“Youth Is Wasted On The Young, And Wisdom Is Wasted On The Old”
Remember that first job that kick-started your career after graduation? You were ready to take over the world full of ambition, ideas, and the vigor to put in the13 hour day no sweat. Do you find yourself wondering how you wasted that moment that energy 2,4,6 years later? Now you find yourself getting comfortable at the same company or even the same position you started in.
The issue is that often workplace structure is to blame. Unless you graduated and joined a startup where your ideas flow freely, and you can still wear your flip flops and toga on Friday you probably found yourself in an unfamiliar hierarchical structure of management. Your CEO, boss, manager, director, whatever… throws out questions and challenges at meetings. The first few bold months of your career you may have tried to contribute solutions. If you were smart, you noticed everyone else was quiet and followed suit.
The crazy thing about this hierarchical corporate structure is that you’re not wrong. Your boss surely did hire young fresh out of college you to capitalize on your newly minted ideas. So why operate this system where your ideas are stifled or even suppressed at every turn? Well, it’s the evolution of business. What’s needed to get the company off the ground is different from what a company needs once its established, and so follows the clear chain of command. Which is an effort to make workflow more efficiently.
Companies start to evolve into structures that almost seem like small military institutions. Breaking ranks to get your ideas a place at the table will ultimately make you the enemy of every coworker in between. Maybe you didn’t waste these years you were more likely passed over, ignored possibly even suppressed by those who “paid their dues.”
If youth is wasted on the young and the causation for this is that the old or let’s say seasoned middle/upper management are retaining their voice of the youth. Then wisdom is wasted on the old. What brought you to the position you currently occupy now as CEO, boss manager, director, whatever…? I’m sure it had something to do with your capabilities and great ideas you may have even started the company. Furthermore, you would likely no longer occupy the position if you still were not capable of making things happen.
Why not figure out how to accomplish two goals at the same time? Figure out how to instill and educate your new youthful talent while simultaneously harvesting their ideas. How to accomplish this is a tricky dare I say potentially an interoffice political fiasco that could initiate a coup. Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but the last thing a leader needs is the undermining and second guessing of his leadership. The obvious challenge is how to get in a room with your youthful, green, caged talent without alienating your middle and upper management staff.
There are two great ways to accomplish this the first being to meet individually and give each young staffers a task needing a solution or new idea. Then hammer it out together this is great one on one time with your young talent, but the drawback is the amount of time spent with each young staff member. If you have a pool of youthful talent, the second option is probably the most manageable. Hold a reoccurring meeting or lunch with the company’s young talent give them the floor without any chance of being suppressed from middle/upper management. The initial payoff is you get to build relationships with these up and comers followed by grasping their capabilities now rather than 2,4,6 years down the line.
By hosting these educational meetings as a lunch, you can draw down the tension hierarchy creates. Eating during a meeting fosters a less intimidating environment by reducing formalities. The task of eating itself is one of those biological necessities even kings and queens have to do so the psychological effect is that it makes everyone’s status seem more equal. This is crucial because the whole idea is to give your young talent the leeway to propose and follow through on each meeting’s content. To make sure middle/upper management doesn’t feel shutout let them share the responsibilities of leading these meetings they too have valuable skill to pass down. In fact, these loyal, skilled managers will feel valued by your passing the reigns instead feeling overlooked.
By taking a few proactive steps, the seasoned professional can indeed harvest great ideas from their young talent. Even better you can have the unique, invaluable opportunity to personally mold these young staffers into the ironclad management team of tomorrow. Don’t sacrifice your wisdom and waste their youth.
Darrell D Lingle
The Write Connection LLC