A wise boss once lamented what he called the death of apprenticeship. As organizations downsized, the paths to management were compressed, and people found themselves making decisions that they would have previously waited a decade or two to make.
Where a generation before, a marketing decision-maker would approach those decisions having spent many years working under other decision-makers and learning from them, today, it’s not at all unusual for people fresh out of college to find themselves in control of what companies do. Of course, most leave school with more focused education than in days past, but there’s still a lot to be said for experience.
If you’re one of those people who found themselves with a lot of authority early in your career, proceed carefully. Keep learning, and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Surround yourself with people who have expertise, and become a sponge. Absorb as much as you can. Don’t hesitate to ask your circle for advice, or for an explanation when you don’t fully understand their counsel.
And if you’re someone who provides counsel to young decision-makers, remember that their employer trusted them enough to grant them their level of authority. Never try to belittle or overwhelm them. Instead, if you detect gaps in their knowledge, gently explain your reasoning. As they realize they can learn from you, they’ll turn to you more often for answers and counsel – and becoming a reliable, indispensable source of advice will make your business relationship stronger.