As a young leader (being under the age of 40), I often find my ideas or comments not quite holding the weight of others who have the proverbial “experience” label. Before we go any further, I want to be clear that I have many mentors and respected leaders beyond the age of 40 whom I love and respect. For me, age and experience do not define the quality of the leader anymore than a youth’s passion makes him or her more valuable than the old guard. This is not one of those discussions.
What this discussion is revolves around the fact that experience in and of itself is not enough.
While commuting to work, I was listening to the latest Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast (Sept 2016). Stanley interviews Glen Jackson, a powerhouse in the marketing world, and one of the comments that caught my attention was about experiences verses evaluated experiences. Why it caught my attention was because it answered am age old question I have had for over a decade – Does experience (age and opportunity) always trump youth and innovation?
Obviously the answer is “No” because we see both rise all of the time. Nevertheless, youth and innovation, still seems few and far between when you zoom in from 30,000 feet to the everyday work place of most millennials. Plenty of them (and even myself as a Gen X) find we are up against those who have had experience as opposed to us who have not. In some cases it is true that experience should trump blind passions, but in other cases it can be most dangerous.
How can it be dangerous? Back to the leadership thought from the podcast.
It’s not so much about experience as it is about EVALUATED experience. Any of us can have an experience. Having an experience may or may not lead to a good and positive outcome. Think about this, what if an experience we had was not adequately or appropriately evaluated, thus leaving us with a damaging or inadequate view of a certain situation, idea, person, or personality?
Left unchecked without evaluated leads not only the person with the experience but the ones said person oversees having a skewed version of a reality that can be seen differently if only evaluated appropriately. As one proverbial Lemmings following the leader over the cliff one by one, the non-evaluated experiences of a leader can cause widespread misunderstanding at best and damaged relationships and corporate culture at worst.
Although the podcast applies the idea in its own way (and I recommend listening), I will focus on my own thoughts geared towards experience vs evaluated experience. As mentioned above, we all have experiences. Simply having an experience does not make one better than another. What leads to betterment and growth is evaluating our experiences.
Society moves at such a fast pace anymore we often do not stop to evaluate. Well, when we do stop to evaluate it revolves around something that annoys us and out comes the immediate evaluation, negative product review, or unfriending of Facebook connections. We rarely take time to evaluate when something is good.
So here is some advice. Next time something goes well, stop and take time to ask a few evaluation questions:
1. Why was the experience enjoyably?
2. How was this experience different than others?
3. When can I adequately apply what I learned?
4. Who else would benefit from what I have evaluated and learned?
5. What will be one major idea gained from the experience I can apply regularly?
6. Where could this experience take me in the future?
Although you can ask so many more questions or make more applications than I have above, you get the point. These are just the six questions I like to ask, because of ease of recall and the use journalism’s – who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Your next step from here can be to start asking questions after you experience something (whether good or bad). Another step can be to challenge others, especially those above you to begin asking these types of questions after an experience. Experience is not enough to truly grow, only evaluated experiences can help us achieve new leadership insights and growth.
Don’t let life pass you by without examining your life and leadership. You may be one solid evaluation away from the next advancement in your life and leadership. You got this!
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates, Plato’s Apology