The Question Matters

Are You Willing to Work So That You Can Work to Live?


Texas Rangers (baseball)

It's Time.


I am the master of my schedule.  If an opportunity to spend some extra time with my family comes up, I will often take it.  If the Texas Rangers are playing (hopefully for a while longer) I’ll cut off work a little early to make sure I can catch the game on TV.  If I’m behind on paperwork at home, no big deal.  I’ll just get that done before I start with my work for the day.  Need a long lunch?  OK, I’m not on the clock.  I’ll take an extra 15 minutes and watch a favorite show on DVR.

My work is too often the master of my time.  If the iPhone is in my pocket, I’m always tempted to pick it up even at family activities.  If I’m watching that Texas Rangers game, it may be with my MacBook in my lap dong a little busy work that didn’t get done.  Did I take a longer lunch?  That probably means I’ll close up shop at 10 that night instead of 9:30.

The notion that we can work to live, not live to work is monumental mental shift.  It may be the biggest shift in workforce dynamics since the labor unions a century ago.  In that time, workers stood up for their rights to a decent wage, vacation time, respect in the workplace, and legal force they did not have alone.  Today, workers are standing up for their rights to choose the times they’ll work, how they do that work, and where they do that work.

James Townsend:

For those of us in Generation X and those in the Baby Boomer generation, we’ve been known to say we “live to work” and often connect our self-identification with our job/occupation.  For those in the Millennial generation, they “work to live” and value time with friends, family over time spent at work.  This generation is more likely to tell their boss when they plan to come to work and when they plan to leave, as there are important things to do outside of work – yoga, exercise, movies, etc…Balancing work and life is vitally important to this generation but not as much for the current generation of office managers and organizational leaders.  The challenge for the Millennial employee is understanding and respecting the structure of the organization

I want that balance in my work life, too.  As a business coach with a passion for younger entrepreneurs, I want them to achieve that balance.  And it must be achieved. It won’t happen by brute force or unreasonable demands.  If the under-30 workforce wants work/life balance, it will have to be earned, either by the slow but steady change of large organizations or by the re-invention of the workplace on your own terms, in your own business.

Either way will require a lot of work.


Changes with Every Generation

Posted in Change,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on August 10, 2010
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The debate about the uniqueness of each generation will always be lively, in part because the points of debate say at least as much about the person making the argument as they do about the generation for which they stand.  Dynamics between generations are more complex that simply the date on which I was born and the broad trends evident in people born roughly the same time as me.  I prefer to think of generational change as resting more in a gradual shift rather than a sudden change in course.

I’ve been reading Tim Elmore lately, and following his tweets (@TimElmore).  He’s the founder and president of Growing Leaders, a NFP created to develop emerging leaders, especially those in the latter half of Generation Y, born 1990 or later.  His focus on the latter half of Generation Y resonates with my take on generational dynamics.  Rather than speaking for a 20-25 year window of people, he’s narrowed his focus to a ten-year window.

He posted this yesterday.  Occasionally, the observation is made that every generation has issues with previous generations, and that today’s newcomers to the workforce and to culture are simply experiencing the same growing pains.  Tim gives a qualified “yes,” listing these trends that make each generation’s changes a little different. I recommend reading his entire article, entitled Changes with Every Generation.

Which of these trends are you sensing the most?

1. With each new generation, time becomes more valuable.

2. With each new generation, expectations of convenience and service rise.

3. With each new generation, the demand for work to have meaning intensifies.

4. With each new generation, the hunger for options grows.

5. With each new generation, the sense of entitlement increases.

6. With each new generation, the need for speed and space goes up.

7. With each new generation, the desire for customization expands.

John Maxwell on Questions

Posted in Change,Coaching,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on August 2, 2010
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You can’t find the right answer if you’re asking the wrong question | John Maxwell on Leadership.

A quote from the blog post:

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.”

~Sir Antony Jay

Advocates for Millennial Workers Needed: Full-time Positions Available

Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 28, 2010
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Troy Stirman, ACU

A final thank you to Troy Stirman, who has played the role of conversant this week.  I appreciate Troy’s generosity with his time and his advocacy for Millennials entering the workforce.  I hope to have an opportunity to collaborate with Troy again in the future.  Troy is a career coach at Abilene Christian University in the College of Business Administration.  He also remains a business owner and is a certified resume writer.

