Posted October 25, 2016 by Mark Perna
Have you ever noticed how much of the buzz out there about the younger generations is negative? Young people don’t understand respect, they don’t have a good work ethic, they don’t care about their futures, they’re entitled, they’re lazy, they’re unengaged — I could go on and on. While there are certainly individuals within the younger generations that fit this profile, this is not the picture I see every day working with schools and businesses around the country. I see young people achieving truly exceptional things — meeting the high expectations placed upon them by their parents, teachers, and employers.
Because of the dominant negative stereotypes out there, many books and articles advise us to adjust (read: lower) our expectations for young people. Change the rules so everybody can win; make it easy to put in minimal effort to reach the next grade or goal or graduation. We must expect less; the old standards don’t matter anymore. The assumption is that our young people just don’t have it in them to perform at a higher level, so to avoid conflict, frustration, and disappointment, the best way of dealing with them is to bring things down to their perceived level.
What a mistake.
Our expectations are the first measure by which our young people judge their own capabilities. In effect, we tell them what’s possible through our assumptions. Lowering our expectations and standards will not inspire them to achieve anything beyond that status quo. Making it too easy to reach the next goal renders that next goal meaningless.
We need to think differently about the younger generations. Far from expecting less, we can actually set the bar higher for their performance. I believe that today’s young people do want to find that spark and make their mark on the world; many just lack the guidance that will best motivate and inspire them in that direction. They need to find their passion. By using strategies that speak to the younger generations, like the Light at the End of the Tunnel, we can help them discover their dreams.
The Millennial and Z Generations have grown up in a time of unprecedented technological advances that have changed every aspect of life and communication. Amidst these challenges (and opportunities) unique in the history of the world, they are tenacious and talented. They have immense resources and abilities to change the world for the better, and not only that, but they want to. They value collaboration and community. When they find a cause they believe in, they give it everything they’ve got. Yes, they’re different from older generations but that’s not necessarily bad. In fact, many times those differences are strengths not weaknesses.
In his well-known book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey writes, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
Maybe your students, children, and employees aren’t performing at their peak potential today. Don’t lower your expectations to accommodate their current performance. You have more influence with them than you think. Don’t settle, and don’t let them settle. Kick it up a notch and challenge them to do more, to be more. Believe that they can. And remember, they will meet the expectations we place on them — low or high.