Balancing Experience and Possibilities

May 13, 2009 -- Sal Silvester

I turned 40 this past Saturday and was enlightened by a number of experiences. My Uncle Mike sent me an email that said, "It's fun going up the hill, but don't go over the hill." Thanks Uncle Mike, but how do I know when I am at the top?

After reviewing materials for a "Hiring Winning Talent" workshop, I realized I am now protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) that prohibits discrimination against persons who are 40 years of age or older with respect to any term or condition of employment.

So, I got that going for me.

My friend Jody sent me a card that said "40 is smack dab in the middle of experience and possibilities." Now we are talking - I like that.

When I read Jody's card, it struck me that this was characteristic of what successful leaders and team members do - they find a balance between leaning on their experience and being open to new possibilities. I also realized that finding that balance involves exploring your values and beliefs and understanding how those values and beliefs impact your actions in the work place.

Why is this important to team work?

It’s important because our values and beliefs at home and at work are the same. We don’t check them at the door when we enter the workplace. They stay with us. The challenge is that our values and beliefs may result in behaviors that are not appropriate or legal in the work place.
Let me give you a few examples (and by the way, these examples aren’t easy for many people to consider). Let’s say you have a strong belief, because of your religious or family upbringing, that women should stay home with their children, or that gay marriage should not be legal, or that people over the age of 55 are slow to change, or that Caucasian men are aggressive, or that (fill in the blank here). How do those beliefs impact the actions and decisions you make in the workplace? If you are a leader trying to fill a position, do they impact your hiring decision? If you are a team member working on a project, do they impact your ability to communicate effectively with one another?
It’s important that people have a strong sense of self-awareness about their own values and beliefs and that they explore how those values and beliefs impact what they do in the workplace. Often times simply having an awareness is enough to draw out the appropriate behaviors in a work setting.
It’s also important to understand that accepting people’s differences doesn’t mean that we have to adopt their values. Amy Tolbert at ECCO International shared this important concept with me and it has helped many of my clients not only deal with differences in the workplace, but actually value those differences.
As I enter my fourth decade of life, I take confidence in my experience. I am also glad to know people who are different than I am, because they keep me open to new possibilities.

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