The genuine need for coaching and mentoring that is fit for purpose in today’s pressurised workplace will become even more important for young graduates in the future as they enter a business world that no longer tolerates failure. Our society continues to build a highly stressful and pressured environment for the young to grow in and this means that many graduates will lack the confidence to lead, grow and take risks because the fear of failure is too great.
Earlier along the chain, the school education system is partly to blame for this growing culture because it has moved from educating a well-rounded human being to being focused on attaining exam results and hitting national targets. Some will argue that the younger generation are becoming more intelligent as a result of pushing them to their limits, but the knock-on effect is that many graduates are less rounded today and possess far less worldliness than previous generations that grew up in a fiercely independent culture.
The need for mentoring and coaching
The university system, in addition, places more pressure on the young through large, spiralling debts and increased strain to land a job that earns enough to repay them. There is little doubt that by the time our future graduates enter the workplace they will have already learned and grown in a more narrowly focused, restrained environment, which is heavily focused on process and bottom line targets. As such, there will be a need to nurture a broader focus and mindset, as it is only through understanding a wider perspective that one can really grow as a future leader or insightful manager.
Learning from past generations and, indeed, different industries, will become hugely important as new, younger leaders enter the workplace. But, in truth, learning and taking inspiration from others is not new; it has always been a fundamental part of personal development and growth both inside and outside of the workplace. There is also an onus on older generations to support the younger generations’ development, too, and this is where experienced mentoring and coaching will play an invaluable role for graduates – helping develop a wider perspective and looking at issues through different eyes. It is important for businesses today to create a legacy that allows the young to thrive, make mistakes and, most importantly, to learn.
But this coaching and mentoring needs to start much earlier; we can no longer wait for graduates to enter the workplace before they get the support they need to thrive in today’s business cultures. Change needs to happen and now; universities provide the stepping stone to a career with potential so, alongside that, they have to take some responsibility for coaching and leading graduates forwards but in a way that helps them to make sense of the current working world and to understand how they can grow and inspire.
The natural desire is for a ‘we’ society
Yet, the environment we now live in doesn’t make this an easy task for universities. Research has indicated that teenagers and young people spend around 7–8 hours per day on their smartphones. There is also a strong belief today that social media, in particular, allows for a far more critical approach to life that simply would never have happened in previous times. For some reason, social media allows people greater access to behave more aggressively and inconsiderately than they do in everyday real life.
It’s no wonder that cases of mental illness and depression are on the increase – not just in older generations, but in children and young people, too. One could also argue that the digital world we live in has heightened a growth in the ‘I’ society when actually the real natural desire is for a ‘we’ society – that is certainly the case if one is to thrive as part of a team at work. There will be a natural swing back to the ‘we’ society eventually, but there is still a need today for universities to understand the developmental need and the mental approach of the young, so that they can support them in the months leading up to getting a foot on the career ladder. The concern is that life, as we know it, will not change, so the focus must be on creating new approaches to help develop young talent.
However, there is a deeper issue, too, and one that graduates need to be aware of: today in life, there is a far lower level of personal accountability for one’s actions. People will readily blame mistakes or a crisis situation on mental instability or breakdown. There are many that believe their morality in real life can differ greatly to their online world where they can be genuinely different, and this translates to the workplace, too.
Coaching graduates for the future
Thankfully, today, there is an exceptional level of young talent emerging from our universities… young people that do want to create change but they possess a very different perspective to the previous generations. So, how can coaching and mentoring help new talent that is breaking through and how does one go about sharing knowledge in a way that resonates?
Maybe the starting place for universities is teaching the importance of one’s accountability to the community and to others? Using the concept of sports players as an example of great mentors is an interesting one because they understand the importance of personal accountability and their role within a broader team by the very nature of their industry. Indeed, many of us could learn from this today.
The England Men’s 7s team has a base ethos named ‘Permission to Play’ which outlines each player’s commitment to their friend and colleague and how they will behave towards achieving their goals. Most sports players are measured in everything that they do from their exercise and training to what they eat and drink. They understand and accept the importance of their own behaviours.
Helping the young to find the answers to their questions
Learning and development teams do generally build great programmes that develop skills and technical knowledge, but most leaders will note that success is as much about character as it is about skill. Companies invest great amounts into developing technical skills but maybe there is a greater need to develop the mindset of people, their approach and their understanding of their role within the community? Helping graduates
to understand this before they enter the workplace will help.
This is where mentors can and do make a difference for young people – they bring a fresh perspective and can challenge the graduate in their thinking. The value of non-executive directors at board level has always been about holding the board and the CEO/MD to account. A good mentor can also play this role but in a way that supports the development of the individual.
If we are to make a positive difference to today’s business cultures, we need to place a much greater focus on helping young people to think for themselves and to find themselves new solutions and answers to their questions.
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