A different set of rules between online and real life

The environment we now live in can be challenging. Research has indicated that teenagers spend around 7-8 hours per day on their smartphones. There is also a strong belief today that social media in particular, allows for a far more critical approach to life that simply would never have happened in previous times.

One can see this with the Emily Benn story of recent weeks (the abuse she received across social media would never have happened in previous times or in the case of a face to face encounter). For some reason, social media allows people greater access to behave more aggressively and inconsiderate than they would be in every day real life.

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

It’s no wonder that cases of mental illness and depression are on the increase. One could also argue that the digital world we live in has also heightened a growth in the “I” society when actually the real natural desire is for a “We” society. There will be a natural swing back to the “We” society eventually but there is still a need today for businesses to understand the developmental need and the mental approach of the young. The concern is that life as we know it, will not change, so the focus must be on creating new approaches to help develop talent.

However there is a deeper issue too. Often today one will find people just simply not accepting personal accountability. Often men who are caught having affairs today claim mental breakdowns. There are many that believe their morality in real life and online can be genuinely different. There will be those that are ruder online – as per the Emily Benn story – than they would ever be in real life and believe that this is acceptable. Morality is becoming a moving feast. It used to be said that ethics was not for the convenient moment to make one look good but for the inconvenient time when it may cause harm – that was how you understood a character.

This is where mentors do make a difference – they bring a fresh perspective and can challenge the mentee in their thinking.

Coaching for the future

The positives are that there is an exceptional level of young talent emerging that does want to create change but they possess a very different perspective to previous generations. So how can coaching and mentoring help new talent that is breaking through and how does one go about sharing knowledge in a way that resonates?

Maybe the starting place is teaching the importance of one’s accountability to the community and to others. One of the reasons that we bring sports players into the workplace to mentor is because sports players understand the importance of personal accountability and their role within a broader team.

The England Men’s 7’s team have a base ethos named “Permission to Play” which outlines each player’s commitment to their friend and colleague and how they will behave towards achieving their goals. Most sports players are measured in everything that they do from their exercise, training to what they eat and drink. They understand and accept the importance of their own behaviours.

L&D teams do generally build great programmes that develop skills and technical knowledge but most leaders will note that success is as much about character as about skill. Companies invest great amounts into developing technical skills but maybe there is a greater need to develop the mind-set of people, their approach and their understanding of their role within the community.

This is where mentors do make a difference – they bring a fresh perspective and can challenge the mentee in their thinking.

The value of NED’s at board level has always been about holding the board and the CEO/MD to account. A good mentor can also play this role but in a way that supports the development of the individual – to help them think for themselves and find solutions and new answers.

We need to find a balance in trust and behaviours again. There is work to do.