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Players Play/Ballers Ball: Simple Rules for Determining Succession.. (of the young ones)

Heard in a coffee shop this week...

Me: Yeah, but he's a 29 year old kid, so that's pretty good.

Client: Really? What did you expect?

Me: What do you mean?

Client: Well, what you're outlining isn't that special, is it?  After all, what were you doing when you were 29?

Me: (Silence...Thinking)

The point to the conversation was really centered around what the world expects out of kids in their late 20's in the workplace.  I was referring to the late 20's person who was working for the client.  He was a good, not great performer, and I was telling the client it was OK because he was 29.  There's still time for him to be great.

Except there isn't.

The client wasn't having any of that.  She has a high expectation, and knowing me a little bit, felt comfortable in providing the contrast and pushing back by saying, "what were you doing when you were 29?"

Ugh. She was right.

You're going to know if someone is promotable 2+ levels in your company by the time they're 29.  You'll also know if they are capable of running your freaking company someday.

You'll know it because it will be in front of you.  They'll have the presence, command and creativity to separate themselves from the pack.

They'll be able to fake it until they make it when you put them in jobs they don't have the ability to do.  The people around them will believe they belong until their knowledge and skill catches up.  

Making more buses run on time or handling more transactions? Good performance.  Not great performance.

The late 20's person who is promotable 2+ levels in your company has already shown it by the time they hit 28 or 29.  Don't kid yourself into believing that more age and experience is going to make them more promotable than they are today. The stuff that makes them promotable 2+ levels has nothing to do with more age and experience.

It's in their DNA.  You know it by the time they're 29.

Players play, ballers ball.  Regardless of age.




The opposite of this is also true and you see it come up when someone with tenure is not chosen for a leadership role...generally plays out as "Bob didn't get the nod to run the region this time but we need to keep him happy because he'll be in the running the next go, let's give lots of comp. to placate him instead of telling him where he really stands". Happens.All.The.Time.

Note: this isn't about age but it is age related...each of us only has so much runway and it's pretty damn hard to make CEO by 45 if you can't make Sr. Mgr. by 42...

Elyssa Thome

Good tip for 20-something employees, too. If you think you're worth it, prove it. Ability and aspiration can be improved, but rarely learned.


I'm shocked at how many people launch into a "those young folks can't and won't do anything rant", especially when I'm in the room. I had the encounter yesterday in a meeting with organizational leaders (all who were at least 40) and my client looked at me and smirked, like as if he was saying to me silently "Don't tell them you are in your 20s." I think he was sending me a warning that if I did, I'd loose legitimacy with them. I think when you have reached a certain level of "success" in your twenties, people think you are older. Tell them you are younger, and they lower their expectations of you. Great post about how, regardless of age, the question is, are you performing?

Becki G

Thanks Kris--totally relevant post. In my world of younger people (restaurant)--there is always this hope that more experience will develop the right traits---but time and time again it's about what the individual person brings. Hiring (and then promoting) the right person in the first place is the key to our future.

Again--thanks--perfect timing.

Shelley Hood

I agree that it becomes clear when people aren't going to cut it in their context. It's amazing what people can do when they've found the work that fuels them - and how apathetic they can be when the work isn't a good fit. No matter how talented they are.

I've had cases where it became clear that an employee wasn't going to realise their aspirations within our business context. I would have honest discussions with them. Maybe they're good ball players but on the wrong team. Or lousy ball players that should find a new sport.

Managers need to be honest when they identify an aspiration:reality gap - and be willing to set people free.


when I read the dialogue I was thinking.. umm 29 year old kid? I think once a person reaches the age of 25 the "kid" should be dropped and all expectations for that individual should not be the same expectation you have for a kid. I don't know if it has always been like this (I'm 26) but I don't know why its difficult for others to see this generation as the adults they are.

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