A while ago I interviewed for a job with a major wireless company. The position was something I was totally qualified for, and I was eager to learn more from the hiring manager who interviewed me.
Such an interesting conversation…
At one point the manager sized me up and asked me “You’re clearly a lot older. What makes you think you can connect with someone in their 20s?”. I was in my 40s, and, obviously, not a millennial. In spite of that, I have to say I was taken aback by the question.
Ummm… really? I’m not an HR guru, but I think that question might be kind of illegal. Certainly it was rude, and you better believe I took offence to it.
You see, I have always been able to connect with the people I train. Why? Because I don’t think connection has anything to do with age. I think it has everything to do with appreciation.
When I’m speaking with an audience, regardless of demographics, I treat them with respect. I prepare my material carefully, I learn as much as I can, ahead of time, about the participants so I can make the examples and case studies relevant to them and the work they do. I know my content and how I can best deliver it in the time allowed. Mostly, I go into each and every keynote, workshop, and training session with the idea that my audience deserves the best I can bring to them, respecting their time, knowledge, skills, and abilities. In other words, I treat them as I would like to be treated were I in their shoes.
This idea is pervasive in pretty much every culture and religion out there: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I’d bet money your parents said something to you about this. Every heard of the Golden Rule?
Here’s the point. Regardless of our position—speaker, facilitator, consultant, C-Suite leader, supervisor, or even hiring manager—our role is to support employees and help them to do their jobs better. In so doing, everything gets better. Employees learn, grow, develop and improve. They are pleased their company is encouraging their efforts, and they respond with increased engagement. They’re more productive, efficient, effective and happy. Guess what! The customers are happier too, because they’re getting better service from happy people. Happy customers spend more, which makes the company leadership so very happy. Everyone wins! This all starts with Respect, with the idea that people deserve us to do our best for them. In other words, obey the Golden Rule.
Note: The Golden Rule doesn’t have an age clause attached to it.
Remember that question I was asked? I responded with “I treat my trainees with respect and appreciate what they bring to the table. I’m also really good at what I do. You’re not 20 either. How do you connect with them?”. No, I did not get the job (after all, my response was a bit cheeky), but I went on to another, better job in a company that employs (you guessed it) a bunch of 20-somethings. Oh – and I rocked it!
If you need someone to speak to your group, facilitate a workshop, or do some in-house training or consulting, call on me. Regardless of the ages of your workforce, I’ll do my very best to deliver interactive, engaging, on-the-nose content that respects what your people bring to the table. Check out my site for content ideas: www.cchangelearning.com, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.