Beware of an Old People Culture
In my experience, “old” is a mentality of doing the same thing you’ve always done hoping to get the results that once put you at the top of your game. — Bob Herbold
The pejorative “old people” in Bob’s article has nothing to do with absolute age. It has to do with a metal state or mental attitude. Unfortunately, in the popular culture, being “out of touch” seems to be highly correlated with advancing age.
If you are “out of touch” and have exited the workforce it sort-of doesn’t matter. But, in a way, it does matter. Being “out of touch” means that most of what the popular culture has to offer does not matter to you. In the sense that is does matter – you will be an under-served market segment for those who are developing new products and services. It matters from a social perspective. Don’t expect to be invited to any dinner parties where conversation on current topics will be front and center. In the marketing eyes of the popular culture – you will be irrelevant. In some social circles, you will become irrelevant to the extent you have lost the cadence of the popular culture.
If you are “out of touch” and still in the workforce and in a leadership position then you can do great harm. This goes to the quote above, “In my experience, “old” is a mentality of doing the same thing you’ve always done hoping to get the results that once put you at the top of your game.”
Bob’s brief article summaries some of the steps taken by Sergio Marchionne to rescue Chrysler.
- …he replaced most of the top executives with aggressive outsiders or super-talented middle managers who were also highly critical of the current state at Fiat. Marchionne says his job as CEO is not to make business decisions — it is to push managers to be leaders
- A little lower down the food chain, Marchionne also dismissed thousands of “old-acting” employees who were tied to the past and risk-averse.
- Marchionne installed accountability and aggressively fought to squelch bureaucracy and consensus decision making.
According to Money CNN, “The principles of (Marchionne’s) management style are simple: He values merit over rank, excellence over mediocrity, competition over insularity, and accountability over promises.”
Unfortunately, older executives seem to want to play it safe. They take less risks; they don’t spend enough time imagining the future; a productive executive should be focused on what to do next as opposed to defending turf and hiding behind consensus decision-making.
I read an article a while ago titled something like, “Your company has 5 CEO’s”. The upshot being that, in any large company, there are 4 (or more) candidates that have potential to be CEO.
As odd as it might seem, older executives should start thinking about their replacement. Some might think that to leave (retire) from a company and have that company go into a temporary tailspin might prove how valuable they are. Just the opposite. It’s the height of arrogance. Show how valuable you are by having a replacement ready to go.
Advancing age and being “old” in the sense above are inextricably linked in the minds of most people
Be the exception.