My first job out of school was with a big company. Very large…like 10,000 employees large. When people asked which department I worked in, I would respond “the grumpy old men department.”
There were four young women (all under 30) and 20 older men, the youngest in his mid-40s but most close to retirement. (I know! Isn’t it amazing how young mid-40s is today compared to when I was young?)
It wasn’t that the men weren’t pleasant to work with. They were very kind to me. It was that they had a negativity about them.
As a chipper young thing, I had “great” ideas to make things easier. Shortcuts. Streamline. Update. Modernize.
This was all before Al Gore invented the internet. I worked there when the first copier was installed. Prior to that it was….yikes….carbon paper, key punch cards and mimeograph. (Google that if you have no idea what I’m talking about!)
Nope. They weren’t having any of my wonderful ideas. (Can you imagine telling Steve Jobs that? Of course, he took his ball and started his own company.)
Truth is that some of my “great” ideas had been tried before and didn’t work. There were a few that I implemented on my own job but I couldn’t affect a process.
Experience can dull creativity. Things cycle. Even business practices. Centralize. Decentralize. I’ve seen it all. In the same company! You get to know the pitfalls and problems with each cycle. You have to make sure that you don’t stop exploring solutions.
I worked with a “perky” new exec who was a people person. As the human resource person I would get exhausted talking him out of ideas. Don’t get me wrong. He had a lot of great ones but he also had some real stinkers. He had to learn from his own experiences. I couldn’t short cut it.
As I look at myself today I fear that the young ‘uns might call me the grumpy old lady. I have so many “been there, done that, didn’t work” experiences that I can throw a wet blanket the size of Texas on anything. (I also have great suggestions on things that do work!)
I try to keep an open mind and stay upbeat even when I know something won’t work. Sometimes a gentle word to guide….sometimes keeping my freaking mouth shut (so hard to do).
There is a big range between shutting down all ideas and embracing all. Selective coaching can help…sometimes.
Remembering my first job, I had to learn on my own. Now I need to let others learn on their own.
It isn’t only in business but in personal life too. Some people don’t want advice. All they want is a place to vent or affirmation that they are indeed correct. (insert eye roll here)
How about you? Is it painful to watch people make mistakes you have already made or seen?