How Generation Z are different and how to coach them.
Generation Z are not like the generation before them. If we don’t take into account generational difference we could find ourselves coming unstuck or confused perhaps by the person sitting in front of us. We have to be fundamentally aware of a few glaring differences between them and the generation before them so that we can effectively coach. So what do I think coaches need to know about generation Z?
- They will most likely not tell you the truth. Now I’m not saying they will lie and I’m not saying that they would do this on purpose but this is a generation that is very used to telling adults what they think they will you want to hear. They are a generation that has absorbed the messages of the adults around them and they have already been surveyed to death. They’ve been told they’re not confident, they’ve got bad body image and they are obsessed with Instagram and the perfect selfie. When you ask a question they know the answer you want to hear as they have read it in the Daily Mail countless times, heard their parents and teachers telling them. So when questioned they give the answers we trained them to. So when you asked this generation a question and get an answer you may need to ask another five questions to figure out if that is really the case; don’t take that first answer as necessarily what that person really thinks because I can absolutely guarantee you what they giving you is the stock response that they believe most adults want to hear.
- This generation are the most emotionally intelligent generation we’ve ever seen, very used to talking about their feelings, very used to naming and labelling those feelings often incorrectly and I think for someone who’s never worked with this generation before it might be quite shocking. The first time meeting you they may tell you without any coaxing whatsoever about how they went to the bathroom and made themselves sick because they were so anxious that day. They often wear these types as a badge of honour. They are very good at self-deprecating, as this to them is normal behaviour. Things that leave us saying “what the …” is everyday life to this generation. I think as coaches it’s our job to stay there with them, not be shocked, not be put off or over-react because that will only add to the challenges that are already there. I think as coaches we have to change our remit slightly with this Generation and we have to be the ones trying to figure out if this person has really got a problem or whether they think they have a problem, which I know is a really difficult line to walk, as I do every day. In my experience if someone hasn’t changed after about six sessions or not making any progress then the problem is probably something that needs to be referred on. But this generation all think they have a problem, every single one of them will have labelled themselves or someone else will have labelled them with what looks like a mental illness. Don’t accept that without further questioning, without working with that person, without trying to figure out if this really is an issue that needs referring or if it is just what they think. I can’t tell you the amount of children that I have worked with that have told me they’ve been anxious or depressed when actually further investigation is that that is not the case at all, it’s just a word that they are using. This generation will use words that are normally for serious mental issue as everyday language.
- This generation has a very tiny network of people that influence them. The generation before them was influenced by lots of things; they had huge networks and cared about things beyond their social circle. This generation might make you think they care about the world and have large social networks but actually that small amount of people influencing them is generally their friends or their family and if we think that they are being influenced by celebrities or reading magazines or Instagram influences we’d be wrong. If we really want to work with this generation we must find out who they are and what’s important to them. We need to be asking questions about their friends and family, really digging into who they are, not how they are presented in front of others. We can’t coach the shiny version of themselves, we want the real version, the version that is reserved for those that really know them and no generation before has ever been able to switch between these two versions so easily. Don’t take them at face value.
- Despite what we may think, this generation craves real communication; they crave realness in everything they do. They’ve grown up in a digital world and rather than it making them tech addicts it is turning them to vintage record players, letter writing, face-to-face gatherings and hard back books. I even had one ask me the other day where they could get a VHS video player! They are craving experiences outside of the digital world; don’t assume that because you have a digital native in front of you that they want all their experience in the digital world. As coaches we can talk to them about realness, about things that make them feel great, things that make them feel connected. We can have much deeper conversations with this generation than we’ve had with the generations previously. They are a traditional, caring generation who wants to connect, want to be real and will bring back so many we thought the digital world had swallowed forever. They are not the zombie, phone-led people that we are made to believe they are, so talk to them like that, help them get real connection, help them feel more real and they might just remind you of the beauty that exists in the world.