Thursday, March 31, 2011

Respect for Age - An overrated concept

Have you ever come across a situation where you are not taken seriously because of your age? Have you had to throw in a line about your child to ensure that you are seen as a responsible person? Just take a minute and look around you, you will find several people who either look younger than their age or those who strive to look younger than their age. Noone is trying to look old. But I got this bizarre request from a client that has me thinking will this change soon?

Coming to the request, here's the conversation:
Client: Can you please share profiles of trainers who are older and have some grey hair?
Me: Sure, but they charge a bomb because they are thought leaders.
Client: Oh ok. Actually, I don't need older trainers but trainers who look old.

Hmm. Here I am thinking whether I need to plan a new selection process for the trainer. How many wrinkles does he/she have? How many greys does he/she have? I do understand where they are coming from. In our culture, age is given a lot of respect. Therefore, the idea that the trainer will command respect through age and therefore, will have more control over learning. While I do respect older people, I also respect people who know what they are talking about. Regardless of the age, position, or gender, I am willing to listen to someone if what they have to say is worthwhile. A small example is when I conducted a session on LMS for Kern. I am an instructional designer and not a developer. But I have been involved in the LionSher LMS development process at Kern. People at the conference heard me out and enjoyed the session because I spoke their language (layman's), I believed in what I was saying, I had done my research, and the session was extremely interactive.

A trainer I know keeps telling me 'I am going to color my hair grey next time. I am not as young as I look.' This had me thinking, does age really matter. I have seen an 'older' trainer command respect and unfortunately instill fear in the participants. I have seen good trainers facilitate great learning regardless of their age and background. What I look for in a trainer is:
  1. Does he/she match Kern's way of thinking? 
  2. Does he/she put the learner in the center?
  3. Is he/she reliable? (It is totally uncool to cancel at the last minute unless you are dying.)
  4. Will the person have the energy required to carry off a session in a lively fashion?
  5. Is he/she collaborative in nature? 
If the answers are yes, then age really doesn't matter.  

Have you also come across a situation where your boss makes you the point of contact and similarly the point of contact at the client's end also changes? Why? Is it because they want people at similar levels to talk to each other? Why are some companies so hierarchical? Why do they fail to understand that the handover has taken place because of a specialization and not because it is not important enough for the boss to handle the project? I am grateful enough to say that clients have thought they can walk all over me, but have finally realized that I know what I am talking about (atleast where learning is concerned). Now, they seek my opinion and wish to work with me on their projects. See, age doesn't matter.

Have you faced similar situations? Do share. Would love to know that it not just me. :)