The final piece of the puzzle today is the person. We’ve reviewed the pressure-packed job market.  Troy described the prime directive of Millennials entering the workforce: work/life balance.  You read the story of one Millennial student’s entrepreneurial response to a job he neither enjoyed nor believed in.  Then, you read of the Millennial willingness to buck the odds of a tough marketplace and consider moving jobs anyway.

It’s easy to lose sight of the very human dilemma that is being a young and hungry businessperson in a job market with fewer openings and more experienced workers available who are also in the market for a job.  It’s a tough situation, and here are some of the responses that Troy is seeing to the uncertain job market:

Parental Pressure:  The well-intentioned parent who encourages their student to “just get any job you can” create the real possibility of stifling hope in a young businessperson.  In Troy’s words, they’re “setting them up for failure.”

Paralyzing Fear: “Fear is a major motivating factor with this group…I’ve had some students show up to a career fair–where hiring managers were eager to talk to them–only to watch the student-graduate talk themselves out of approaching those who would ultimately change their destiny.”

Blissful Ignorance:  “Those graduates who have unrealistic expectations about job offers without doing their homework have a pretty rosy picture of what might be available to them.  While they are eager to begin their careers, many have not spoken with their career services professional about what is reasonably expected in today’s environment.”

Realism: “There are those who have prepared who understand what is at stake prior to graduation and have put in their time both in the classroom and in the public sector through internships.  These students have a healthy view of the job environment and their search proces is better vetted through this knowledge.  They tend not to give up as easily and persevere when the rejection letters come.”

Those of us 5,10, 20 years or more ahead of the newest members of the workforce must become advocates for these young workers.

If you’ve read my blog once, you know one of my biases.  No matter the hand dealt your/my generation, we each have a responsibility to coach and encourage those who will follow us.  Failure to understand a different age group is an excuse many hide behind.  So take a young employee or business owner out for coffee, and ask them some of these coaching questions:

  1. What’s most important to you right now?
  2. If you could go to sleep tonight knowing something about business would be forever altered in the morning, what possible change is going to keep you awake that night?
  3. What can you teach me about the under-30 workforce?  What do I need to understand that I don’t yet?  What can I learn from you?
  4. What’s one thing that everyone is convinced can’t be changed, but you think it can/should be changed?
  5. Imagine a time when you’re living your business dream.  What’s had to happen between then and now to get you to that point?

Thanks again, Troy!

Millennials in the Office: Will They Stay or Will They Go?

Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Fun,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on May 27, 2010
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You’re in human resources.  You’ve been told by your COO and your CFO that it’s your job to hire three employees for a bank branch where there were only two before.  And, while you’re at it, they’ll be expected to work under existing company policy manuals for that bank.  We just poured thousands of dollars into that thick book, after all.   Hire young, too.  That place could stand to look a little younger.  And did we mention that you’re going to have to hire three people using the same amount of money you were spending on only two before?

Posted on Linked In later that day…  “Dying bank branch needs rules followers willing to accept lower pay.  Business attire and long hours a must.  Benefits include medical insurance and 403(b) plan.  Apply by sending resume to

OK, it’s hyperbole, though some of you in HR may be thinking to yourself, “That was exactly what happened last Monday.”

Laugh it up, Fuzzball!

I start this way to point out some of the statistics about the turnover in jobs among Millennials.  When it comes to job-hunting, Millennials seem a bit like Han Solo, claiming, “Never tell me the odds.”  (That quote would be from The Empire Strikes Back, by the way, for all you non Gen Xers.)

According to the Labor Bureau’s study, 37% of Millennials are unemployed.  That employment rate is nearly four times the national rate for the workforce at large. Still, in spite of those odds, nearly 50% of all Millennials intend to look into other jobs in 2010.

