Have you ever felt underestimated by your age?
Someone takes one look at you and they automatically dub you as incompetent or unqualified. Or, maybe you have avoided the “age question” completely, and the years behind the work are kept hidden because it can be used as a tool to quickly discount your perspective, legitimacy, or advice.
Or, maybe it’s the other way around. Perhaps the colleague twenty years younger than you perceives that you aren’t adept with technology, or that you simply “don’t understand” the times.
Ageism Sways Both Ways
Now more than ever, the generational divide is being wedged further with poor connotations surrounding words like “boomer” and “millenial.” The jives behind these labels may seem innocent, and perhaps they are, however there are underlying motives or perceived narratives about these generations that foster miscommunication and misguided understandings.
The generational gap can largely be attributed to the surgence of 24/7 globalization, increasing technologies, and cultural shifts inspired by political, geographical, and socio-economic movements.
There is no doubt that the world we live in today looks drastically different than what it did two decades ago — even two years ago.
The ever-increasing pace of life demands that we keep up, no matter how old you are. After all, the adversity you face isn’t ruled by your times around the sun: it’s ruled by your abilities to undertake the challenge as it arrives, and come out stronger as a result.
Resilience, Empowerment, and Leadership Have no Age Limit
I’m a big believer in the adage, “age is just a number.” I’m also a big believer that the next generation are extremely scrappy, hungry, and have the desire to lead – they just want to be given the right opportunity.
At BW Missions, we are a team of resilient, young, ambitious individuals with the grit, passion, and drive to take our skills anywhere we want to go. Perhaps it’s our candor for brainstorms, our belief that anything is possible, or our innate ability to adapt with an ever-changing social and tech environment. Perhaps it’s our tenacity behind our vision that we can’t let go of. Perhaps, we are a touch naive.
At BW Missions we talk about resilience a lot. As I sit here writing this article about our younger team, it makes sense. By definition, resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity,” which is what youth represents.
Being a part of, and leading, a youthful team of course means we are prone to make more mistakes or take slightly longer roads to arrive at a solution, but our growth is catalyzed, deeply personal, and contagious. Our momentum is never dry or stagnant, and there are always ideas to enact on, innovations to be made.
Our young team is highly determined and desires growth. How do I know that? Well, they are sitting right across from me.
Consider these young professionals’ stories. Their age might surprise you:
Carson Morell, who runs our operations, financial, and legal is 20 years old. He’s a junior in college. He was born for the marathon, understands when to sprint within it, and handle all the ups and downs in between.
Leah Walsh, who runs our Marketing, is fresh out of college at Syracuse University, yet has the wisdom, smarts, and mental acuity of sitting across from an executive at the tail end of her career, who has the same amount of fervor as when she first started. Leah has been handling revamping our social strategy, transferring and developing content to our new website, and putting in a PR flywheel.
Sean Saldana, who just graduated from University of Texas, is beyond scrappy and was thrown into his role leading our content efforts. He’s rolled up his sleeves and taken everything head on working hard on behalf of our clients and their communications.
The younger people that compromise our content curation, operation development plans, account and community management, marketing and long-term strategy create the long-term visions and enact on them. They are fully immersed in learning by execution and real experience. A traditional classroom just wouldn’t suffice.
Our team is eager to understand themselves professionally and personally, which means diving into work they believe is meaningful and resolute. The insatiable willingness to try, fail, and try again paired with a fresh perspective makes our team of young leaders an unmatched asset.
It has not always been easy. We have had to let go of key players, overcome the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and diligently create new roles and redress old ones. BW Missions faced a range of compound, unprecedented territory without a blueprint. But, we have come out stronger because of it.
We have surrounded ourselves with experienced business coaches, brand experts, and like-minded, young successful entrepreneurs who also would agree, age is just a number.
The team and systems we have in place now are ready to take on the world – to help thought leaders stand out and belong with their message and young professionals to find their place in the world.
We’re ready to spread missions far and wide. We’re ready to tell stories that change lives.
We’re Ready to Change the Trajectories of Young Professionals
Throughout this period, here are key takeaways for managing a young team:
- Share where you are trying to go, Set the Constraints, and Empower Your Team to get there the best way they see fit: Most people tell their team exactly what to do, in the way they want it. The problem with this approach is it reduces creativity and confidence with those on your team. However, when you share the end goal, and let your team find their own way, they’ll often do it much better than you.
- Explain Why: Most people with positions of power explain tasks and tell people to “do do do” without explaining the whole picture, purpose behind the work, or how it fits into the overall vision. Sharing why each task (even the smallest ones) help the company at hand gives people greater ownership over their own work.
- Teach Your team how to build and stack Systems: With a young team, it’s easy to get involved in a million different projects at once. However, understanding how the foundational pieces and underlying layers that make them work, is essential. Then, ensuring the project is explained in relation to the other projects going on is paramount. The biggest, most recurring thing I hear from people in a small team environment is, “I know my priorities, but I don’t understand why I’m supposed to be doing this as it relates to the company.”
- Put More experienced Professionals Around A young team: We’ve hired an executive business coach, Mark Green to not only help us function better operationally and organizationally, but plan for a better future and build leaders internally training our team. We work with a brand wizard who not only helps our clients, but gives us a foundation to build out product lines and stand for something as a brand.
- Have Them Challenge You and Empower Them to Speak Up: When you create a culture that empowers a young team, they gain more confidence, begin speaking up, and then challenge the processes and systems in place and make them their own.
The key to a great young team relies heavily upon the hiring and training processes. Our team, although young, has been scaled, mentored, and given the opportunities to experiment with their skill-sets and passions while being fully supported by leadership. Now, it’s a matter of getting out of the way so they can do what they do best– oftentimes, better than you can yourself.