Something happened. I'm not sure what.
But - at some point... I wasn't the youngest guy anymore.
No longer Young?
Somewhere along the line, I went from being the 'youngest guy around' to being 'older' than many people I work with. At first, I was uncomfortable with this. I wanted to be the 'young guy'....the 'new guy'. But...then I realized a couple of things:
The new, younger generation that I was working with had a lot of great ideas and a lot of drive
I had experience and I also had a strong desire to help young people develop
Valuing the Younger Generation
I've been working on a team where there are some young folks that are about 20 years younger than me. Some of my colleagues in the industry fight against this - they always want a team of people that are more experienced. But - I actually prefer it the other way - I like having people without as much experience on my team. Here's what I'm observing in these young folks on my team:
They have fresh ideas
They have a lot of drive
They are wide open to trying new things
They are open to being coached
They often have skills that I don't have
Their 'technical' skills are often stronger than mine
My 'people' skills tend to be a bit more refined than theirs
I love the variety on my main working team right now. I love the openness and the idea sharing that we have. I love the enthusiasm. I love the drive. This is an exciting time to work with.
Engaging with Young People
Some of you may still be skeptical and want 'experience' over 'youth'. But - sooner or later....you are going to be the one on the team with the most experience. You'll be expected to lead these young folks. Here are some tips to do it successfully:
Be patient with them - You were young and 'wide open' once too. You had ideas flowing too (some crazy, some not). Be patient as these young folks learn to share their ideas, learn to engage with people on their team. We tend to forget how much experience we have in these areas over time. And remember - somebody was patient with you for you to get to the level of success that you have now.
Encourage them - Positive words go a long way in encouraging young people. I know two young ladies that are part of a great team. They do fantastic work. But - they often doubt themselves, criticize themselves, and see what they did wrong. I see them 'light up' when I tell them how well they are doing - how their specific talents are contributing to the team. Encourage your young team members with positive words.
Give them opportunities - They are eager and approach projects through new eyes and with much enthusiasm. Let them 'take the lead' on some projects, even if they aren't ready. It's a good way for them to learn. And - you'll be surprised at how they can excel when given responsibility.
See Their Potential
Take time to see their potential. Take time to encourage them. They will grow and develop - and so will you through the process.