It’s football season again.
For the next 4-5 months, every Friday through Sunday—okay, almost every day that ends in “y”— big, strong young men (and Tom Brady) will suit up and take to the gridiron.
What’s fascinating is that these gifted athletes will listen to and follow the instructions of coaches twice as old and half as strong.
If legendary coaches Nick Saban and Bill Belichick—both 70 now—tried to strap on a helmet and compete alongside their players, the results would not be pretty.
Yet their players hang on their every word. Why? Because they know their coach isn’t competing against them, he’s trying to get the best out of them. He’s BEHIND them and FOR them. And because he has experience and credibility, he has enormous influence. He’s earned their trust—not just as a coach, but also as a mentor.
To me, this is an encouraging reminder for those us in the workforce who are, shall we say, “more seasoned.” We can use our life experiences and business wisdom to serve younger workers. How do we do that? Three ways:
1. Give affirmation to others. I think it was Ken Blanchard who suggested, “Wander around and catch people doing things right.” And each time you do, offer genuine, thoughtful affirmation.
This isn’t about being the office cheerleader. I’m not suggesting you offer meaningless “rah-rah” bromides that no one believes, much less takes seriously. This is about you really studying others, identifying something that is both true and valuable about them, and then letting them know.
“Joe, I’ve noticed that you take a great deal of care when preparing these monthly reports. I want you to know I appreciate it – it makes life a lot less stressful knowing I can count on these things being accurate when you handle them.”
A comment like that may not seem like much to you, but my guess is that Joe will work even harder to make sure those monthly reports are perfect every time.
2. Grow confidence in others. Affirming others is good. But that alone isn’t enough. We have to help people believe in themselves.
This is where it gets tricky. People have to try things and experience a little success to become confident. But they also need some confidence to get going in the first place!
Somewhere between “You want me to do WHAT?” and “No problem!” stands a mentor who knows how to push without being pushy. Stretching others without breaking them is an art.
Learn to do that and your impact in the workplace will be huge.
A third thing you can do is to…
3. Develop competence in others. Years ago, the late Donald Tabb told me how he developed others. He used a five-fold process: tell them why, show them how, get them started, keep them going, and help them to reproduce.
Developing competence in others begins with helping them know why and how a thing should be done. But that information alone will not overcome the powerful inertia that is fear of the unknown.
A good coach gets the process started. Then, he or she keeps it going through specific action steps and a plan of accountability. And you’ll know true competence has been developed when those you’re mentoring turn around and take others through the same process.
The key to having a big impact? Focus less on yourself and more on serving and building up others.
Devote yourself to a consistent professional habit of giving affirmation, and developing confidence and competence in those younger than you. You’ll make a difference. And you may actually stay younger longer.
To help you think through the financial implications of aging, I’ve created a comprehensive checklist of pre-retirement questions for people who are 60-something. It’s free. Email me at email@example.com, and I’ll send it to you right away.
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