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Posts Tagged ‘young people

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I was delighted to find Vinspired Voicebox this morning.  Young people are collecting data on young people in UK and presenting it online in interesting ways.

And you can share the data on Young Brits too!

  • What questions should Voicebox ask next?
  • What questions could Voicebox answer for you with a tweak or two of their current analysis?
  • What question should we ask other age groups?

This is good news.  Great work Voicebox!


In Edinburgh last week I got the EasyJet treatment.

According to the loyal regulars, our experience on Wednesday last week was a RyanAir story and not a common experience on EasyJet.  That is good to hear.  So if you are not EasyJet checking these details (!), just note where I am going with this and skip over to the next heading!

I think, we shouldn’t put young people in the front line without proper training and support.   It will cripple their soul as surely as a road side bomb blows up young men in inadequately amoured vehicles.  We shouldn’t do this, morally.

And we shouldn’t do this because we are capable of managing much better.

Who agrees?

The back story

At 6pm, EasyJet groundstaff at Edinburgh Airport knew their 8pm flight to Luton would be delayed. They were telling passengers who were checking in at the airport.

They didn’t change the Boards though till 7.30pm, after the passengers were due at the gate at 7.25pm.

EasyJet were loading a Belfast flight shortly before and it would have been quite easy for someone to shout out that the flight was delayed, or put up a paper sign, and most of all to provide some information and hand out vouchers.

Very simply, passengers who had checked in online were not informed and nor was there a reasonable attempt to inform us.

We were delayed twice more. Vouchers for a princely 3 pounds were handed-out to those who asked at 10pm (with which you could buy a stale sandwich or a glass of wine – one or the other).

We eventually took off at 11pm, three hours late on a 75 minute flight, and suffered one more delay in Luton when the steps broke.

The steps broke? By this time, the passengers had begun to giggle.  It did seem as if EasyJet was in business well beyond its pay grade.

I departed north from the airport after midnight leaving stranded tourists who hadn’t eaten and who had no idea how to get to London.

The saving grace was a remarkably cheerful Purser who solved the problems of people stubborn enough to ask for assistance.  And many regulars were loyal to the airline despite the shoddy service – that’s good but as a first time EasyJet flyer I remain skeptical as did my foreign companion who has departed for another continent convinced of our total imcompetence.

But why I ask, were the ground staff so ill equipped to communicate the basics to the passengers?

Delays happen.  This is not news in the airline industry.  What are EasyJet’s procedures for rescheduling aircraft and crews?  What are their procedures for informing passengers already in the airport and on their way to the airport?  What are their procedures for informing people who they persuaded to check in online?  Why do they ask us for our mobile numbers if they don’t intend to use them?

And most of all, why don’t they train their staff in some basic active listening?

A one hour class in active listening skills will turn the the sulky staff at the airport into the cheerful Purser.

A customer service representative who protests her own innocence in the unfolding events doesn’t have a personality problem. She has a management problem.

No one has ever explained to her that we don’t care who is to blame within EasyJet.

We want to know three things.

1. When will we get home and how firm is the ETA?

2. How can we recorganize our ground arrangements (where are the train tables)?

3. How can we pass the intervening time and where can get refreshments?

Their backstory of a medical emergency in Nice was useful but the real story was that a medical emergency in France has knocked out the plane and crew schedules – not convincing is it?

I wouldn’t tell that story.   I swould simply say – we’ve screwed up.   A medical emergency has tripped our schedules.  We are only going to get you to London by midnight.  Now this is what we are going to do.  Let’s sort the passengers out.  Who will be connecting on – and get a passenger with an internet connection to look up the times?  Who needs a voucher?  This is where you find us if you need us.  Etc.

Keep it concrete and no excuses.

If a passenger is distressed, all they have to do is acknowledge the distress.  That is what the Purser did so well.  Even when the stairs broke inconveniencing passengers for the 4th time that evening, all he did was announce that he needed to apologize one more time.  He told us factually what the problem was and when we might receive a solution. He didn’t need to be defensive.  He wasn’t defensive.  Active listening is so easy when someone has shown you how.  And so effective too.

