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Why The Gray Need The Green

Yesterday I introduced the idea of the new color barrier in business: the Green versus the Gray. In short, the Green are young professionals who although short on work experience and positional influence, intuitively understand the way business has changed because it’s changed while they’ve been growing up. They have a distinct advantage because they’ve only known the world to be one way.

The Gray, on the other hand, have decades of experience and sit in the decision making seats for most organizations. They have vast insight and knowledge of their respective industries but may be struggling to come to terms with the vast changes in their businesses because of a changing culture of customer expectations, technology, customer expectations and communication methods.

The Gray Need The Green

The thing is, the Gray need the Green. If they can get that they are 90% of the way there.

Today’s Green bring something to the table that the Green of previous generations didn’t necessarily have: an inherent understanding of how people are connected and why that changes the way your business should do business. They have high standards for product quality, truth in advertising, good service, great experiences, real corporate values, vibrant corporate culture and have no problem with the idea that if you mess any one of those up you could severely hurt your brand.

That’s the very essence of “everything is marketing now” too. For the Green, everything means everything. They want to love their work, love the things their company does and make a good living in the process. That might sound overly idealistic but it’s what they’re coming to the table with. It’s also why many tech startups cater to this very thing. They know it puts them ahead of the companies who haven’t figured this out yet.

Fight The Feeling Of Futility

In order to keep the Green engaged will require understanding the way they think and the expectations (realistic or not) that they bring with them from day one. One common frustration I hear from my Green friends is that they make suggestions and recommendations and are regularly shot down without a good explanation. That is a terrible way to manage anyone, but the Green will be particularly annoyed by it. Once they feel like their work is futile they’re going to have one foot out the door.

Do you ever wonder if your Green employees like working for your company? Here’s a test: how many of them have recommended a friend for a job at your company? How many hires have you made in the last year because some of your Green recommended them? If the most connected generation in the history of the world isn’t connecting their friends to your company, you may know all you need to know about what they really think.

How The Gray Lead

The best way to keep your Green from feeling like their work is futile is to guide them. Even if they have a wacky idea it’s a teachable moment. That’s where some of the good Gray wisdom should be kicking in. When the Gray become mentors of the Green, the Green will undoubtedly rub off a bit on the Gray and it will help everyone.

The Gray need the Green more than they may think. The future of their companies depends up on it but it’s going to require getting uncomfortable. It’s going to mean that the Green may move up the ladder quicker than would have ever been considered with the Gray were working up the ranks. There is so much for the Gray to learn from the Green but it will take a willing desire and probably a dash of humility. It will be worth it.

The bottom line is that while everything is marketing now, the Green already get it. For them, everything is marketing. That’s the only world they’ve known. The “now” part is for you…the Gray. That’s why you need the Green.

The next post will be the other side of this coin: why the Green need the Gray.

Photo credit: “War on Reality 1” by Steven Mileham

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