Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
Coming out of the covid pandemic, you kept hearing the phrase “new normal” which for some people brought a breath of fresh air yet for others, created anger and frustration. It escalated as people began to return to the workplace and we started to hear new phrases such as “Quiet-Quitting” and the “Great Resignation.” Regardless of the phrase being used, what became evident is that there was instability and a shortage in the workforce as restaurants and businesses were forced to change their hours and approaches as positions either went unfilled or opened up because an employee decided not to show.
As a person who spent 30 years at the same company, this was the part that was the hardest to watch. It’s not that I don’t think people should pursue new and better opportunities or expand their experiences, I am all for personal growth. But what I have witnessed and experienced in sharing with other people in industry is the need for instant gratification and not appreciating the importance of investment and work to build future success.
The young workforce today is getting a bad rap in the media as you can search articles and hear about young people expecting to get a promotion soon after starting a job. They don’t see the value in “working your way to the top” but instead should be recognized for what they could achieve if they were promoted. The instant gratification that comes with likes and heart and other social media emojis seems to be supported about a desperate business climate that is throwing bigger salaries and signing bonuses at unproven commodities because they need bodies.
But is it really something new?
Kids have always been know-it-alls. I remember classifying my family after a few weeks into my freshman year of college after attending a Psychology 101 class. I can still see my dad shaking his head as if I was an idiot. I remember thinking about how little my dad knew as he had never been to college. Well, now I know. His life was lived through experiences, not by reading about someone else's experiences.
In my Pillars of Impact series, I talk about the Courage to Challenge and that as a leader, you must be prepared to challenge the status quo. This is one of the key aspects when I look at new employees. Do they have the ability to assess a situation and find a better pathway forward? But I also need to see HOW they will challenge the status quo. Will they discount what was done previously or the people who chose that path? Will they first seek to understand the why or just push forward with what they believe is the why?
There is a reason you can get online degrees in a bunch of disciplines but not to be a surgeon. They need the experiences, the challenges, the stress of making decisions, of living life. When you follow the 2nd Pillar of Impact and Expect Excellence in yourself and others, you realize that nobody at work cares about your GPA. They care about what you know, what you can learn, and most importantly can you apply it to the challenges you face to help the team win.
As parents, we have experienced these hard lessons in life firsthand and apparently, a lot of us were so traumatized that we are doing everything in our power to avoid our kids having to experience it themselves. Somehow forgetting the importance of experiencing challenges to help build character and work ethic on which we have built our lives.
Articles and books have been written about helicopter parents hovering over their every move or the dozer / lawnmower parents who are trying to clear the way for their kids. But while they believe they are being helpful, they are setting their kids up for failure as the parents have failed to equip them in the basics of life and being overly dramatic, to survive. At some point, it stops, and the kids are forced to sink or swim. They show a pattern of leaving jobs when they don’t get what they want and then their resume is filled with what appears to be job hopping and when they finally realize they need stability in their lives, they won’t be chosen for that big position because employers don’t want to take a chance on training up someone just to leave. If an employer can’t trust an employee to stay to be loyal, they will put that resume aside and look for another.
In my next post I will talk about People-Soft vs People-Easy. It fits in well with this topic - both from the workforce and from being raised by the helicopter / dozer parents. An example would be teaching your child to swim. Old school was to throw your child into the deep end and let them sink or swim. An archaic approach that is outdated and proven to have more negative results than positive. A People-Soft approach would help them learn how to swim by getting them classes, supporting them as they learned techniques, helping them to find a way, by learning and doing until they become sufficient swimmers that they can do it on their own. People-Easy is to put them in the kiddie pool and not put them in deep water. Ever.
Why did I meander down this path when I started talking about the challenges in our workforce? It might be that after 30 years at a company, well, that’s what we do, we tell stories that wind around before we get to the point. Or maybe, that is the point. Sometimes you just want to get somewhere so you jump on the interstate, and you focus on getting to that final destination. It’s pretty straight, traffic moves along, and you get to your destination. But sometimes, I like to take the Blue Highways and travel the side roads and back roads that are less traveled. You experience the changing landscape and scenery. The hills and valleys. The small towns and drive-ins. Experiences that add to your knowledge base that help shape you and your thoughts.
In Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Less Traveled, he finishes it off with this final stanza, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
It is that decision made by you, not by your parents and not made by your boss, that will help shape your future. A future built upon experiences that you created and lived through, shaping who you will become and how you will impact others. Don’t avoid those experiences. Don’t avoid those roads. Take the time to make memories. Take time to put in the work necessary to prepare you for the deep end. To experience what lies Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.