We shouldn’t put young people in the front line without proper training.  It will cripple their soul as surely as a road side bomb blows up young men in inadequately amoured vehicles.   We shouldn’t do this. It is not good for our souls either. We are better than this.  We know how to do this.  We should insist on better for our young people.

Who else agrees that we should stop putting young people in poorly structured jobs, with insufficient support and inadequate training?

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Image via Wikipedia


Until today, I’ve always asked people about ‘flow’, activities which we love so much that we lose track of time.  Every one knows what these are, of course, because we run late and get into trouble!

You should try asking people! It usually takes no more than 5 minutes to get a young person’s eyes to light up with delight as they recall what they love doing.

But then ask how they will make a living and their eyes dull over as they contemplate what worries them most.

How can we find the place where our deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets?

In days gone by, to find that place, we used to join an organization. The transitions between the stages of our lives where quite abrupt. We went to school where we knew people. Then we went to university and college where we started again. Then we did the same when we went to work.

With each change, we could trust the organization to provide the place where our own passions and the world’s needs met.

That’s no longer the case. Our careers have become less a set of “steps in a staircase” and more a trumpet shape as we take our deep gladness and expand it like a daffodil in bloom to ever widening interaction with the world.

I used to think I was quite innovative about honing in so quickly and easily on our experience of flow – the activities that bring the light to our eyes – our deep gladness.

I’m glad I do that. But it is not enough.

I also have to ask

  • Who did you talk to today?
  • What did you do or say that gave you immense pleasure and that was also appreciated by the other person?

It’s around this frontier that we can build a portfolio for a successful career.

Can young people tell me about the place where their deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets?

I must ask them.  What will be the points of recognition?  What is the equivalent of losing track of time?  What body language tells us that we have found this place?

Can anyone help me?

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Where are you going to be when the recession ends? And when will it end?daffiodils-by-john-morgan-via-flickr

Out-and-about the parks and landscapes of the internet, three broad scenarios are being discussed:

  • Nothing has changed. This is a temporary downturn. Be careful with your money. Try to avoid being laid off. We’ll be back to normal in 2010, or soon thereafter.
  • The end is nigh. Capitalism is over. And if capitalism is not over, we are going to have a Depression. So go down to the video store to get out some movies on the Great Depression because that is were we are headed.
  • In recent years, we have been spending beyond our means and we need to rethink the basis of our wealth and political power. Cutting back is not the issue. Re-jigging the economy is the issue so that we can emerge ‘re-conditioned’ for the next 30-40 years.

Which camp do you fall into? This is my thinking.

Rough summary of our economic position

The USA has an economy around 5 times the size of the UK’s, and and they have 5 times the population. So we differ in size but not so much in wealth.

China and India have either overtaken the UK last year, or are overtaking us this year in the size of their economy, but they have around 15-17 times our population (each), or over 3 to 4 times the US population.

The US is well ahead of everyone else by a long margin. To stay ahead, though, whether there was a financial crisis or not, they have to do something about their economy.

Obama has been spelling out the issues. The US economy is too dependent on oil. Too many people are reliant on ‘old’ industries, which can be run more efficiently in China and India who also have lower input costs. The numbers of well-educated Chinese and Indian graduates far exceeds the numbers of comparable US graduates.

The issues are not dissimilar in the UK.

My sense of what is important

I get so annoyed to see people being advised to ‘hang on to jobs’ in industries which are in their twilight years. It’s true that as parents we may feel that we have to hang on to whatever income we have, just as as immigrants, for example, run corner shops and drive taxis to give their children a good start in life. But to be too defensive, is not wise.

Since I arrived in the UK, almost one and a half years ago, I’ve been amazed that so many people want to leave. And almost all the young people do.

This is ‘discourse’ to some extent. People talk about going to New Zealand as a way of getting away from something that irritates them. They don’t mean to go, but the idea that they could, relieves them of the trouble of sorting out what bothers them.

When young people say fiercely, “I am going to get away from here”, this too is ‘discourse’, and in part, a currently fashionable way of expressing ambition and determination.

