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The Freshmen Get Smaller Every Year

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I took a trip down memory lane this weekend. I spent some time back east consulting with a great church in my hometown of Stafford, VA. It’s been 20 years since the last time I was in Stafford. And while I was there I took a minute to drive around a bit; and let me tell you a lot has changed in 20 years! I felt like I could get lost in my own hometown! I went by the house I grew up in and even past the High School I graduated from. First thing that came into my mind? “I remember my High School being a lot bigger than that.” And then another thought raced into my mind. It was a statement from a conversation that I had with Larry Osborne when he said to me, “The freshmen get smaller every year.” In other words every year there is a new freshman class. Every year as you get older they seem to get smaller, weirder, and more clueless. And somehow the older you get the more it seems you were never that small, that weird, or that clueless. But you and I know better, don’t we?

The best leaders I’ve ever been around know there’s great value in hanging out with the “freshmen.” In fact here are a couple of things I’ve seen some great seasoned leaders do over the years to invest in the next generation leaders.

1. Surround yourself with Young Talent

Not so they can admire how experienced and how incredible you are. You don’t need groupies. But so you can invest in them. Spend time with them, let them ask questions and simply talk about leadership. Let them see you lead up close and personal. And then debrief with them about what you did and why. Share with them your greatest leadership struggles, challenges, failures and successes.

2. How Young Can you go with your Next Hire?

When you are getting ready to make that next hire ask yourself, “How young can we go with this hire and not jeopardize the job that needs to get done?” It’s a simple question that will force you to think differently about bringing young talent onto the team. And frankly, it’s a question that I wish I started asking a long time ago.

3. Invite Young Talent to the Adult Table

Thanksgiving was just a couple of weeks ago. And if your house is similar to mine you had a kids table and an adult table. In leadership the same is often true. One of the most simple and overlooked opportunities to develop young talent is to periodically invite young talent to the adult table. Let them sit in Sr. Leadership meetings and see how the top leaders in your organization or church think, problem solve, interact with one another, make decisions and well, lead. This kind of access is an incredible gift to a young up an coming leader.

4. Remember to Tell Yourself the Truth

No matter how good you were as a young leader, you weren’t as good as you remember yourself being, you just weren’t. And neither was I. The further you and I get away from being a young leader the more we think, “I was never that small, I was never that weird, I was never that clueless.” Tell yourself the truth and instead of criticizing the freshmen why don’t you choose to hang out with them and invest in them?

Photo Credit: Russ Allison Loar via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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