Years ago I came to the realization that there are only three ages of people in the workforce. There are kids, adults and statesmen (although I suppose to be politically correct, we need to change that to statespersons). None of these have to do with your birthdate or chronological age. Some people move through all three of these stages. Others never get out of the first stage.
Kids: Most people, but not everyone, starts out this way. This is the stage often associated with book knowledge but little practical understanding of how things actually get accomplished. This stage is often marked by being able to accomplish a task but guidance is required to do so. It is also often the case that people at this stage don’t know what needs to be done; they have to be told. They cannot walk into a situation and decide what actions need to occur in order to make progress. Some people never leave this stage. They can be in their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s and still seem to need constant direction. They may be able to complete their assigned tasks with no guidance (they’ve now mastered them because they’ve been doing them for years) but they won’t deviate from their routine even when it is obvious they need to do so.
Adults: This is the second stage and is marked by both competence in accomplishing tasks with little guidance but also ability to determine how to improve the situation. In short, adults know what needs to be done and either dive in and do it personally or can marshal the resources to make it happen. They can take ambiguous direction and figure out the details. They can also provide direction to the kids in the organization and help mold those who are capable of moving to the next level into adults. Fortunately, this is actually most of the working population. And to my earlier point, this stage has little to do with age. I’ve seen people in their 20’s with little business experience walk in the door and operate as adults.
Statespersons: This is the rarefied air of people who have achieved significant success and can fly above the fray. They are surrounded by adults (and sometimes other statespersons) and can focus on vision and strategy. They typically think outside of the box and can set the tone for the organization. They no longer deal with kids; that job belongs to others. Clearly, not everyone makes it to this level. There are many those who simultaneously operate both as an adult and statesperson. People who are true statespersons are typically CEOs, business owners, entrepreneurs, directors, wealthy investors, or leaders of large organizations.
Think about the people in your business life and rank them according to this profile. How much time are you spending with people at your level or above. Is the time you spend with kids worth it (in other words, are you helping them move into adulthood)? Finally, are you satisfied with your workforce age and what can you do to get to the next level?
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