    Why aren’t more Millennials enticed to stay put, especially given the realities of employment?  And, what can you the employer to do to steer them away from this stunning strategy of looking for work when 1 in 3 of their friends would be happy just to have a job?  Here’s Troy Stirman:

    Today’s graduates are not looking to work beyond 40 hours per week.  Too, they want an employer that shares their interest in community involvement… So-called “green” companies are high on their list when targeting organizations they wish to engage.  Traditional office settings are also being challenged by today’s generation of graduates.  Gen Y grads tend to look for flexible hours, some want to work from their home, and still others enjoy telecommuting from other locales.  With today’s mobile technology, these attitudes are fast becoming the norm…

    Today’s students resist professional dress.  No matter what feedback they gain from their interviews, most graduates don’t reflect the workforce of 10-15 years ago when it comes to proper business attire.  Flexibility is a given with this group…

    Childcare/health facilities.  Today’s graduates tend to leave children with daycare centers and work full-time for more of their career.  This generation is also more health conscious.  Companies who offer services such as in-house daycare facilities or who extend gym memberships as part of their benefits package will have leverage when luring quality candidates to their firm.”

    Tomorrow, I’ll share Troy’s thoughts on how Millennials are responding to the current job market–good and bad.  And I’ll throw in a couple of coaching points on the topic myself.

    Millennials: A New American Dream or Just Dreamers?

    Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on May 25, 2010
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    Millennials openly tell employers about their new American Dream. Work will not be their life, they only work to live because they seek a work/life balance. They want flexible benefits (such as telecommuting) and a work environment that feels like home away from home. They are willing to leave a company when they aren’t offered these things.

    via Gen Y has new ‘American Dream’.

    Troy Stirman:  By far the most oft quoted phrase in my office is: “I’m looking for work/life balance…”  Today’s graduates are not looking to work beyond 40 hours per week.

    OK, so this sounds great.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness needs to be possible in the workplace, too.  That’s the kind of job I would want.  In a corporate environment, it’s another story.  Some careers simply won’t lend themselves to this.  In other work environments, these ideas are so foreign to your Boomer supervisors and executives that to suddenly expect them is unrealistic.  Again, here’s Troy:

    …Hiring managers that I follow up with during the post-interview tell me consistently that today’s students sometimes have unrealistic expectations in this area.  The Accounting/Finance sector is one of these that will strongly resist these changes. It is not part of their mainstream culture.  Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations and I.T./I.S are more apt to engage in these types of work environments.

    So, is this a Dream or simply wishful thinking?  As the coach, here’s some of the questions I would ask:

    1)  What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to create this kind of workplace?

    2)  What are you doing to build bridges with those who can help you create this sort of workplace?

    3)  If it’s not in your blood to take your time to change a corporation’s culture, are you willing to take the higher stakes road of entrepreneurship?

    A story about someone who answered “yes” to #3 coming next.

    Troy Stirman, Career Coach

    Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 24, 2010
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    I met Troy Stirman recently at an Abilene Christian University alumni luncheon in north Dallas. I enjoy observing and commenting on the challenges Millennials face as they enter the workplace.  Troy lives in those challenges, coaching college graduates to prepare, enter, and thrive in the early years of their career. I’ll be posting snippets of an email interview I conducted with Troy throughout the week.  Here’s a taste of his perspective on this season in our economy’s workplace:

    For the first time in nearly 20 years, America is experiencing an explosive growth rate of new undergraduates entering the marketplace while at the same time enduring a struggling economy that has seen a sustained 10% unemployment rate. Today’s undergraduates are vying for entry-level positions alongside both educated and experienced candidates who may have experienced a layoff.  This puts tremendous pressure on today’s undergraduate students.

    If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that I think my generation–Gen X–can be for Gen Y what we wish Boomers had been for us in our careers.  n that vein, I hope that these interviews with Troy will be helpful to Millennials who are looking for a job or to those who know a Millennial who is.  More about Troy:

    Troy is a businessman with 20+ years of career experience that includes marketing/sales, professional development/fundraising, professional writing and business coaching.  He currently holds the Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) credential.  In addition to being the career coach for 900+ business and technology undergraduates for Abilene Christian University’s College of Business Administration, he is also a small business owner who assists clients from around the world with their professional writing needs.  His website is:

    The Deep Seas of Coaching

    Posted in Change,Coaching,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 19, 2010
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    I’m always on the lookout for metaphors that tell the story of good coaching.  Here’s one for your consideration: coaching is a deep sea dive.

    I’ve never been scuba diving before.  I confess that there’s something about being able to see only so deep that makes me nervous about the idea.  Underwater exploration just isn’t on my bucket list at this point.  There are two things that could change that plan, though.  The one most likely to overcome my timidity would be the knowledge that something “down there” could transform my life “up here.”  The other is if my interest in deep sea exploration suddenly outgrew my timidity.  In either case, I would be ready to change, and begin preparing for my first dive.

