I still can’t believe that someone who gravitated toward math and science in school has fallen in love with writing. Me? Writing? Who would’ve thought?! That being said, oftentimes my blogs stem from experiences in my personal life. And in this case, the person I’m going to discuss is my grandfather, Pap Price. This man has shaped and molded me more than he knows and I have gained so much from his tough love and passionate (albeit sometimes narrow) views on life.
Pap Price grew up on a farm and developed his work ethic at a young age. I can remember him always saying he had to wake up before the sun came up and worked until the sun went down. I’m sure this workday was a bit fabricated, just like his daily trip to school uphill both ways in ten feet of snow, but his stories impacted me and still do to this day.
I can recall visiting him at his house when I was a kid. Every time I walked through the front door there was always an order. Helping him with chores around the house came to be expected, as is the case with most grandchildren when they visit their grandparents. Whether it was vacuuming the interior or mowing the lawn, I was happy to help with any request. The problem was, when I lent a helping hand, nothing, and I mean nothing, was ever done correctly. No matter the task at hand his standards were never met.
I would spend hours working on a chore and would walk away with my head held high at the completion of the assigned task. When my grandfather would examine the finished product, he would always find a way to correct it and make some snide comment about how it needed to be better. I understand the lesson. As a youngster, he was trying to teach us about taking pride in the quality of our work and to never be satisfied. We have all been a part of those “lessons” as children. The ones that were used to drive home a point.
I was speaking to a Baby Boomer executive recently and his views reminded me of my Pap. He was adamant that when he was younger, the work ethic that his generation displayed was far and away better than my generation: Millennials. He was literally blaming an entire generation for his failures in hiring and development.
He unforgivingly, and rather arrogantly, believed that he was the only hard working, intelligent, and selfless person in the room. He went on to tell me, as he preached on his soapbox, that he achieved his position at the executive level because he climbed the corporate ladder with his head down and mouth shut. “It took me twenty years to get to this point,” he said. Even if that was 100% true (which I have a difficult time believing it was) I couldn’t help but think, “Wow! Twenty years? You achieved this stature in your career by keeping your head down and mouth shut? That’s it?! And the best strategy you can come up with for the talent you have hired is placing blame and calling them lazy? What a waste of 20+ years of institutional knowledge and experience.”
It is my opinion that we all tend to think that we worked harder getting to this point in our lives, both personally and professionally, and life was much more difficult for us than the generations that followed. I mean I do this for a living and sometimes catch myself talking to my daughter about how things were “when I was younger.” This theory actually has a name. It’s called the fundamental attribution error. In this case, this gentleman worked hard, climbed to the peak while making sacrifices, and kept his mouth shut, which ultimately led to his C-level position. According to him, Millennials are not willing to do so, thus making him worthy of such a successful career and Millennials, well, not.
We make up these fabricated stories, like a daily trip to school uphill both ways, and believe that we attained a superior role in a company because we were the only one who worked hard. The facts are that we are constantly evolving and just because someone was successful doing something one way doesn’t make it the only way. If we look at the history of the workforce, failure to adapt and develop high-potential employees has led to the “death” of companies worldwide. Take Blockbuster, Polaroid, and Sears, for example.
I believe that it very easy to get lost in the weeds and lose focus on the task as hand. The objective here isn’t a competition. Everyone has a different story to tell. That’s the beauty of this thing called life! The objective is to complete the task at hand. Develop the younger folks in your organization. Share the wisdom and transfer the knowledge. And do so in the most efficient way possible.
Development of your employees takes expertise. It takes sacrifice. It takes commitment. In today’s workforce, it’s very easy to think that we are the only ones in the room willing to work hard and believe our journey is the only way to achieve ultimate success.
In the case with my Pap, I love him to death and respect the hell out of him. I am where I am today because of the things he taught me. But it shouldn’t be that difficult. Life is hard enough. People want to test these unrealistic challenges. What my grandfather really needed to do was give me some real-time feedback, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know how. It wasn’t modeled for him.
Let’s not continue this merry-go-round of “my way or the highway.” People will adapt and survive. Yes. But what’s the fun in that? Let’s thrive! Life is too short for this game playing! Check your ego at the door and let’s make some progress! There are a lot of talented, hard working people out there that are dying for good leadership. They are looking to you to invest in their development. And believe me, they’re worth it!