Advice from a Boomer to a Millennial – Part 2

A few years ago, I wrote a blog offering advice from a Baby Boomer entrepreneur to Millennials. Now, I have some additional thoughts to share.

  1. Create your own opportunities. Nothing should stop you from creating and pursuing your own opportunities. They are not going to be handed to you, so do not have an expectation that someone is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Here is an opportunity that I think would be perfect for you.” I was very fortunate early in my career to work for an entrepreneur who allowed me free rein. I had certain roles and accountabilities that I was expected to perform. But after that, I was free to dream and take the steps necessary to make those dreams a reality. It was important that the opportunities I created did not conflict with our organization’s values and goals. I made more mistakes than I can count, but none were so serious that they would have sunk the ship. Too many people today seem to be in a “waiting mode.” Rather than dreaming big dreams and making them a reality, they think that someone else is going to give them direction and structure. Believe me when I tell you that this mindset will only end up in frustration and resentment the longer it persists.
  2. Work for/with honorable people. Another fortunate aspect to my career was the fact that the entrepreneur for whom I worked was an honorable man. He was tough and old-school with many of his leadership traits and tendencies, but he was as honest and fair as the day is long. I had job offers along the way but always thought, “I am able to create my own opportunities and work for a person of integrity. What more could I want?” The grass-is-greener syndrome that many people face was never a factor for me. Now that I lead our collection of companies it warms my heart to know that one of our five core values is Integrity and we have created an entire organization with hundreds of honorable people.
  3. Make your own happiness. We have all heard it said that happiness comes from within. This is 100% true. How many times have you (or a colleague) said that when your compensation reaches a certain level or you have a specific amount of money in the bank, that you (or a colleague) can relax a bit and be happier? There is no question that material wealth can make life easier. But easier does not necessarily translate into happiness. When we make our own happiness, we are channeling our passion in ways that are satisfying to us. Passion and happiness go hand in hand. Find your passion and chances are you will be a happy person.
  4. What the heck is boredom? This one stumps me. I have never been bored a minute in my life. And yet I hear adults talk about being bored all the time. As a kid life was full of wonder and excitement. I grew up in a time long before video games, the Internet and 24-hour stimulation. If any of us kids ever thought about being bored, our parents would read our minds and make us go pull weeds in the yard or scrub out garbage cans. My grandkids talk about being bored which is amazing considering all the toys and tools to which they have access. Boredom comes from being too one-dimensional. If we are curious about all things in life, there is never a chance to be bored because we are always learning something new. I will never forget Saturday afternoons as an eight-year-old grabbing the World Book Encyclopedia annual update and reading about so many different things. If you tend to become bored, consider creating a bucket list of things you would like to learn and do, and then get to it. This does not have to be the “Climb Mt. Everest” type of aspirational bucket list but could be as simple as learning to play the piano or reading a book in a genre that you would not ordinarily consider. Simply put, boredom is a complete and total waste of life.
  5. Live a positive life. We all have a choice to make. Do we maintain a positive mindset or a negative one? Other people do not dictate our mindset. To me, the choice has been a total no-brainer. If I can be positive and happy or negative and miserable, what choice is there really? Life is far too short to wallow in despair and negativity. If there is only one piece of advice that I can give you, it is to always, always, always stay positive and look for the silver linings in everything, for they are there.

Here is wishing you the ability to create your own opportunities, work for and with honorable people, make your own happiness, never be bored, and live a positive life. YOLO!

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Coach-Entrepreneur

There is a lot of talk these days about mentoring. Many members of Generation X and Generation Y (Millennials) have told researchers that having a mentor is of high importance to them. As a Baby Boomer, I take great pleasure in being called upon to mentor other entrepreneurs. But as the CEO of our family of companies, I made the mistake of also thinking that I could be a mentor to some of the up and coming leaders in our organization. Over the years, this realization has become more apparent to me and its subtlety is what tripped me up.

By my definition, a mentor is an advisor and nothing more. The mentee can take what the mentor offers and do with it what he or she wishes. A mentor typically has no “skin in the game” where the mentee is concerned. As a result, the mentor freely dispenses advice and opinions without an agenda. CEOs should not try to be mentors within their own companies. Why? Because they clearly have an agenda which is first and foremost shaped around what is in the company’s best interest. In my experience trying to be a mentor to a handful of leaders in our firm has not worked effectively. They are deferential to a fault because I am the CEO. They listen to what I have to say differently than if I were outside the organization. For example, when I challenge them with a particular question or premise, they take it as gospel. The relationship of the CEO to any member of the team is going to be such that a true mentoring relationship will be very difficult.

