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The Theory of 5: Younger People Can Teach Us Things

If you’re hesitant to take instruction from someone younger, ask yourself a simple question: Why? If you open yourself up, you could start a rewarding relationship for both you and your younger co-mentor.

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Finding Co-Mentors From Every Generation

One of the principle foundations of The Theory of 5 is that, in order to reach our full potential, we need to seek out more experienced, knowledgeable people to coach us in areas where we’d like to excel. To fill this role, we usually look to people who are older than us or, in a co-mentoring situation, our peers. In most cases we overlook what a relationship with those younger than us can mean to our personal growth. 

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The most successful people in our society keep sight of the fact that their education is never complete. There are always fresh challenges to face and new obstacles to overcome. These people are able to set aside biases and seek out new knowledge from whoever may have it. If we believe that people younger than ourselves have nothing to offer us, that’s simply our ego shutting doors to new ways of thinking. That’s our ego limiting our growth and potential.  

By entering into mentoring and co-mentoring relationships with younger professionals, everyone will benefit. While they might not have as much life experience as we do – that’s where we might have something to offer them – they can show us new ways of seeing the world and new tools for building success and will support us in breaking barriers of thinking that are stifling our creativity.

Tools of Today’s World

It’s not an exaggeration to say that, in sales, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the tools available to us and our customers. Keeping up with how consumers find information, how they make decisions and then how they communicate not only with automotive repair shops but with each other is a never-ending undertaking. Learning about new technology and trends can often take a back seat to our normal and sometimes hectic day-to-day activities – which means we may not be growing in critical areas of our career. 

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What often seems like foreign concepts to us – social media marketing, for instance – in most cases comes more naturally to younger people. They’ve been born into a world where these concepts are their “normal,” not “new trends.” They use new technology and are comfortable with it. By asking them to share what they know with us, we’re learning about tools and ideas that directly impact the way we do business. Sometimes, it might feel like learning a new language; keep in mind that the people best equipped to teach us are those already fluent in it.

New technology isn’t “coming.” It’s here. By seeking guidance from those who know more about certain elements of it, we’re protecting ourselves, and possibly our shops, from becoming obsolete. It’s critical for us – and the people who depend on us – to continue to learn, and to seek knowledge from others, no matter what the difference in our ages might be.

Youthful Mindsets and Earned Experience

There’s a danger when we surround ourselves with people who think too similarly to us. While we might be able to meet many of the demands facing our business, we may be creating blind spots that can lead to us being blindsided. 

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Which, for example, would be more practical: five 55-year-old executives sitting around a table debating what type of advertising campaign would resonate best with the 25-year-old demographic, or actually including people from that age group at the table and receiving their suggestions and input?

In my experience, I’ve found that many young professionals are idea generators. They love to brainstorm and often think differently than I do, which leads to solutions I wouldn’t have come up with on my own. Then, with my experience, I can guide those ideas into actionable strategies. By working together, we all grow and achieve success that we otherwise wouldn’t have realized.   

In our company and my family, I have several younger co-mentors with whom I have wonderful relationships. They have a youthful energy and enthusiasm, and they inspire me to keep pushing forward and reaching for new goals. We constantly learn from each other and pull from our unique experiences and strengths. Together, we are far stronger and more capable than we would be otherwise. If I dismissed what they had to teach me simply because of age, we would all be missing out on some amazing opportunities for growth.

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Teaching and Learning

If you’re hesitant to take instruction from someone younger, ask yourself a simple question: Why? Do you think you will appear “lesser” in their eyes, or the eyes of people your own age if you ask a younger person some questions? Open yourself up to what could be a truly rewarding relationship for both you and your younger co-mentor. While your peers stagnate but “maintain” their image, you will keep developing your new strengths and surpass them.

This article originally appeared in Auto Success.

Chris Saraceno is the vice president and partner of the Kelly Automotive Group. He can be reached at [email protected].

Click here to view more solutions from Chris Saraceno.C

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