Experience is irreplaceable, intangible and priceless. Professional teams that seem to have everything in place during the stretch drive occasionally shop around for that one piece of the puzzle that will push them over the top. That last piece is usually an experienced veteran who will speak up in the locker room and fire up the troops outside of it.
That is the world of sports. How does the business world fare? Experience is perhaps the single most important criterion in business; whether you’re an investor, an employer, an employee, a supplier, or a consumer. We can discuss the virtues and values of experience until we are blue in the face. But this begs the question: how does raw talent, sheer drive and youth compare in the office when a rookie shows up and means, well, bizness?
Rookie of the year
In the old days, there was no such thing as business school. Students would major in Arts or Sciences and if they had business acumen, they would naturally gravitate towards the field, either as the developer of a new technology, like a Henry Ford, or a manager for the ages, like an Alfred Sloan.
Occasionally, a young, sharp and driven fellow would come along and make a prophecy-like claim that would ruffle some feathers. One such man was General Electric’s current outgoing CEO, Jack Welch, who, way back, actually had the moxie to write that he wanted to be the CEO of the corporation. The fact that he was not exactly a senior VP at the time makes this story interesting. The fact that he went on to become one of, if not the most successful manager of the 20th century, is numbing and inspirational.
Clearly, there are not too many Jack clones. But times have changed over the years. When business was about ideas, execution and relationships, a young business mind could not rapidly grasp all of the notions that are so important for success by itself.
Technology changes everything
As you can imagine, the advent of the computer changed many things. For one, it gave more power (as in knowledge, skill and productivity) to a younger generation and almost discounted experience, while valuing the ability to learn, and learn quickly.
Decades later, the Internet further toppled traditional hierarchies. If a CEO still uses a typewriter to communicate rather than e-mail, he may still be successful, but it’s harder for him to understand the connectivity, scale and worldwide reach of the Internet. How can you imagine selling products and services from Santiago to Shanghai if your mind is limited to the supply room? What is it they say about thinking outside the box?
6 golden rules to go from rookie to veteran?
Don’t just think outside the box, destroy it or it will destroy you.
The truly great thing about information technology is that it provides more leverage to the younger generations, offering a trade-off for the experience of the veterans. If it’s this simple and perfect, why is it that things don’t always work out?
Before I get into the many factors, allow me to say that yes, some more experienced managers may be a bit too rigid, others may be downright close-minded; the bottom line is that they have earned that right, and that is the bottom line.
But what can a rookie do to become a star, and a favorable one at that?
Road to greatness
It is very easy to let the slightest bit of success get to your head. This is when you deserve to fall on your face and learn a lesson or two. I experienced one moment where I went in with much too much confidence and ultimately learned my valuable lesson. Truth be told, although I had no fears, I wasn’t overconfident, but in the eyes of the people in the room, I was overconfident and this didn’t help me.
The key is simple: No matter how big you think you are, the sky is the limit. So not only is it bad to be cocky if you want to be respected, but arrogance will also hinder you from growing and further developing your talents.
The main advantage that the younger generation has is speed and agility, but even these can backfire. Personally, one of my biggest weaknesses is impatience. More experienced managers understand the value of keeping people waiting. Younger managers are not necessarily eager to get things over with, but some don’t like to leave loose ends and matters dangling.
Be modest and praise others. People like to hand the ball to those who recognize, praise and value others. If you hog the ball, will you get it again? Of course not. So praise the living daylights out of everyone and you will be appointed Chief Cheerleader… he sits in the corner office, by the way.
I highlighted this point in The Power of Networking; do not be selfish. The puck will come back to you, and a lot more often if you like to pass it along, so don’t be shy.
A rookie has his role to play, such as bringing up new ideas, providing some competitive intelligence, and even, sadly, taking the fall at times, but the key is knowing and respecting that the veteran has to have his time in the sun. This is why the veteran carries Lord Stanley first. No matter how good or special the rookie in the stretch drive was, the Cup gets handed off to the Captain.
Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com.