I can’t even count the number of times I have heard this or other similar statements from fellow leaders and managers. I always laugh, and they take that like I think they are joking. I know they aren’t joking; I am simply reminded of when I was 19 years old, new to the Air Force and listening to the more senior members make these same statements. During that time I found myself wondering why they thought we were bad or lazy or any other negative adjective. Over time, I supposed I proved myself, and they would stop saying it or at least they stopped around me.
Now that I’m much older in my career, these sentiments are coming back. But the difference this time is I get to help educate my peers into realizing the mistake they are making. Or I get to watch them bumble through their lives as a manager and watch as they hit their ceiling. Little do they realize their own beliefs are what prevent them from reaching new heights as a leader.
The ceiling is different for everyone, but they all hit it and stay in the average leader category. They all believe the problem is with the new generation. The lazy generation that doesn’t talk anymore and only plays on their phones. The new generation that has no passion and constantly asks “Why?” This new generation that has had Google around all their lives and thinks it is funny when we ask a rhetorical question like “Why is the sky blue?” in response to their question as to why they have to do something. They don’t realize that we mostly had no idea why the sky was blue until seventh grade when we looked it up in a science book. So when I ask the new generation, they whip out their phone and google it.
So what now? It is time to stop blaming the new generation for being the way they are. We created them; we are their parents, or at least their aunts and uncles! So the key to this is to change our minds. We need to figure out ways to connect with them. If they won’t look up from their phones, find out why. You must be more engaging than their phones. Stop complaining when they use them. Engage them with the phone. Tell them why we are working so hard and what the purpose is.
I also hear leaders say “We don’t always have time to answer why.” If it takes you more than a minute or two to explain why you are asking your people to do something, then either you need to work on your communication skills or you didn’t do a good job previously connecting their work to the bigger picture. If you spend time talking to your people and explaining why they are doing the work, you will gain time later by not having to explain everything then, when your time is short.
Finally, the sky is blue because “A clear cloudless day-time sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light. When we look towards the sun at sunset, we see red and orange colours because the blue light has been scattered out and away from the line of sight.” s(math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/BlueSky/blue_sky.html) I just googled it for you!