Hile Rutledge
Trainer, author

Hile Rutledge

CEO and owner of OKA (Otto Kroeger Associates), a training and consulting firm specializing in leadership and team development.

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Risk, struggle and medals

Q: The Washington Post and other media outlets are keeping careful count of the number of medals the United States and other countries are winning at the Winter Olympics. Should so much attention be focused on the medal count? Is winning gold, silver or bronze a fair measure of Olympic success? What about the athletes who work for years to get to the Games, yet have no shot at winning a medal?

A common descriptor of Millennials -- the generation of Americans born between 1981 and 2000 -- is that they are self-esteem junkies.

I was reminded of this while coaching a client of mine recently who was struggling with how to deal with three Millennials in her employ. These twenty-somethings were all talented and well educated, but all three had a few things in common -- all chafed easily under criticism; all expected positive feedback frequently, and all three wanted and expected advancement (raises and promotions) in short order.

This generational tendency comes from -- among other things -- many in this age range being raised by parents who were more engaged and attentive than any other generation's parents before them, seemingly intent on denying their children the feeling of failure. This is the generation in which everyone got a trophy for showing up and participating.

So here in this Olympics season, we can ask what the role of medals and trophies is. Real victory and the celebration of struggle, risk and competition only come when loss is on the line.

Medals are physical symbols of efforts expended, risks taken, and opponents bested --just like promotions are positions earned through experience, output and time. Many important people do not have medals, but medals are important. It is often the desire for medals and trophies (and promotions) that keep people in the game, competing and working hard.

By Hile Rutledge  |  February 25, 2010; 12:01 AM ET  | Category:  Medals and meaning Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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