Addressing the biggest diversity challenge: There is still a lot we can learn from our elders

The new film, The Intern, addresses the underlying issues around age diversity, revealing that many of us have forgotten that we can learn valuable information from our elders.

In the movie, a 70-year-old man – played by Robert De Niro – goes to work in a Millennial-filled ecommence business, run by a young CEO in the form of Anne Hathaway. Surely this youthful, driven CEO has nothing to learn from an old work “dinosaur?” Not surprisingly, she discovers she can learn significant lessons from De Niro’s character – and we can, too.

Read more articles on The Intern:

(1) Learn to delegate

Whoever says the age-old proverb, “if you want a job done well, do it yourself,” is likely someone who cannot delegate. No one can do everything. In fact, pretending that you can handle it all is a sign of delusion, not strength. Delegating is one of the hardest skills a manager must learn in order to be successful. Without this capability, you end up overloading yourself, which will reduce your effectiveness. With this skill, you spread the load, motivate your team, and increase the effectiveness of the whole organisation.

(2) Everyone needs mentors

No one has ever become successful without a mentor. Unlike coaches, who run up and down the sideline shouting instructions to you, mentors help you train yourself to become more effective. In The Intern, De Niro’s character doesn’t necessarily give Hathaway advice, but he is constantly asking her questions. He helps reinforce what she knows and trust her instincts. While the “evil” investors wanted the company to hire a new CEO, all they really needed was a mentor to unveil Hathaway’s true potential.

(3) Learn the difference between “urgent” and “important”

Hathaway’s character is constantly moving, cycling up and down the office on her bike. Of course, she is missing what is going on around her with her overstretched colleagues and family. She is caught up in the everyday emergencies and cannot focus on what is truly important. One of best ways to manage an urgent matter is to have the best team around you to help. That requires good hiring and great delegation.

There are many other lessons and good moments throughout movie. One of my favourite is when De Niro explains to a Millennial that if he wants “the girl” then he may actually have to talk to her. While the newest generation of workers has many skills, their biggest weakness is the desire to substitute technology for essential human interaction.

The off-beat romantic comedy is filled with life lessons. The best lesson maybe encapsulated in an old but famous quote: “Listen to your elder’s advice. Not because they are always right, but because they have more experience of being wrong…”

Nigel Dessau is CMO at Stratus Technologies.

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