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Here's to the young and daft!

As Sir Ken Robinson said in an all time favourite TED talk of mine: “If kids don’t know better, they’ll have a go.” I find that untethered curiosity one of the most vitalising things. Recalling one boring managers meeting, the topic was whether to promote one young lad to a senior position and someone argued against it on the basis that “he was questioning too much.” Having hired the guy myself I stood up (okay figuratively, I stayed seated) and said that at the interview I had asked him what future he saw for himself in the company, to which he replied: “I want your job and I will fight you for it.” I promptly hired him and in said managers meeting I argued that anyone who is crazy enough to think they can change the world (or the company), will eventually do so. (Yes, you know where that quote came from).  So we could either promote him or he’d join our competitor and have a glorious career there. I was downvoted and the latter happened. 

Another example. In a company I worked in, we had interns coming from a social organisation specialising in helping kids with a checkered past. Children who grew up with substance addicted parents and such things. I took two interns to my team and one of them had her mind firmly set on challenging my leadership. She was late for work, did not respect the company dresscode, she interrupted her fellow intern with chatter etc. One time she even challenged me by telling how she’d been shoplifting with her friends the night before. After speaking to our HR Director, we came to the conclusion that this young girl had her entire mindset tuned to failure, because most likely she had never experienced anything else, but we would not let her fail. So I talked to her, asked her if she liked to work with us and told her that working in IT required a clean criminal record. Then I proceeded to tell her, that her skills as a shoplifter was actually something very useful in IT. Because whether you work in IT Security or IT Service Desk, lateral thinking is of the essence.

All too often when I was young, I was seen as obnoxious or obstructive. Someone who’d rather throw a spanner in the wheel than get work done. But that was not the case. I just had one simple question to a lot that was going on in the businesses I worked for: WHY? 

Why do you do this or that? Why is the processes not changed when it so obviously does not work? Why is no-one assuming responsibility for the inevitable turnaround we have to do? 

So here’s to the young ones. The inexperienced. The ones who dare because they don’t know better. Come and bite me in my proverbial ass. If you don’t work for me, go and bite your own boss in their proverbial ass. And if they don’t appreciate it; send me your CV.

This is to Dace, Nikita and Lauma. You taught me more about leadership than I ever dreamt was possible.

Photo by İlkin Efendiyev: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-a-young-woman-wearing-sunglasses-20718326/

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