I was talking to a young person the other day, and she stopped me in mid-sentence and said, “Look, there is a squirrel.”
I stopped what I was doing to watch the squirrel eat an acorn and then scamper off. The person who interrupted me is almost three-years old. She wanted me to notice a new wonder to her, a squirrel, which I took for granted. She had fresh eyes.
What does this story have to do with jobs and the workplace? My answer is… everything. The point of the story is that I did stop to listen to a three-year old. I also saw the excitement in her eyes of something new. She was bursting to tell me – and she did.
So, how many times have you been with a co-worker who was excited to share something, and you blew them off. Everyday?
And what if the person was 20 years older than you, or 20 years younger? Can generations truly cross paths in the workplace to create a scenario where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?
My answer is yes. I, for one, work daily with many who are my peers, yet many who are younger. And I learn so much…from the wisdom of young people. And the reason is that they share a different perspective. From my perspective, they look at an issue with fresh eyes.
And, my 25-plus years of business experience is certainly not fresh to me – but is to them.
Here are examples that have expanded me in the past year. I work with a senior leader more than 15 years younger than I and have learned about artificial intelligence and its application in automation. I think I helped him understand that the application of his knowledge will be of great benefit to the media.
I have been in sales my entire life. I guess we all are to some degree. Yet, I have been part of teams that have sold significant projects and products. It took this year for me to truly understand the sales process. And, the knowledge was imparted to me by learning from experts at Pipedrive, a sales CRM platform.
I currently work with Pipedrive – and it was the leaders and developers at the company, who literally codified the process I had been using for years. In turn, I believe I am helping the company in its communication.
The point is that we all learn together, and from each other.
But cross-pollination like this is not limited to the purview of age spans, it is also part of geographic spans.
I am extremely fortunate to work with people in Europe, Asia, North and South America. I learn from their unique perspectives and cultures…even when speaking the same language.
For example, citizens of Brazil speak Portuguese, as do those who hail from Portugal. Yet, often they need to translate cultural and linguistic differences to each other.
Similarly, I was speaking to a US citizen, born and raised in Atlanta, who is now working in the United Kingdom. He marvelled at how much he has learned about the UK culture and people within his own company. His company is based in Dallas, Texas. He noted that he often needs to find common ground for communication between the two cultures of English-speaking people at his own company.
His main point was that he has learned so much about different perspectives. He noted that it makes him better as a manager and person.
This also underscores the importance of diversity in companies. It is not diversity for diversity sake, it is diversity so a company can better understand its customers.
For example, why would a cosmetics company have a management team comprised of solely men – when its customers are women. Conversely, why would an auto company only have men at the top? The facts are that women were responsible for 45 per cent of new car purchases in 2018, according to the CBT Automotive Network.
I was speaking to a European executive who noted that Americans often think Europe is ‘one thing’. I replied, Europeans often think the US is ‘one thing’. The reality is that neither is true. Our perspectives are all different based on our age, experiences, nationality and more. The world is a patchwork quilt – that is truly gorgeous. But, one thing binds us all together: humanity.
No matter where I go, or who I meet – people have the same basic priorities of family, love and productivity.
And nuances matter. Perspective is everything. So, the next time someone stops you to offer a new perspective – listen and take it in. You might be looking at a squirrel with fresh eyes.