Published February 21, 2008
Part 4 of 4 in my Leadership Lessons Series:
I recently accompanied a friend of mine to the doctors office, but she was not the patient - her son was. The young 15 year old was having weight gain issues. Naturally the mother was worried. The reason I was there was she had voiced her frustration with this particular doctor.
After reading the young man's info the doctor began chastising him for his diet. We assured her that he eats less than 2000 calories per day and eats healthy - salad, fruits and vegetables, no butter occasionally soda and, being a teenager, he eats one cheeseburger with fries at least once a week. He confirmed all this and told the doctor when he cheats at the mall. The young man was embarrassed, but honest. Pizza was very rarely on his diet.
This didn't satisfy the doctor. She laid into him for not working out enough. She just assumed that someone who gains weight is lazy and eating junk. This was not the case, so again we corrected her, explaining that the young man was a black belt in Karate and works out 5 times a week for 4 hours each night. "Well he needs to do more sit ups." as she pointed to his distended belly...I burst out laughing "He does 600 sit-ups every night at Karate, that's 2400 sit-ups a week, and he's in better shape than kids half his weight...so now your saying more sit-ups?"
Then the doctor went back to complaining about his diet. Clearly she wasn't listening. At that point I lost my temper..."Are you even reading his chart? If it's not his diet and definitely not exercise then it must be glandular. You can't eat less than 2000 calories a day and exercise the way he does and not be skinny. It is physically impossible."
And then I realized what had taken place. The doctor had assumed the role of the One Who Knows All
and stopped listening to the patient.
As far as she was concerned, this kid was lazy and eating junk food 24 hours a day in front of the TV. To her, our input was a waste of time.
How many times has this happened in your life? How many times have you done it to others?
Being a know it all shuts down communication and makes an executive, manager, parent, doctor or coach look like a world class jerk. But I can see where this behavior comes from. Since the Industrial Revolution, most management has been autonomous and hierarchical. One rose to management status by gaining knowledge and keeping that knowledge to themselves. Authority and power marked the executive. One didn't rise to this height in the business world by listening to the little people. But, somewhere around 1985, a shift took place that would start the doubling of knowledge that would keep pushing the understanding of what it meant to learn and to manage.
New generations started coming up through the ranks capable of handling mounds of data in a way that the Boomer mind can barely handle. After all, Boomers didn't learn about computers until they were well into their careers. Today's younger workforce grew up with computers in their homes since they were children. They also grew up with video games.
This tiny shift has created a workforce that is capable of speed despite distraction, efficiency despite transience, and global understanding, despite localized location. The platform doesn't matter, and if you the Baby Boomer thinks you can keep up...you are sadly mistaken. Data crunching is normal to anyone born in the mid 80s.
Got Game? by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, the biggest difference between Boomers and Gamers is Parallel Thinking. Let me explain - Boomers see a task as linear- a beginning, middle and end. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials see everything with Parallel Thinking - five ideas at once with no end in site. This is why they multitask so easily. They were raised in it.
But are they getting any work done in this multitasking world?
I don't know why, but somehow I got lumped in with the Boomer Generation despite being so close in age to Gen-X. Baby Boomers listened to the Beatles. They were defined by Woodstock, Jimmy Hendrix and Vietnam. I was defined by John Travolta, KC and the Sunshine Band and Jimmy Carter. However, marketers seem to call the shots these days, and I have been put into Boomer territory.
The workforce I created at K2 Design, to tackle the interactive world, was filled with Gen X. They were trained to dive in and be fearless with new tasks. I realized that a Boomer was incapable of keeping pace with this kind of methodology: data immersion, multitasking and a chaotic work ethic. To a Boomer, this is crazy. To Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials, there is no cooler way to work.
My solution? I become a resource for talent and knowledge. Moving people around to meet our clients' needs: A structured interface design for Citibank would require Jason to manage the project. When AOL wanted a more organic and feminine style for one of their divisions, I chose Renée. Chris could handle interactive video and Vinton could do it all.
The old way of hierarchy does not work anymore.
Today's young workforce is very savvy and very aware of things that may have taken you your entire career to learn. This generation was expected to be an adult at a very young age, so don't think you can fool them. Instead, manage their expertise. They think like entrepreneurs, not employees. So when you pretend to know more, you may find yourself talking to an empty office.
Leadership is not something one learns by reading a book or a Blog. It's about doing it. Much as studying aerodynamics does not make a great pilot, leadership is about learning by doing, and, most importantly, learning from one's mistakes. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials were trained as children to think this way through in-depth video game play during childhood. Respect that.
Too many people are promoted to management because they were the best salesperson or the best scientist or the best assembler. This doesn't necessarily make them the best at leadership when offered the position. Leading people is another set of skills altogether. Great speakers may not be very good at Power Point, and great CEO's may not know anything about how to build a car, but they do know how to motivate and inspire. Those skills may come in time. So if you've been recruited from within, remember, it may be because you were the alpha member of your team. To become their leader may require another set of skills.
But whatever you do, try not to be a know it all. They are predicting that by the year 2010, Technological Information will double every 72 hours. So, you can try to know it all, but physically it will be impossible.
Thanks for reading,
The Art & Science of Leadership
Creative Director • Designer • Author • Workshop Facilitator • Keynote Speaker
Former Dot Com Executive and Baby Boomer Brad Szollose, is an award winning leadership strategist, author and professional speaker who shows people managers and entrepreneurs how to win big in the Information Age.
For more info, go to http://bradszollose.com
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