Working with twenty-something staff and co-workers can challenge the older generations. Jokes about Gen-Z workers notwithstanding, there definitely seems to be a different mindset about work ethics. And for older supervisors of Gen-Z staff, they can “become a project.”
One thought from author Edwin Friedman that has stayed with me is about the difference between a professional and a hack. He wrote that leadership competence is not about knowledge or expertise; a professional and a hack may know the same things. The difference, he argued, is that her or his experience does not transform the hack.
In The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals, Shane Parrish identified the characteristics that distinguish one from another.
Amateurs stop when they achieve something. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning.
Amateurs have a goal. Professionals have a process.
Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand the scope and extent of their competence.
Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and welcome thoughtful criticism.
Amateurs value isolated performance. Professionals value consistency in performance.
Amateurs give up at the first sign of trouble and assume they’re failures. Professionals are lifelong learners who see failure as part of growth and mastery.
Amateurs don’t know what improves the odds of achieving good outcomes. Professionals do.
Amateurs show up to practice to have fun. Professionals realize that what happens in practice happens in real life.
Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak.
Amateurs react. Professionals prepare.
Amateurs think knowledge is power. Professionals pass on wisdom and advice.
Amateurs focus on being right. Professionals focus on getting the best outcome.
Amateurs think good outcomes are the result of their brilliance. Professionals understand when good outcomes result from intentional work and, sometimes, luck.
Amateurs focus on the short term. Professionals focus on the long term.
Amateurs tend to tear other people down due to their insecurities. Professionals focus on making everyone better.
Amateurs make decisions in committees, so there isn’t one person responsible if things go wrong. Professionals make decisions as individuals and accept responsibility.
Amateurs show up inconsistently. Professionals show up every day.
Amateurs go faster. Professionals go further.
Amateurs go with the first idea that comes into their head. Professionals realize the first idea is rarely the best idea.
Amateurs think in absolutes. Professionals think in probabilities.
Amateurs think the probability of them having the best idea is high. Professionals know the likelihood of that is low.
Amateurs think reality is what they want to see. Professionals know reality is what’s true.
Amateurs think disagreements are threats. Professionals see them as an opportunity to learn.
Amateurs believe that the world should work the way they want it to. Professionals realize they must work with the world as they find it.
Complaining about younger co-workers and staff may be a way to vent frustration for an older supervisor, senior pastor, or head of staff but perhaps it’s better to consider how one can mentor or guide a “project” into maturity, helping them grow from amateur to professional.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Programs of the Center for Lifelong Learning.