Andy Taggart shared this great story a few weeks ago on Twitter. As I read and reflected on it, it became crystal clear that this is the same collaboration needed in our firms and companies. More Baby Boomers and Gen X sharing their knowledge and experience while working directly with our youngest generation of team members. The fastest leadership development and the best way to close the succession gap is by being “in the room” or “in the meeting.”
Let’s break Andy’s story down for our analogy. Here is the wise one leading the young man on a journey into the woods. Using his experience and knowledge, he makes sure they are on a good path and know their way in and out. It’s exactly what we need from our senior leaders today, sharing knowledge, wisdom and experiences that we just can’t learn on our own. Andy is also providing a safe journey with his oversight. Safety allows us to try new things and know that if we make a mistake we can learn from it.
Here the story turns to the learnings of the young man. He finds a treasure. This is exactly what happens for young team members when they work closely and observe our team leaders—they find gems of knowledge and wisdom. They recognize it immediately, “I would have never found this “stick” if I had not had this opportunity with senior management.” When you have this collaboration going, all the generations and various levels of leadership learn from each other. It has an #EXPONENTIAL effect on learning in our firms.
The next part of the story is rich although I love that last line the most. The young man made a mistake with the splinter but he got it out himself and he did not have a meltdown over the pain of learning. Our youngest team members will learn from a few “splinters” and actually, they will never reach their full potential without a few. Failing fast, getting “splinters” in these collaborative moments leads to everyone learning and young team members skyrocketing forward in their careers. Do you think it is easier to be brave and learn when you have some support from seasoned leadership or when you are walking the woods of a career all alone?
Oh, this closing line—I laugh every time I read it. When we have the collaboration between our senior leaders and young team members, we see “frogs” or opportunities that we would have never seen. We find opportunities and ways to avoid challenges because we are taking a different look. For the senior leaders, it’s not about bad eyes—we have incredible eyes—but they are clouded by legacy thinking. It is very difficult to look at the same woods from different angles as we walk along because we have so many assumptions blinding us when we have been on this trail before. Creativity and innovation skyrockets when we turn our young team members loose to think and share their observations, EVEN when some of them sound painful!
Thanks, Andy, for sharing such a wonderfully rich story with us. Our challenge is to be sure our team has daily walks together that provide senior leadership and younger team members the opportunity to explore together. Try it, you will learn something regardless of your age or position. Let’s find those new frogs together!