My wife is a middle school teacher. Throughout the school year she is required to attend teachers’ institute sessions. As a kid, the term “teachers’ institute” simply meant a day off. But I have learned that teachers attend daylong sessions to learn new teaching techniques and advances in education.
She has explained to me how frustrating it can be to try to listen to a speaker when everyone in the audience is holding a personal conversation. “Teachers make the worst students,” she has said on numerous times.
Everyone wants to be an expert
It occurred to me that the very people who are constantly talking to their students about how important it is to listen, don’t practice what they preach. In their minds, they are the ones who teach. Teachers are the experts who extoll their knowledge to the students.
I’m not indicating that teachers are too arrogant to be taught. It’s really more of a role reversal that they aren’t used to. When someone is placed on the expert pedestal, it can be difficult to realize that there are other pedestals that they themselves can look up to.
The knowledge of youth
There have been days when my wife returns from school and tells us of a website or an iPhone app that a student told her about. Better yet, a student will point out a way to use an app on her phone that was new to her. It indicates to me the amount of knowledge that middle school students have. More than that, it shows me that my wife is willing to listen to – and learn from – someone that she is supposed to teach.
For more information check out How to be mentored
Too smart to learn?
I see it in the business world too. The older, wiser, and more experienced employee sees this green new employee. He decides he’ll mentor her. He’ll teach her a few things as long as she’s willing to learn.
The younger employees of today’s business world – the millennials – enter their careers with confidence. They’ve just finished their college degrees and are ready to conquer the world – the business world anyway.
In many ways, they aren’t any different from any other generation that has entered the business world. We all came in with hopes and dreams of success. The difference with today’s young millennials and their preceding generations is their knowledge. The baby boomers may look at millennials and think that they think they know everything. Baby boomers become even more frustrated when they realize how much the millennials actually know.
But the millennials should be willing to learn more. They should realize that the baby boomer may have some insight from his experience that would teach them.
It goes both ways.
The baby boomer can also make an attitude adjustment. Once the baby boomer realizes (and accepts) how much knowledge the millennial generation holds, he may just realize that that young man or woman can teach him a few things.
Like a teacher who learns from her students, a mentor can also become the mentee. The millennial generation has probably spent more time using a smart phone and the internet than most baby boomers. Millennials have had the time to investigate different apps and websites. They know applications more intimately and know how they work.
A baby boomer can create a Snapchat account. But how many of his contemporaries have accounts with which he can effectively interact. Millennials have the right balance of business knowledge, application knowledge, and network breadth. They can show an older coworker how an application works and then show them how it can be used as a business tool.
My generation complains about how the younger generation is constantly on their phone. There is some relevance to that. There are times when you need to put the phone down and listen, make eye contact, and interact. But when this generation is on the phone, they’re learning how to use the next generation of business tools.
That’s good for them. It’s good for us. And it’s good for business. We just need to lower our pedestals enough to listen.
What have you learned from a millennial this week?
I welcome your questions and comments.