Blog #6 The youth of today

Are you playing your part, part of the problem or are you apathetic?

Someone once told me that I wouldn’t be taken seriously until I was 35 and that my 35th year would be my most difficult because I’d be transitioning… I still wouldn’t have enough grey hair to sit at the grownups table. I scoffed at it then… but now I’m 35, classified as a millennial (just) and I have to admit it’s one of the truest statements I’ve ever heard.

I guess I believed that the older generation would hear me out, would give my ideas a chance, would see my enthusiasm as a benefit and not something to be tamed, would allow me to fail so I could get better and be better, would believe in my ability and would want me to thrive and of course my contemporaries would do all that and have my back. Not so much.

In fact, whilst there have been some glorious rays of sunshine in my career who have supported, pushed, and backed me up there have been a lot of unnecessary setbacks due to my ‘age’. A lot of the time I’ve managed to get around these obstacles with careful negotiation or asking for forgiveness rather than permission, but it was frustrating and often demoralising because I found myself with limited control of my progress.

Condescending pats on the back, hollow words of encouragement and undermining comments are all the norm in the corporate world and I’m talking to entrepreneurs here too (you’re also creating corporate environments even if they are small). What’s worried me for a while are the youth who don’t have the confidence to speak up, aren’t phenoms (that you’re aware of), won’t act without permission, join in or make mistakes – these are the important ones. Let’s face it not everyone is in your face enough to allow you to give them a chance, either out of desperation or just plain annoyance.

And yes I know experience is everything but if you don’t let, encourage, enable, enforce, cajole, do whatever it takes to get the younger people in your organisation involved how the heck are they going to get any experience? Put training wheels on but don’t take them off the bike altogether because their feet can’t touch the ground if you wait for that it will be too late.

And I’m not sure why there is this resistance, maybe it’s just human nature, maybe it’s the threat of the younger generation taking over, maybe the discomfort of change, maybe an inferiority complex created when they were young by some older person or maybe just plain ego, that unrelenting character who often gets in the way of real progress and transformation.

Either way, everyone’s future lies in the power of our youth and the sooner we realise that the better.

So how can you make a difference? Well I asked a couple of the matrics from Kingswood College to give me the one word that they would use to describe the action they wanted to see more of from the adults welcoming them into the working world and the word they chose was LISTEN

It’s the perfect word and a great reminder not just for the older generation but for everyone because there is always someone younger who we have the power to influence, teach and impact.

What I do know for sure is that the younger we are the more inclined we are to keep asking for guidance and the more enthusiastic we are to get involved. Cognisance of this opportunity by everyone, young or old, is critical, our youth need to know that their progress is the focal point for global success. We have to lead by example, we have to show that we are willing to try, have the courage to make mistakes and then apologise wholeheartedly when we get it wrong so they learn to do the same. We must show them how to fix things with commitment and love. We must be actual examples of humility, not just sound bites. We have to instil in them the courage to protest what they don’t believe in, but the wisdom to do it peacefully. We have to care enough to show them right from wrong and do it consistently. We must teach, act, speak and feel equality so they fully understand it and then live it. It is our hardest job but our most important because we are responsible for how they teach, act, speak and feel with their children.

We have to give them a chance, after all, they will build the corporate world your grandchildren go in to.

I’d like to extend a massive thank you to the Kingswood pupils who shared their words, a wonderful reminder for me personally and one I will not take for granted especially when I work with someone younger than me.

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