It did not take very long for me to realize that, in this instance, I had more learn than to teach. It was to prove an accurate assessment.

As coffee was served, Mike sat opposite me having requested the meeting, about what exactly I wasn’t sure. It was one of those meetings that you arrive at wishing you had done more ‘due diligence’ in order to be clearer about what was the agenda and to better prepared. I had met Mike a couple of times but knew more about him than actually knowing him. He was, from what I could gather one of those ‘bright young things’ we often hear about, can be slightly intimated by and believe that they will ‘get it’ once they grow-up. In most companies they form the critical mass in talent management programmes. They can amaze and induce horror all at the same time.

Mike, in a roundabout way was asking for some sort of advice or mentoring – or that is how I interpreted the request beneath the words. He found himself at a life juncture that would invite some important choices as to what lay ahead and how he would put his considerable talents to use. Mike represented a bundle of untapped potential and I suspect he knew it (after all what Gen Xer is shy about what they believe themselves capable of!) but was unsure as to how best to build a platform that would allow him to develop a consulting practice. In essence what Mike was asking was for a ‘business plan’ that would help him get going along the pathway he believed was his future.

As Mike spoke about what he had in mind and I got to see glimpses of who he was I got insights into Mike’s view of the world. It was starkly apparent that Mike’s world was some distance from ‘my world’. His world was one connected in invisible ways, networks that were organic, dynamic and alive with information. It was a world of bewildering connectivity and it seemed, one with endless possibilities. I encountered it as both alluring (after all what Boomer doesn’t see possibilities and opportunities!) and daunting at the same time. It was a world I knew existed but knew little about. It was a world in which I realized that my roadmaps and experience would be as helpful as a street map of New York when lost in London. It was a glimpse into the future and it was a future for which I wasn’t prepared. I recognized that I ran the risk of losing my voice in such a world as the conversation shifted to forums and platforms that remained aloof due to my ignorance and lack of practical skills.

It was an easy decision to make: “I’ll gladly meet with you and drink whatever coffee it takes” I said to Mike, “provided you mentor me in the ways of your world – to help me become techno-literate- to help me connect the dots”. It was a done deal.

Mike and continued to meet and I continued to test his patience and resolve. Teaching a Boomer about social technology, about twitter, rss feeds, yammer and things technical is no easy task. It can often be a case of one-step forwards, two backwards as retention capacity is like catching raindrops with a sieve. It wasn’t just about the individual technologies but more importantly, how they connected. This is where the collective impact is being felt as areas such as information flow, public opinion, conversations and broad based social movements shift from their familiar moorings. Many leaders with whom I engage are increasingly becoming isolated from the conversations that underpin such shifts and this dislocation is significantly impinging their influence and their ability to lead. They feel as though they are hanging on by their fingertips and how long they can do this is debatable.  Changing their ‘grip’ will be necessary if they are to survive the future and the ‘new grip’ will be one with which they are not familiar. In fact it may seem as though they have no grip at all!

Mike is helping me navigate this scary yet exhilarating new world. I would like to think that along the way, somehow I am able to give him some insights and assistance that will prove to be helpful.

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