Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Generation "Net," Generation "I"

I was listening to CBC Radio's parenting columnist, Karen Horseman, the other morning and I had one of those Eureka! moments. She was talking about how young workers are changing the social dynamics of traditional workplaces. And she was discussing how parenting styles are responsible for producing these new workers and instilling in them the idea that they should be treated as more than just junior employees. It was all very interesting, but the Eureka! moment came when I realized she could be talking about young hockey players and their coaches, rather than 20-something workers and their bosses.

Here's the part of Horseman's report that struck me:
(Young people are still entering the workplace with this huge sense of entitlement. Nora Spinks is a motivational speaker and workplace-relations counsellor. She says "Young people expect to be given work that's challenging, they expect to be treated with respect, to get challenging work from the first day, to have access to senior executives, they expect to have involvement in decision-making."

New employees in their twenties who are described as the "net generation" feel their bosses, who are often boomers in their fifties or traditionalists in their sixties are arrogant. That they demand respect just because they've been there for a long time and never like to be questioned. That they have little flexibility and often turn up their noses at technology. How to bridge the gap between the two? Spinks says: "The first thing is awareness. You have to be aware of your own gender, generational, cultural biases. Because you can't look at anything or anybody else's behaviour...either observe it or manage it or coach it or develop it without understanding it...and then you need to have a dialogue."

The net generation and the generation behind them, known as the "I" generation are used to getting a lot of feedback. Some say it's the result of video games or overpraising parents. So the manager that was raised with the "Because I said so" parenting style may find it difficult to deal with the generation that is used to being asked for their opinions and told to be criticial thinkers. )

Doesn't that sound exactly like the criticisms of Guy Carbonneau's coaching style? He came from a generation in which the coach was sacrosanct. You didn't question, you just did what he said. And you were glad to have the opportunity to do it. Now young players are entering the NHL with a sense of entitlement. They want to have the coach's decisions explained to them, and they want to have a say in what their roles will be. I think Carbonneau either didn't understand that difference between his generation and the one he was asked to coach, or he didn't buy into it. Either way, I think there was a fundamental problem when the players failed to respond to his message.

So, when the team is looking for a new coach now, it's got to be someone who gets the Net generation. Without that vital understanding, communication is impossible. I'd like to see a well-respected, established coach with a good track record in Montreal next year. But, even more important I think is the coach's ability to make the players accept and absorb his message. Look at Blysma in Pittsburgh. He gets the young guys and speaks their language. He manages them in a way they appreciate.

Sadly, the days of players' unquestioning obedience to a coach are over. Young players want to be nurtured, not bullied. I hope whoever's on the short list to be the Canadiens' next coach speaks "Net." Without it, he won't last long.


Dishonest John said...

You raise an interesting point. We see it in so many places why wouldn't we see it in hockey players as well? I've been seeing it for years in my class and my response to kids who feel they are entitled is "Wow wait a minute. Who are you? You're just a kid, what have you done that makes you my peer? Don't talk to me like we're equals. Get a job, hold a mortgage, raise kids and then maybe you can question me." God I love that rant. That may be a little over the top but I would have a hard time not throwing that at some snotty nosed twenty year old who figures he ahs all the answers. Now do I really want to publish this? Ah what the hell.

harmonielehre said...

I think its right that you highlight these generational differences.

Personally, I think Carbo had a few inabilities- not to be confused with his style of leadership. I had a feeling he did not pay attention to details and was inflexible. He also appeared to be disorganized, even if he gave the impression that he really WAS with all of those line changes.

About his style of leadership: I guess its fine to just stick with one plan (trap, change combos every game), but I feel he didnt quite grasp the subtleties of individual players' talents. This could explain his handling of Michael Ryder and Kovalev.

Oh well. Im looking forward to seeing a solid coach with experience behind the bench next season- i hope!

Topham said...

I think in general what the expert was saying is true, but it does leave out the fact that different members of the same generation still exhibit a spectrum of responses to coaching.

I have coached generation "net" and "I" athletes recently, and I can tell you that there are some among them that respond the way described and some who still respond to the old "do as i say method". In fact, I'd go so far as saying that some only respond to the "hard" approach.

I think the trick in being a good coach lies in being able to relate to your charges in each way. And, importantly, when no response is forthcoming (and I think this was Carbo's biggest downfall) to be creative.

There's never been a book that could teach you how to coach anyone, nor will there ever be one to relate absolutely everything. These lessons come with experience and nothing else. I do agree that I want the next habs coach to be open and able to coaching in this way. But I wouldn't want a coach to come in and use this technique as the only way forward.

Superman said...

Very good post. I think you are right on the button, about Carbo not able to feel for the kids.

Unknown said...

Once again, I have to play the devil's advocate.

Carbonneau has never had any problem talking to people. His message is clear, frank and direct. No freaking guessing between the lines. Compared to the last three Neanderthal that were there before him, he's a semi-educated person who is not afraid to speak his mind and he certainly knows how to get his message across.

How come his communication skills that were mentioned from the tip of the lips, in the past became so bad, in 2008-2009 ? And to be more precise, sometimes around the All Stars game . Remember reading somewhereat Christmas time that the Canadiens start was one of the best in 100 years.

Wasn't he the same person who got robbed from the Adams trophy, just 10 months before ?

How can his talents and his flaws lead his team to an unexpected championship and then become the town's idiot, just a few months later.

I'm sorry but I don't buy that. Carbonneau isn't a great coach just like Julien is probably not as imbecile as he appears when he speaks to the French media.

The truth is more likely somewhere in the middle. A coach is a coach and most of them aren't that different. There is the jovialist motivational type à la Demers, the disciplinarian type à la Keenan and then, the teaching type, à la Lemaire and then all those in one of those groups with a little touch of their own.

OK, I'm 60 years old and from the old school I suppose, but didn't God create most mammals with two ears and only one mouth ? Isn't that supposed to mean there's way too much yapping and not enough listening going on ?

tsm said...

JT, your post reminded me of this thought-provoking anecdote posted by Mike Boone in his column on April 15th, 2009. As I read it I was wondering whether this incident is a 'sense of entitlement' or is it rather a general apathy that has crept into the Canadiens organization. Is this something a coach can fix? is this an issue within a team or dressing room? is this a generation shift? What exactly is happening here?

I am all for people/coaches who try to understand young people and try to communicate with them. However, the onus is also on the players themselves to improve and to care about the various groups to which they belong. This includes building relationships in all the groups one associates with: family, peers, friends, teams, workplaces...and yes, for a Canadien, even fans and journalists. To a certain extent it's the team that has to foster this environment not just the coach.


tsm said...

Sorry didn't reference quite enough... I’m referring to the very last section of Boone's column.

A telling hockey anecdote, albeit one that tells us more about society than hockey: ...

J.T. said...


I agree, the players should have a role in fostering an environment of mutual understanding...in a perfect world. But the problem is, these are kids who act like kids. And worse, they're privileged kids. That means their frame of reference and life experience when it comes to interpersonal relationships is extremely limited. It's not exactly fair, but the coaching staff are the ones with the experience and savvy to take the extra step in relationship building.