As many of you know, I have been involved in the sport of soccer for many years. While there is much about sports that seem more related to fantasy than reality (professional salaries, steroids etc) the truth of the matter is, a lot can be carried over from the athletic arena to the business arena as well as to life in general.
Many people would consider the best professional soccer club in the world, right now, to be Manchester United (there are some other contenders but I don’t believe anyone would dispute that Manchester United is in the top group). It’s interesting to watch them play because they have players from three different age groups playing together.
They have their veterans such as Edwin Van Der Sar, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes who are all 34 years old or older (some would consider them ancient in a sport such as soccer but they all play at an incredibly high level). They don’t play every minute of every game like they did when they were younger but they bring a maturity to the field that carries over to the rest of the squad.
Next you have the prime players. These are players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic. They are in their mid 20’s to early 30’s. These are the players in the prime of their careers, they need less rest than some of the older players but also have a great deal of experience.
Next you have the youngsters. These are players such as Rafael and Fabio da Silva, Jonny Evans and Anderson They are 18 to 21 years old and have great talent and enthusiasm but not much experience.
If they only played with the older veterans, they would struggle with speed and being able to stay at a high level all season long.
If they only played the youngsters, they would have great speed and enthusiasm but would make too many mistakes due to a lack of experience.
Instead, Manchester United mixes their squad up regularly (especially in less crucial matches) so that the youngsters are playing next to the more experienced players. The more experienced players can let the younger players do some of the running for them while the youngsters can learn playing next to players who have “been there and done that”.
By having a good mixture of the three groups on the field, they get the best of all worlds. Plus, when something happens (injuries, suspensions etc) and a less experienced player is needed in a big game, they already have the experience and knowledge from having played with the more experienced players.
The other issue with having this mixture of youth and experience is what happens too often in sports. A team is successful, plays together for a long time, wins some championships and then all of a sudden, they are old. The problem is, while they were winning their championships, they weren’t developing their young players. By having a good mix of players, this can be avoided.
Now lets look at how this carries over to business. A company might decide they can get rid of their more experienced employees and rely upon the younger ones (they will find an excuse because it would be illegal to discriminate based on age but it’s done all the time). The younger employees are probably getting paid less and might have more energy and enthusiasm but without the experience, they might struggle.
Other companies will rely upon the “good old boy network” to the point where they have no new ideas (inexperienced people frequently have new ideas…some good…some bad but they have ideas).
The smart companies have a good mix of employees and utilize their strengths while letting others do the things that are their weaknesses.
I’m amazed at how often people aren’t willing to cross over generations and lose wonderful opportunities because they think “he doesn’t know anything, he is too old” or “he doesn’t know anything, he is too young”
Making sure there is a good mixture will allow growth from all directions
Have a great day!