Coaching the millennials
A short article by the legend Marshall Goldsmith on how to coach young knowledge workers set me thinking.
Many of us have become coaches with years of experience under our belt. But, is that an asset or impediment in coaching the “gen next” and millennials that we are often called upon to do.
We must face the harsh fact that – our accumulated experience, which has brought us to where we are may be of little relevance or value to the millennials. Most of us senior coaches – who are probably on the other side of fifty cannot even begin to understand the issues and challenges facing these youngsters or their view of life. Many of us are products of the old brick and mortar industries or early years of the knowledge economy. The world has changed beyond recognition since we were in our prime.
Therefore, we need to extremely careful of not falling into the traps of mentoring or counselling. Surprisingly, many sponsors – who engage coaches for their high potential employees – are closer to our age and often have misplaced notion and expectation of coaching.
This makes the job of the Coach doubly complex. First, we need to set up the Coaching Contract right with the sponsor or Coachee to avoid subsequent misunderstanding due to mismatch on delivery.
That raises the question – is experience of no value at all? Certainly not. But, what a successful Coach needs to focus on is the underlying principles and processes rather than the superficial content.
While it is true that today’s youngsters grow up much quicker due to the all round exposure at a very early age, what they miss is time for self-reflection. Therefore, they often lose touch with the inner voice not knowing what do they really want to get out of life.
This is where an experienced coach comes in and help them find their own answers through powerful questioning. But, again we would fail if – even inadvertently – we end up projecting our value system on the Coachee or view them through the lens of our own past experiences.
Powerful questioning can only succeed – if it is combined with not just empathy and active listening but a genuinely open mind and a totally non-judgemental attitude.
Millennials can teach as as much – perhaps more – about ourselves than what we have to offer them as Coaches.
That’s why we say Coaching is really a two way process.