experience brought them to your company or context. They know a lot…of what they’ve been taught. They also know they haven’t actually done anything, yet; put anything in the field. That being said; they don’t want to look clueless to you.
So don’t let ‘em feel clueless.
Allow that these kids (sorry, guys; you’re still “kids” to us…) actually do Know Stuff.
Offer to show ‘em how you do something, and remember to ask them how they might do it. See what they know, appreciate what they know, share what you know and – lo and behold – more times than not a better approach can evolve from the combination of the two.
The more welcoming we are, the more willing to show curiosity and the less afraid to look stupid will be the YPP’s; and that is the portal to developing and mentoring new talent and skill.
Fear is what stands in the way of any progress, anywhere. Our fear of what the kids might represent with respect to our own futures; their fear of screwing up and blowing their First, Big Shot at doing something.
They don’t want your job…not today. They want it, someday (probably sooner than is reasonable, but Youth is Youth – whattaya gonna do?). We don’t want them to not enter the workforce, do we?
We want them to join the team; and we certainly want them qualified to create things…Experiences of which we have not yet even conceived as we prepare to depart.
[And, btw kids; for us veterans, “leaving the work force” is not merely the “equivalent of dying” …it is the same thing, and will very likely happen at the same time. Most of us will work ’til the day we die. You are the same. Get that: we get it.]
The way I see it; we have an opportunity to impart what we know and have learned through doing the work together; to evolve our own processes and enhance our creativity by partnering in mentorship with YPPs.
The YPPs, on the other hand, have the opportunity to Learn From the Best while the best are still around.
That, and as they become executives, these kids’ll be in positions to hire us all for those wonderful, Consulting Fees we see, just beyond the horizon; justifiably inflated by our Evolved Relevance in an industry that is rapidly evolving in it’s own right.
[And: just a hint in that area… Probably best not to boast of being technologically deficient. That’s not really seen as an asset, anymore, and – in case you missed it, up above – these are the guy’s who’ll be hiring us, at some point. Best you be able to operate your iPhone without cursing, know how to create a pdf, be facile with digital conferencing technology and just get over your fear and frustration with the pace of technology.]
Avoid troglodickery (look it up ); have these kids teach you how to work your technology. Just sayin’.
So, as we encounter the New, we can embrace and welcome, evolve alongside and remain relevant far longer in collaborative partnership borne of mentoring.
The suggestion is to let go of any resentment and fear; embrace the YPPs and allow them the freedom to be themselves with you. Everyone will win.
*(if you don’t know who this is, get Googling… )
“IMHO,” the iBook on the basics of Creating Compelling Experience with Emotional Connection, is a free download from iTunes and iBooks and readable across the spectrum of OS and iOS.