A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 64 - 20 Somethings...

I'm not much of a golf fan. Sorry. I’ll wait for the volley of comments from all the golf aficionados out there and heartily admit that I would like to play the game better, but I certainly can't play the game worth a damn now and only have a passing interest in it as a spectator.

Lord knows I’ve tried, but those old “control” issues keep popping up when I try to play golf. I can’t WIN. I don’t like that.

But, like the rest of the world, however, I did notice when young Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open.

It's amazing to see a 22-year-old at the top of his profession. Can you imagine being 22 and ranked as the third best in your profession? But it seems more and more common that young people are reaching towering heights while barely out of their teens — or still in them. It’s amazing!

LeBron James was just 18 years old when he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft and quickly became the best player in the NBA, even if he didn't show it in the playoffs last season.

And if you think this youthful trend is limited to sports, think again. Consider the tools you use every day at work, and you'll likely find some young entrepreneur behind it. The software I'm using to write this post comes from Microsoft, whose co-founder Bill Gates was just 20 years old when he started the company. The Dell computer and keyboard I'm using come from a company that was started by a 20-year-old—Michael Dell. WordPress, the web software where many of the blogs I peruse run on, was started by a 19-year-old, Matt Mullenweg.

The late Steve Jobs? Well, that’s a whole article in itself….

Our technology is changing the way we live our lives and do our jobs every single day. I headed out the other morning for a meeting and needed directions to my destination. I turned on my GPS and had 3 satellites in outer space triangulating my position and then talk me through my whole trip, turn by turn. Many times, I’ve used Google search. Google was started by a couple of guys in their mid-20s.

So what's the point? I certainly don't have a fountain of youth to take you back to your 20s if they've already passed you by. I'm not trying to depress you as you relive missed opportunities of your youth…and to be honest, at this point in my life, I don’t think I’d WANT to be in my 20’s again.

But what I AM telling you, as an adult, is to harness some of that power, curiosity, enthusiasm, and intelligence of the 20-somethings in your charge. These young people are capable of making a big impact. They want to contribute. They have ideas. They just need an opportunity. It's going to be up to you to give it to them. Easier said than done though, because first you have to understand them.

Most managers want to see the people they manage "pay their dues." They came up through the ranks before finally getting a big opportunity, so they treat the people they manage the same way.

Well, I have some news for you. It's a different world. For those of us in the “Boomer” Class and even some of the earliest “Gen-X’ers” it’s downright terrifying out there.

The workplace of 2010+ has changed dramatically. People don't stay at one company for 30+ years anymore. There is a pervasive “entitlement” mentality that the younger workforce is likely to have and if you wait too long to give them an opportunity, it's more than likely they'll be long gone from the payroll before you do. They'll trade job security and a regular paycheck for the opportunity to chase those dreams — unless you can allow them to have both. Hard to do in today’s economy, especially here in California…but that mindset still prevails.

I distinctly remember something my boss said to me when I was in my mid-20s in broadcasting. We were talking about my work and career when he said, "What’s the big rush? What are you going to do when you're 30?"

I was a little surprised by the statement. I know it came in the form of two questions, but he was really making a statement about my impatience and my pushing for opportunity at the company. That was my driving force back then.

I think I responded as many 20-somethings would: "I don't know what I'll be doing at 30, but I'll figure that out then. Right now, I'm really interested in taking on more responsibility and having an opportunity to prove myself."

It’s not very many 20-somethings that have a life plan, but that put me on a path to hit certain goals by a certain age. I know I I didn't. I’m pretty sure that I thought age 30 seemed like a lifetime a way. I'd been in the workforce for about 10 years at that point and would have to work almost that many more just to get to 30 years old. I didn’t know what “it” was, but I knew I wanted to learn and try new things. I wanted to show what I could do if given the chance.

I think that's what all these talented, high-potential people in their 20s are looking for. They want an opportunity. And if you want to keep them, it's up to you to give it to them. It's obvious that young people are capable of achieving so much, if only we're willing to let them try. Right now, there might be the next Steve Jobs or Michael Dell or Bill Gates sitting at a desk in your company. Think about THAT for a moment…..

Are you willing to give the 20-somethings that work for you that opportunity?

Thanks for reading.