I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Who can understand anything they say?
They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs!
Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!
While we’re on the subject:
You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
But they still just do what they want to do!
Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?
Those are the lyrics from the song “Kids,” from the Broadway play “Bye Bye Birdie.” And while you may think they were written about today’s generation of kids, the song was written in 1959, more than 50 years ago.
In 1959 there was no computers, cell phones, Internet, Super Mario, cable TV or fax machines — and, of course, no iPods.
Most companies have multigenerational salespeople and multigenerational customers. The more experienced salespeople and sales managers are always criticizing or blaming youth for what they are not, what they don’t bring to the table, what’s wrong with them and why they’re not more like “us.”
It’s referred to as a “generation gap.” And for the most part it’s self-imposed.
Self-imposed generational gaps are caused by a failure to understand, embrace and communicate. An easier way to describe it is: “It’s not like what we do, therefore it’s wrong.” And that statement can be made from one group to another and vice versa.
Fact: Generation gaps are timeless. They apply to every generation of kids and adults for the past 200 years.
These days, people over 40 have tried to segment kids by category: gen-this or gen-that.
How about “gen-smart” or “they’re a generation smarter than we are”? How about “gen-impatient” or “they’re a generation with no patience for anyone (including employers, maybe even including you) who doesn’t get it”?
How about “gen-Facebook”? Many older people, like fools, are trying to block it or control it. Good luck. Take a lesson from recent history. The government of Egypt tried to do the same thing. The kids won. Same with Twitter. (Have you tweeted yet?)
Major aha: Instead of concentrating on what kids don’t do, and what they are not, why don’t you try to find out what’s right with them?
As you’re looking, you may want to start with your attitude, because it’s likely you’re beginning your search with blame rather than acceptance. If you want to blame somebody, just look in the mirror, buddy. You may want to start with exercise and diet.
Instead of giving me a laundry list of what’s wrong with kids today, why don’t you embrace the new generation as the next generation and teach them what your parents taught you or teach them what your first boss taught you and be the example of a generation bridge rather than a generation gap? Better stated, it’s your responsibility to bridge the gap.
Instead of telling me what’s wrong with kids (and rather than telling me what’s wrong with you, which might be a longer list), I’m challenging you to embrace the now generation by understanding what they embrace.
- They embrace new.
- They embrace now.
- They embrace next (Change is great; it means cooler, better, faster).
- They embrace technology.
- They embrace online.
- They embrace speed.
- They embrace each other.
- They embrace the easiest way.
- They embrace texting.
- They embrace games.
- They embrace photos and videos.
- They embrace and value free time.
And if your computer’s broke, who is gonna fix it? Kids.
This morning, as I was writing this column, a tweet came to me: “It’s much harder to embrace ‘what is’ than ‘what was,’ but it’s way more profitable.” After I posted the thought, it immediately gained re-tweet status by young and old alike.
There are other realities of youth. They dress differently (more relaxed), they speak differently (less or zero political correctness) and they communicate differently (my granddaughter Morgan told me she would rather text than talk).
So the real challenge for you as an older person and/or you as a younger person is to understand one another.
The younger generations, whatever their challenges or faults may be, are clearly technologically superior. They’re also willing to eagerly accept what’s next rather than fear change. (They line up outside of the Apple store for hours to get the newest product.) And they’re leaning away from professional toward friendly.
Is it right? Is it wrong? Neither. It’s different, certainly different than how I was raised. Maybe the same applies to you. But different is not bad. Different may in fact be better. And, in this case, I believe it is.
I believe that new, now, next, technology, Internet, online, speed, texting, games, video, and free time are all good things and at some point may actually lead to greater productivity and greater profits in any job function and in any company.
You cannot dictate freedom to use or not use social media; it’s too late for that. It’s already free. You may shut it off at work, but everyone is still getting notified on his or her smart phone, and that might be good or bad for you, depending on your actions.
The business world, the work world and especially the sales world is, at present, upside-down. Opportunities abound, especially in the face of naysayers and negative people.
If you want to win, befriend youth. And youth, if you want to win, befriend experience. Together, take advantage of every opportunity in this slowly rebounding economy.
Don’t fight each other. Embrace each other for who you are and what your talents are and you will win.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of “The Sales Bible” and “The Little Red Book of Selling.” President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs sales meetings and conducts Internet training on selling and customer service at www.trainone.com.