Fresh Look – Mentoring young people

I mentored about a dozen people in my career, and my wife has actually mentored more. Each protégé is unique, but both of us have noticed that young professionals respond differently to mentoring than older ones. When I came across a study that looked at age differences meticulously, it perfectly meshed with my experience and my wife’s.[1]

Compared to their older colleagues, protégés in their thirties approach problems in a more black and white fashion, preferring rules to an appreciation of nuance and paradox. They are generally less interested in why things work the way they do, so they prefer to be told what to do than be led through situational problem solving. Since they reflect less and tend to be less self-conscious, it makes little sense to propose that they think through dilemmas or make distinctions between symptoms and causes.

[1] L. Tamir & L. Finfer. 2017. Younger and older executives need different things from coaching. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles, 7/6; L. Tamir & F. Finfer. 2016. Executive coaching: The age factor. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 68 (4): 313-325.