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Leadership Lessons—Learning Lessons

As I am writing this I am sitting at the St. Louis airport. I love watching the military planes fly down the runway past the commercial jets. In my younger years I would have guessed they were F-15s … but I’m sure I’m way off on that. But, they look like those jets.

This got me thinking.

I hear people talk about “our younger generation.” In my previous life I did some training on the difference in generations. What we say about the younger generation our parents said about us. Their parents said the same thing about them. The interesting thing is this younger generation (Gen Y), is extremely akin to those of us that are characterized as Baby Boomers. Very much like us … but they will have balance in their lives. Those of us who are boomers feel that we wear a badge of honor based on the number of hours we work a week.

At one point I saw a speaker discuss the military and this young age group. This got me thinking and I went to Google to find the average age of the military ranks today.

I started with the Marines. Almost 40 percent of the entire Marine force is 18 to 21 year of age. Another 46 percent are 22 – 30. Think about this. Seventy-three percent of all the Marines are under 30. The average age is 25. In fact, the average age of everyone in the military is under 30.

Yet, many of us believe that we can’t trust this generation with learning how to install glass—although this is the age group that will defend our country. These are the Navy Seals. They learn the intelligence of our enemy nations. They are becoming skilled at firing missiles in an area smaller than a windshield. Yet, we aren’t sure if they can learn how to change a windshield and still be working with us six months from now.

See what I’m talking about?

Talk to some of the seasoned techs in your business. Ask them when they got started. I would bet many of them were in their teens or early 20s. I would bet that their parents would have categorized them as unreliable, lazy, not able to learn, and someone their parents would never hire. Yet, 30 – 40 years later, here they are as some of the best techs in our industry who have forgotten more than most of us will ever learn.

Training today is different than it was years ago. We have to understand that. How we learned is not the way we can expect others to learn. Good Leaders understand that. Training methods change. Are you employing the “Tell Me—Show Me—Let Me Try” method of training? We need to keep understanding there is a difference of how we learned versus how we need to train.

Give me an honest answer. Have you ever met anyone, ever, who was great at installing windshields, had a wonderful attitude and work ethic, and had to worry about being out of work? At the same time, can you say the same thing about all of those engineers who figured out how to get a man to the moon in a spacecraft? I’ve heard of hundreds of engineers who lost their jobs because of funding cuts for space explorations. But I don’t know of one person, who is good at our industry, who is looking for work.

I think we need to redefine our attitude in looking for employees. We need to be excited about the opportunities that we offer. Then, we need to figure out how we can best train this group of people and have them as tomorrow’s leaders.

The Marines figured it out. Why shouldn’t we?

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