So, what is an appropriate role for a CEO to play in developing leaders within his or her company? I have found that becoming a coach is the right path to take. Let us use sports as the metaphor here. The coach is a teacher. He/she may call the plays from the sidelines until a sufficient level of expertise and trust is developed with the players to allow them to call their own plays. A coach should be wise and compassionate; yet there are times when he may be appropriately demanding and exacting.

Gen Xers and Millennials are well-served to understand the distinction between coaching and mentoring. I believe that a future leader should have both. Find a mentor who is older and has plenty of experience outside the company. By building extensive relationships throughout the community, one can usually connect with someone who may be willing to serve in a mentoring capacity. Then, try and establish a coaching relationship with a superior inside the company, assuming the individual has a coaching personality. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with certain people in positions of authority who are insecure and have power issues. I submit that it is healthy for the organization to move away from the boss-employee mentality and develop an attitude of coach-player.

CEOs and members of their teams can be fulfilled by a healthy coaching relationship. And an outside mentor can be the icing on the cake.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

A Boomer’s Advice to Millennials

Baby Boomers and Millennials. Two massive generations – 74.9 million Boomers and 75.4 million Millennials, and as different as night and day. But then, most generations are quite different. And I’m sure that every older generation shakes its collective head about the younger generation. The music, the attire, the idioms and the social mores are all puzzling to both. There’s no doubt from a work perspective that Boomers and Millennials aren’t always on the same page. For the sake of generational harmony I want to offer some ideas that hopefully will be helpful in bridging the gap.

  1. Use the phone. As a Boomer I’m a telephone guy. I use e-mail extensively but have learned that it’s not always the right communications tool for every situation. Why? Because it’s one-dimensional. E-mail – and I include text messages, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn messaging and Snapchat in this category – is dangerous for complex subjects that requires interpretation, and for situations where there is the potential for conflict. I’ve seen too many instances of hurt feelings stemming from what someone read (and misinterpreted) in an e-mail. Many of my Millennial friends and colleagues aren’t as inclined to use the telephone. I urge them to do so when the subject needs more than just a factual recitation.
  2. See people in person. No, this advice does not contradict what I previously said about using the phone. The personal touch is all about building relationships and culture. It’s much harder to do sitting behind a desk or a computer screen. I really enjoy getting out of my office multiple times during the day and going to see someone else in person – inside and outside our office. This gives me a chance to “read” the feelings of another person with whom I’m interacting. And I can clarify anything about my communications when I notice puzzlement or discomfort emanating from the other party. By the way – if I can’t meet someone in person, I’d much rather connect via a videoconference than just an audio phone call for all of the same reasons.
  3. Build relationships. Meeting people in the flesh is all part of the relationship building process. And relationships are the lifeblood of success in entrepreneurship. I subscribe to the philosophy that I want to avoid trying to “sell” anything to someone else. Instead, I want to be in a position to help them “buy.” I strongly believe that this is much easier to accomplish through relationships. Ultimately the foundation for my relationships is service. I want to serve other people in whatever way I can without the thought of quid pro quo. I’ve seen firsthand how the world embraces this. When I do good for others without any expectation from them in return – great and wonderful things happen to me. It’s that simple.
  4. Develop resilience. Millennials, guess what? We Boomers may have been too protective of our offspring when they were young. Life isn’t fair and the same goes for business. When we avoid all thoughts of victimization and concentrate on perseverance we eventually succeed. Quitting is not an option but being smarter than the problem is. Get up off the ground, dust yourself off and figure out a different way to get the result you are seeking.
  5. Differentiate. Speaking of a different way, the world keeps becoming more competitive. It’s more important than ever to find a way to differentiate our products, services and even ourselves. This means becoming more creative, more innovative and more customer-centric. Believe me when I say that understanding true differentiation requires a lot of heavy lifting. Those who think this is a relatively easy task are missing the fact that there’s a great deal of nuance in differentiation. This means that the customer must really perceive the value of differentiation – it doesn’t matter that’s how we see it.
  6. Be prepared to sacrifice. We all want work/life balance. But I’m sorry to say that it’s not always possible. As Boomers, it was ingrained in us that hard work was necessary to get ahead. That meant “paying our dues” and making many sacrifices early in our career. As Millennials, you may not have to be as obsessed as were we. However you will have to make sacrifices at some level to achieve great things. We worked hard and a lot. You will need to work hard, but you can also work smart. The key today is to replace working a lot with working smart.

Baby Boomers and Millennials have much to learn from each other. I believe that the advice I’m offering as a Boomer transcends generations. Hopefully you will find it helpful in your life.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 68 – Danger Will Robinson; Danger!

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.