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Posted by on August 22, 2017


Sustaining success across generations

Having recently gone through a systems and strategic thinking skills training session, where we were being trained in how to give this training, I was quite shocked by the opening statements saying that youngsters should not be the sole facilitators of this kind of training. The idea was that the factor of credibility was lost through the display of age, and that the impression of “cleverness” is not enough to drive the face validity of experience and wisdom portrayed by age. I am used to this happening often, where I am forced to face the quite obtuse statement of “you remind me of my daughter” etc in business. I often end up over-compensating with a widespread vocabulary and a cool demeanour to come across as mature for my age.

Considering I have a masters degree in business and psychology, this should not be an issue. However, youngsters are approaching the lack of experience available to us more and more with an overcompensation of degrees and paper-based accolades. The distinction is that, with experience, one can only go so far – so get the degree earlier so that the experience can exponentially jump one ahead notwithstanding the quality of the experience. As such, we are sitting in a situation where the youth have a myriad of talents at their grasp, but none of which have been carefully rounded off to produce excellence related to required outputs. With the grasp of multiple tools comes a level of confidence that translates into arrogance by those who have worked continuously and consciously towards a sustainable goal. Those who have the qualitative in-depth understanding ask themselves “are people just getting stupider?”

I have spoken about millennials before – being one I cannot help but feel the influence thereof on a day-to-day basis – and as such I will not harp on the case too much. The point I want to make today, is about succession planning. When you don’t even appreciate those coming after you, how will you ever feel comfortable imparting your knowledge and wisdom to them? Succession is more about those who are successful granting that their legacy shall not continue without concession to the greatness of the years to come. That they will be superseded by those still to come. That the will and drive to be the “winner” or be the “best” or be the “competitive edge” is only as dull as the plans in place to take over once you are gone. This is the true form of success – this is the fight against time and the will to survive forever after.

When looking at the way in which many South Africans are raised (and yes this is a generalisation I do understand), we have the temerity to present to our elders a respect and appreciation that is tongue-in-cheek. We look up to those older than us mainly because, well, we have to. This forced nature becomes a habit where, eventually, we too are only listening to those older than us. So by the time we become the “older” generation, where to do we look? We will also be in a situation where we refuse to listen to those younger than us. We too will also refute the idea that experience can be learned in a classroom. We too will also dispute the call for power to be handed to those below us. Why? Because that is how we were raised. We were raised to believe that only those wiser than us have the temperament and character to handle the “real” issues of the world.

Without sounding too cliché, we need to start with us. How many times do we take a moment to speak to those younger than us and listen to their thoughts? These thoughts have not yet been tainted by “real world” realities – they are likely idealistic. In fact, I hope that they are. After all, I do not want to, one day, hand over my legacy to someone who is boxed-in by the world’s pessimism. I want someone who will do exactly what succession planning is meant to do. I want someone who will take what I give them, and be a success.

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Wonder White Rabbit hopping off

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