So, I thought to myself on a Saturday evening what it is that I should write about apart from what I do in life in general and the work I am extremely passionate about!
The wise know that companies rarely shape people into becoming exceptional. Indeed, its exceptional people that make companies extraordinary. But have we come to realize this over generations of corporate experience?
The fact is that cross-generational corporate experiments aren’t working too well. Put another way, most leaders haven’t figured out how to deal with the challenges of integrating different generations and their respective belief systems.
As leaders, we must learn to build bridges that straddle old habits and comfort zones and the more fertile grounds of disruptive actions. The best way to accomplish that is to align the creative energy of the youth, and the experience of the more seasoned workers. There is no running away from this paradigm; you can run, but you cannot hide from it. Sooner or later, knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly, every leader must deal with the changing demographic shifts in the workforce. It impacts Culture, Performance, Brand, Innovation, Succession, and even the sustainability of the enterprise.
Very few of us embrace these trends with sincerity. And most don’t leverage them at a day-to-day practical level, much less at a strategic level. Something that I observe regularly, the sad reality that when I assess an agency or enterprise leadership, it is the exception, not the rule, that youth has a seat at the table. And the real kicker is it is not because they don’t have young talent. The reason is that they simply don’t know how to engage the younger talent. Perhaps the fact that the next generation inevitably speaks a different language frustrates them. This often results in a disengaged, out of touch, and have-always-done-it-that-way leadership team.
If you don’t have youth represented in your senior management and leadership teams, it is time to discover the right talent from among the ‘rank and file’ and elevate them. Once they have a seat at the table you must also give them a voice. And then comes the hardest part i.e. you have to then be willing to listen. You won’t ever engage Gen Y, unlock their creativity, passion, intelligence, and commitment if you don’t respect them. Dismiss them, patronize them, or otherwise marginalize them and they’ll walk out of the door. Show them you care for their views and competence, that you care about the right things – you know the small things like values, ethics, transparency – and they’ll be the fuel that will run your engine into the future. Failing to embrace this is the same thing as choosing to restrict your access to opportunity.
The easiest and the most impactful thing for many leaders now, would be to look within teams/departments/functions and identify young leaders and champions. Because, as is often said great delight and excellence is often found closer to home than in mythical far off land.