Thursday, September 4, 2008

An older coach's advantage over his younger counterparts

On a post earlier today, I referenced an article that ran in BusinessWeek last month.

This afternoon, I pick up the Sept. 8 issue of the magazine and find a good story about the strengths of older executives (in this case, "older" is defined as 75 or older).

What do coaches like Bobby Bowden (78), Joe Paterno (81), and Hubie Brown (74) have over their younger counterparts?

Older leaders (coaches included) have "historical perspective, as well as impressive contacts built up over a lifetime. They can be adept at weighing risks and spotting opportunity."

I really believe older coaches provide incredible value for a staff for these very reasons. Having a guy like Hank Egan, who has been coaching since the mid-1960s, on our staff in Golden State was invaluable. Older coaches are excellent mentors who bring a different perspective.

Here's an excerpt from the story:

Older executives often evince a been-there-done-that serenity.

"I feel much freer about taking risks," says [one older exec]. "The planet is not going to stop spinning if I'm wrong."

Most senior executives cite the value of such intangibles as gut, patience, and perspective. They say younger executives often lack these.

"Sure, younger managers don't have the advantage of experience," says [Sumner] Redstone. "But I find they don't study history to be able to make the best decisions for their companies."

Finally, age confers on its wearer a certain immunity to internal politics. These folks can get away with saying things their younger colleagues would never dare.

"One colossal advantage of being in extra innings is you can tell it like it is, say what you think, and largely eschew political caution," [Robert Lutz, vice chairman of GM] says. "I often ask, rhetorically, if they don't like it, what are they going to do? Send me into early retirement?"