    If that readiness is present, then the dive begins with solid preparation at the surface.  Do you have what you need for the exploration of the deep?  An air tank?  Flippers?  Wet suit?  Light?  Best not to leave the boat without these and a few other items.  Stepping off the boat, and into the water, the diver turns his attention to the deeper waters, facing the deep rather than the shallow.  This dive requires strength as our body resists the changing pressure and its own buoyancy.

    Why dive?  Perhaps its pure exploration, exploration for its own sake.  Perhaps there is something to be found below that needs attention, even rescue.  Maybe something’s down there that needs to be brought to the surface.  Ocean biologists (someone help me with the correct title) tell us that there are very practical things that come from our ocean–the nutritional value of sea weed, for example.

    This is coaching.  Before a person is willing to consider coaching, there must be a willingness to learn and change.  The benefits of coaching must outweigh the reluctance to change and the comfort of sameness.  Without this piece, coaching is not impossible, but is much less fruitful.  It would be similar to someone putting on a snorkelers’ gear and expecting to see things few people ever see.

    If coaching is to me more than a metaphorical snorkeling adventure, then there must be a willingness to enter the ocean, fight the natural tendency to avoid deep transformation, and later emerge with very practical applications for what was learned in the dive.  What might be found in that dive?

    • An interpersonal tool that gets things done smoother and quicker
    • A new habit that transforms you from the outside in
    • A personal discovery that transforms your work, your family, and your relationships from the inside out
    • A new level of awareness of your impact on others

    I suppose coaching could be done just for the sake of coaching.  For me, it’s the discoveries that are brought to the surface and displayed for all to see that make coaching a joy and a pleasure.

    Permission to Fail, Permission to Learn

    Posted in Change,Coaching,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 14, 2010
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    “…the traditional role of trainer has morphed into a “stage manager,” making learning opportunities and tools available to talent who can drive their own learning, guided by their thirst for knowledge that will further their performance.”

    via Is Learning In Your Brand? | Human Capital Institute.

    I had dinner recently with a college friend.  He’s a great networker, he gets people, and as such, I know of very few individuals who are better at convincing someone that he/she needs what my friend has.  He hasn’t dabbled in car sales since college for nothing.

    What surprised me about my friend was his publicly traded company’s approach to performance: weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals set through outsourced software, reviewed by supervisors.  Performance had improved, he claimed.  I heard in his comments a hint of “they better improve or our business will continue struggling.

    I had difficulty lining up this incredibly personable guy with such an impersonal development plan.  And–I hope he’ll forgive me if he’s reading this–this sort of hierarchical evaluation is short-sighted. Clothed in the colors of accountability and productivity, it misses a crucial point in human development.  Performance is not necessarily an indicator of learning. Proactive learners given an environment where they can put their learning to work will always outperform individuals interested solely in performance. Who will ultimately “perform” at a higher level:

    • The child who learns through positive reinforcement and selective affirmation or the child kept in line by threats of punishment?
    • The teenager given dictated instructions or the teenager who experiences relationship-reinforced trial and error?
    • The employee/team/manager given permission to fail in their own ideas for achieving systems-sensitive goals or the ones who fear the consequences of failing to meet someone else’s expectations over which they have little or no control?

    Every person, in their own ways, needs permission to fail safely. Does your family, your church, and your business give you space to fail?  In my experience, relational approaches to life at all stages will drive learning and performance more than rules and regulations.

    Showing Your Career the Door

    Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Generation X by treyfinley1008 on May 4, 2010
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    I’ve been saying this a while: entrepreneurship is scary, fun, exciting, exhausting, and full of surprises.  And that’s just on Monday.  Entrepreneurship, with all its wild emotional and financial swings, will become a more appealing option.  This is especially true for members of Gen X who foresee little future and/or scarce promotions in their current profession. More and more “plateaued” employees will consider entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to their current workplace.

    You want to see your passions, your energy, and your job in better alignment.  If you could get the courage and the opportunity to take the entrepreneurial risk, you’ll do it.  Sometimes unemployment is just what was needed–a little push out the door that makes owning your own business more appealing.  You have less to lose, and more to gain.

    Business ownership often the next career move for the unemployed | Business Weekly Article | John Gibson | KITSAP PENINSULA BUSINESS JOURNAL.

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