As we work to develop 21st-century leaders, we often get a great deal of pushback from more senior leaders. We are constantly hearing things like “I never had any coaching and I did OK,” or “experience is the best teacher and that’s the only way people learn.”
It is amazing to me how people are constantly trying to apply methodologies from the last century to the current one. I often wonder if people are still buying cars made in 1990.
I recently came across this article and found it to be spot on in using 21st-century leadership development. Having written several books about Millennials, much of what this article talks about is exactly opposite of the prejudices and myths surrounding this cohort.
Granted, the subject matter, Jordan Spieth, is an exceptional talent. However, how his talent was nurtured and coached is a tremendous example of how to do it in the 21st century. My guess is, most businesses hire folks because they believe they are talented. Maybe not No.-2-in-the-world talented, but talented nonetheless.
Would you like to have Jordan Spieth-level talents working for your business? If so, follow these steps:
1. Get your young talent a coach. Millennials from a very young age had the opportunity to work with an outside set of eyes and ears. Internal mentors are fine. However, it takes a coach to really get your talent to the next level. Notice in the article how Spieth’s parents could not and did not serve that purpose. Unfortunately, in many family businesses, we see a family member assuming the role of coach. Mentor and coach are two different things.
2. Challenge your talent right out of the gate. If you notice in the article, the coach challenged Spieth at their first meeting. Too many times we see managers and supervisors failing to challenge their emerging leaders. Often there is a tendency to think they “are not ready.” Don’t be afraid to offer meaningful opportunities and challenging assignments. Explain why the assignment is critical and where it fits in the big picture. Be ready to answer why it is important and do not just talk about what you want and how you want it to be done. Then, offer your support and let them surprise you. Who knows, they may “hole it out!”
3. Work to amplify your emerging leader’s skill set and not simply break down and try to rebuild. Too often we see businesses trying to make their emerging talent “do it my way,” or even worse, “this is what worked for me.” This approach is often taken even if it destroys or works against the emerging leader’s natural talent. In the 20th century, this was a typical technique.
In the 21st century, this will not achieve the results you desire. Spieth’s coach was very careful to not go with his original plan and try to change the talent available, but to amplify it.
4. In the 20th century, feedback was only considered to be constructive criticism. There was no thought of offering both positive and developmental feedback. If you notice in the article, Spieth’s coach talks about how easy it is to point out what could have been done differently and criticize instead of trying to understand the overall picture.
In the 21st century, feedback needs to be real-time and both positive and developmental. I am always amazed when people who believe experience is the best teacher turn around and then criticize failed attempts and rarely if ever offer any positive reinforcement.
5. Finally, in the article you will notice Spieth was at one point stumped for answers. He went to his coach and asked him what he needed to do.
A 21st-century coach needs to be able to offer solutions and direct people to a definitive answer. Too often we see managers who believe their people are trying to take shortcuts by asking for an answer. Many times just the opposite is true. Folks are not necessarily looking for shortcuts — they simply can’t figure out an answer after having exhausted everything at their disposal.
What an emerging Millennial leader may be doing is reaching out and tapping into their coach’s experience. As I have often said, you cannot hire a 30-year-old with 30 years of experience. In the 21st century, a coach needs to offer this experience in a real-time format.