My sense of what we should be giving priority

But, what if we treated the young people of the UK differently?

What if we celebrated their achievements more? What if paid more attention to their dreams? What if we put their dreams more clearly at the top of our national agenda?

Would that be molly-coddlying them? Would that sap their ambition and drive? I don’t think so. I think that knowing we value their dreams as much as their achievements would allow them to pursue their dreams with more confidence and to waste less energy on worrying about failure.

David Whyte, British corporate poet, talks of the dreadful alienation that adolescents feel when they realise that their parents are burdened with life. If we are not living joyously in expectation of where the economy is going, how do we expect our children to?

Come with me

Which industry do you believe is fit for the teen years of this century?

What is catching your eye?

How big will this industry be?

What are its opportunities?

Why does it fascinate you?

I would like to know your dreams.

Which industries do you feel are like daffodil bulbs,  and like to be planted in a good frost, so they can burst into exuberant life at the first hint of spring?

P.S. Thanks to John-Morgan for this wonderful picture of daffodils via Flickr

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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The puzzle of politicians and other ambitious people

Many years ago, a student of mine, Phil, asked a simple question: why do people elbow their way onto committees and into public positions, and then not do what they have yelled, screamed, kicked, agitated, mobilized to do?

Isn’t it odd to put so much energy into something and then not do it?

A study of student politicians

Phil’s study was simple.

Students spend a lot of time in queues. He used his queues to find student leaders who had promised publicly to do something for their club or society the very next day.

He was looking for

  • elected leaders (who had volunteered for that job out of all the public posts available in a University)
  • volunteered to their task
  • offered and promised to do it in front of other people
  • expected to do it and complete the next day.

He found his leaders as he queued for lunch or the library or whatever and secured their agreement to be interviewed fully that evening in their study-bedroom and then again, the following evening, after the task was completed.

Two interviews : one before and one after an action that they had promised publicly to a valued group.


This is what he found:

Success rate

  • 100% of students were totally confident that they would start and complete the task the next day
  • 100% began the task
  • 50% succeeded completely (yep, only 50%)

Effects on confidence

  • 95% turned up for the post-event interview and two who were late courteously left notes rescheduling
  • The confidence of those who completed remained high.
  • The confidence of those who had not completed had plummeted (as we would expect).

Reasons for success and failure

  • When we analyzed what had gone wrong, in every instance, students had tripped over their own naivety. They tried to buy 100 T shirts of the same color without a prior order, for example. Or they hadn’t realized that long distance calls need to be pre-approved.
  • It seemed luck whether someone tripped over a practical detail or not; and therefore, luck whether they had succeeded in their task or not.

Response to failure

  • Though it was essentially luck whether they succeeded or not, if they had tripped up, their sense of self-worth (or self-efficacy) plummeted. The students had no way to see the pattern of events and no way of knowing that their success or failure was down to luck.


In the West, we are always being told to take responsibility for our lives. I am not sure I buy into this view. I think it is more important to understand cause-and-effect, and what can be influenced, and how.

In the case of these students, they had now way of seeing the overall pattern – after all that is why we were doing the research.  But, an experienced mentor or coach could help them interpret their own success or failure.

This is the advice that they would have got from an experienced mentor

  • If the day had gone well, good – enjoy the buzz of success and set a new challenge in the morning.
  • If the day had not gone well, sorry – you are feeling down, take note of what went wrong, Learn That You Cannot Anticipate Everything, and set a new challenge in the morning!

Without a mentor, life gets tough

How can we possibly distinguish between what is “down to us” and what is the normal ebb-and-flow of life without a good mentor?

Having good uncles, aunts, pastors, teachers, bosses, company-appointed mentors probably influences a youngster’s prospects in life more than anything else.

More than money, more than good looks, more than brains, more than personality. I didn’t put parents on the list because we might be too close to the action to advise young people well.

The big question that people might ask is where are the mentors today? Where do we find mentors as we go through life?

What is the process of mentoring in the UK today?  How do people following very different paths from their parents find mentors?

I’d be willing to argue that the strength of a modern society is our ability to mentor youngsters who come from very different backgrounds from ourselves.

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