A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the problems small business owners have with finding and keeping great team members. You can find that post at http://confidentmarketer.com/2013/04/29/get-team-building-right/. It created a lot of discussion and several questions from readers. The pool of workers available for hire and the skills they need to be successful in an Internet-based business was still on my mind when I went over to De Soto National Memorial, literally up the beach from our Florida home.
As every schoolchild knows, Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer who was the first to land on the Gulf side of Florida and the first European known to have crossed the Mississippi River. What I didn’t know is that De Soto was still a teenager when he landed on what is now Florida’s Tampa Bay. Not only did this 19 year old command the ships that came to the New World in search of gold, he had already been on an expedition to Peru and returned to Spain before setting out once again, this time to find gold and a route to China through North America. De Soto left home at age 14 to seek his fortune, and by 19 was commanding an expedition across the seas.
Contrast that to today’s 14 to 19 year olds. I know teens de Soto’s age who have never made their own bed, done their own laundry, worked for pay, or ever spend a night away from their parents. Our teenagers are not thought of as capable of much responsibility or independence. And yet, we have a generation of teens who are, no doubt, far more educated than de Soto was. And from what I can see, when we challenge our teens and give them responsibility many step up with creative, innovative ideas and show just how much they are capable of.
The keys are expectations and encouragement of independence. I see a lot of teens from whom not much is expected and for whom independence is not encouraged. This hurts us with social issues now, and in the long run gives us a labor force that will not serve our economy. This is one big reason why it’s so hard to find great team members for your business today. We are reaping what we have sown in the past few generations. Want more proof? Ask any human resource manager for any mid to large-sized corporation about worker stability, willingness to learn, willingness to step it up. You’ll get an earful.
I believe that today’s children and teenagers are our future. The more we can encourage and coach our teens to be responsible, flexible, and unstoppable the better off our businesses will be. We need teens whose parents teach and accept risk taking, teach and expect independence and performance, teach and foster a sense of adventure and a fearless attitude. Those children are the ones who will have a life of accomplishment and financial independence. The thirty year olds who are still living at home and borrowing money from mom and dad will have a dependent and fearful mindset – by de Soto’s standard they have already missed the mark.
Just as I was writing this blog, a friend sent a link to a recent Huffington Post article “Have American Parents Got it All Backwards“ by Christine Gross-Loh. Click on that title to give the article a look and see what you think. I have long noticed that children in other cultures behave differently than children in this country and work either at home or outside the home at a much earlier age. In Bali I discovered that temper tantrums didn’t exist – and when Balinese hear a foreign child throwing one they come running, thinking there is a life threatening situation.
Small business owners need team members who are creative, flexible, technologically savvy, and have outstanding interpersonal skills. It’s very difficult to find that, as any business owner will tell you. Let’s do a better job of helping our children and teens believe in themselves and what they can do independent of the ever-watchful eyes of their parents and teachers. Let’s teach taking risks and dreaming big. Let’s teach self-responsibility. Let’s hold our children’s hands not to keep them where we are comfortable but to lead them where they are uncomfortable, where they will be challenged to think and act like true adventurers and explorers of their own new world.