Being a parent has exposed me to some of the most extreme moments of my life on both ends of the emotional spectrum. While I am still pretty new to the parenting “game” – our children are seven, four, four, and one – the past few years as a father of four has taught me more life lessons than any of my years prior. I’ve found myself getting hit with “Aha!” moments now more than ever. In fact, the most recent hit me in the forehead like a middle linebacker back in my playing days.

Let me set the stage.

My seven-year-old daughter is actively involved in dance, an experience that has been nothing short of eye opening for me. Last year, she didn’t’ make the “A” team and was pretty disappointed. My wife shared with her that there were a couple of details in her technique that she needed to improve upon, resulting in the need to spend more than the expected 4 hours a week at the studio. She needed more practice.

Not long after a few short days of pouting, my daughter took every opportunity she could to dance. She danced in the kitchen… in the driveway… on the porch… in her room. She couldn’t sit still and was constantly asking for mom and dad to watch her “new move.” She was taking more of an interest. She was putting in the time. 

A few weeks before her tryout for this year’s “A” team, my daughter came home visibly upset. There was a specific move she had to nail in one of her dances in order to make the team: the one-handed cartwheel. 

While I was okay with her disappointment, I quickly realized that her restrictions for completing this move were physical, not mental. She was practicing. She wanted it! The reality was she needed to get stronger. After getting whacked in the forehead with this “Aha!” moment, I began teaching my daughter exercises that she could do at home to get stronger. Things like push-ups and sit-ups. And while still a work in progress, she is getting there.

This experience with my daughter allowed me to take a step back and see more clearly how we view our younger employees.

These next-generation workers are coming into the workforce with a high level of talent from an individual standpoint, but they are getting thrust into management roles where the requirements might call for a skill set that they do not yet have. The skills needed may seem pretty elementary for folks who have experience – just like me telling my daughter to get stronger seemed simple enough for me. It’s easy for me to say “get stronger” because I know how to do so, just as it is easy for an experienced leader to tell a younger worker to “get better” at a leadership competency. 

We see this all the time – the devaluing of the time and repetitions it takes to develop leadership skills. In theory it might be elementary, but the reality is that we are seeing a huge gap in these skills that are absolutely imperative for a person to advance their career successfully. From a leadership standpoint, with the mass exodus of Boomers, younger folks are being promoted to leadership roles quicker than ever before. The inability to produce leaders fast enough to keep pace with business needs and the pace of change was cited by 89% of business leaders. The problem: these folks have not had the reps necessary to be successful leaders.

Much like the situation with my daughter, we need to take a step back and realize that words are not enough when it comes to development. These situations call for intentional practice. This time is a luxury that most internal resources don’t have to deploy. Though without the training and development, turnover will only increase. Future leaders will get discouraged because they do not have the skills to succeed in that moment. In fact, 67% of millennials said that if a job lacks growth opportunities and leadership development then they would leave that job.

We must make it a priority to intentionally develop and make our future leaders stronger.

Fast forward to present day and dance tryouts. My daughter made the “A” team! She was so excited! I saw a sense of accomplishment and confidence in her that I’d never witnessed before. As a father, that was a pretty cool moment. As a former professional athlete, however, my “never be satisfied” mentality crept into my mind. Don’t worry – I quickly suppressed that thought. She is only 7!