The Question Matters

Trey Finley, Gleek Extraordinaire

I’m hooked. I’m a Gleek.

“Glee” performs the music of my generation.  For some in Generation X, it’s the music of their high school and college years.  For me, it’s the music of my elementary and junior high years.  Either way, it’s a blast from the past.

The cast of Glee is good.  Really good.  I get chills when I hear Rachel Berry and her mom (played by Idina Menzel, who was part of the original cast of Wicked) sing together.  It blows me away that Cory Monteith–the actor who plays lead singer Finn Hudson–is singing for just about the first time in his life.  Sue Sylvester, the coach of the cheerleader team, has to be the funniest character on TV.  I’d tune in just to watch her banter with Mr. Shuester.

Lest you think the show is pure cheese, there’s a character who’s gay and struggling to relate to his father.  There’s the teacher with a Downs’ Syndrome sister who spends her free time caring for her.  There’s a paraplegic who performs on stage with the other students, but dreams to be free of the wheelchair.  There’s a character who gets pregnant and a character who says “no” when pressured to have sex.  And there’s the glee club diva turned cheerleader (then back to glee club diva) who struggles with her self-image, especially her weight.

Glee, like Generation X, dares you to accuse it of being shallow.  In a recent review of the show by the Los Angeles Times, their TV critic had this to say:

“Glee” is, in many ways, a very modern show, addressing topics usually reserved for serious drama — teen pregnancy, a father coming to terms with his gay son — in what is essentially a musical comedy that more than occasionally borders on camp. Over and over again, the message is: Don’t judge.


Are Generational Descriptions Nothing More than Labeling?

Posted in Career,Coaching,Generation X,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on June 7, 2010
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Getting back on the blogging horse this week, having been bucked off by what was actually a very encouraging week in my coaching business world.  I’ll start nice and easy with this warning: caution should be used when applying generational descriptions.

Bucking Myths about Gen Y in the Workplace.  If you’re supervising someone under the age of 30, here’s a quick read on some common misconceptions about employees under the age of 30.  Gen X supervisors–this article is an invitation to pursue coaching skills.

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same.  It’s a long read, but here’s a nugget from the middle that’s important to remember when you’re exasperated by someone under 30–chances are, someone said similar things about you when you were under 30.  Both this article and another by Neil Howe discuss whether Gen Y is less empathetic than other generations.  My two cents–the results of these studies don’t jive with my experiences with middle school, high school, and college students.

Labeling Can Do More Harm than Good. Here’s a cautionary post from a Gen Y writer about the dangers of trying to label an individual with a generation’s traits.  The author overstates his case, in my opinion. However, if someone had preconceived notions of who I am as a Gen X member (aloof, jaded, latch-key, etc.) and made decisions affecting my life based on those preconceived notions, I might respond in a similar way.  There’s a line between generational descriptions and labeling members of a generation.

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.

    Gen X can teach Gen Y how to save and spend

    Posted in Generation X,Generation Y,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on May 10, 2010
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    Sometimes lost in the Gen X’s frustration over the late retirement plans of Boomers is this eventual complication–Gen Y isn’t saving, which has several potential consequences.  First, it means they could be creating similar problems for the generations that succeed them.  It could also result in a lack of appreciation of how over leveraged, under-funded budgets affect our overall economy.  (Surely anyone paying attention for oh, the last two and half years, should have some sense of this.)   Will they be able to afford homes with their current debt level?  You can probably think of many more.  In that vein, I’ve been saving links for a little while about the finances of Gen Y.  Let me say to my generation–Gen X–that this represents an opportunity: the opportunity to share what we’ve learned with those coming after us.  Here’s a summary of a few articles I’ve read recently.

    First, the reality: Gen Y has lots of debt and no savings, and with their excess of debt (short-term and long-term) they do not have good prospects for saving any time soon.  Generation Y’s steep financial hurdles: Huge debt, no savings –

    Article 1: My friend jenx67 shared this link today, which put me over the top to share these links I’ve been working on.  Lots of great books, internet tools, and a Gen Y writer’s transparent budget.  The author recently shared his net worth.

    Article 2: Written by a Gen Y member herself, this author shares the follow stats while lamenting her generation’s lack of financial savvy.  Try these stats on for size.

    • The median credit-card debt of low- and middle-income people aged 18 to 34 is $8,200.
    • The average college debt for recent grads is more than $20,000 and rising.
    • People between the ages of 25 and 34 make up 22.7% of all U.S. bankruptcies (but just 14% of the population at large), according to a recent report.

    Article 3: Here’s an article that’s light on the wrist-slapping and heavy on the practical tools.

    Article 4: Finally, this blog subtitle that sums it all up: “Living like no one else so that later we can live like no one else.”

    A little transparency on my part: my wife and I started strong in our marriage, quickly getting a leg up on at least 90% of our friends.  That’s much less so now, what with a layoff, two entrepreneurs in the house, and a recession that has restored many of our investments to their pre-2008 state, but still represents two years of stagnant growth (which beats the precipitous drop we saw).  What that stock market return has not done is magically increase our income.  It has taught us to better differentiate what we need to spend vs. what we want to spend.  I’ve got something I can teach my younger friends, and I can teach it as much from my failures as my successes.

    Market, Close, Satisfy, Repeat

    The “repeat” in the title isn’t an encouragement to “market close satisfy” over and over again.  Rather, it’s a healthy reminder today from a writer at Entrepreneur magazine–the cost of repeat business is a fraction of the cost of finding new clients. It’s much better for your time, your money, and your stress to build a base of repeat customers.   Read the entire article here.  This was a good reminder to me that re-inventing the wheel is almost always a long slow way to make a profit.

    The author offers five principles for building repeat business:

    1. Be diligent with your database.
    2. Make your communication personal and personable.
    3. Make it easy for your customers to buy and keep buying.
    4. Decide what you can promise your customers.
    5. Test and measure everything.

    The article has me wondering, what does repeat business in the professional services industry look like?  Hmmmmm…


    On a different note, you should read JenX67‘s post today about a writer convinced that Gen X is too polite to lead, and that our politeness will lead to Gen Y getting promotions to executive level positions before they’re 30.  In coaching, we call that “distorted judgment,” in essence believing and behaving as if 1 + 1 = 3.

    As a voice for Gen X, Jen is annoyed and it’s hard to blame her.  I’ll take a more pragmatic perspective and suggest that, if indeed a Boomer wants to skip over their Gen X employee’s experience, patience, and wisdom for Gen Y’s idealism, youth, and inexperience, they better invest in coaching for those young leaders now.

    Generational UFC

    Posted in Career,Generation X,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 5, 2010
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    Generational Battle Brews Over Gilded Baby-Boom Pensions | GOVERNING.

    From the Life Course blog…this is a prime example of an opportunity for leaders to be mutually submissive rather than territorial and overly protective.  And that’s true for Gen X and Gen Y in this scenario as much as for Boomers.  The article is six months old, and it’s not new news, really.  Boomers make (or have made) a lot of money, Gen X and Gen Y are in a tough career and financial position, where will the retirement money be, etc., etc.

    If you want to see generational dynamics in its rawest form, read through some of the comments on this post.  A skirmish in the “battle” the author refers to takes place in his own article.  Comments in political or financial articles aren’t exactly thoughtful debate, but the raw emotion displayed there is a fitting example of how, when generations disagree, listening goes straight out the window.

    P.S.  Thanks to a blogging friend, junkdrawer67, for featuring my blog.

    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.

    Dave McCleary on Leadership Transition: Get Coached Up

    Posted in Change,Coaching,Generation X,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 4, 2010
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    This is the close of a series of blog posts that began with a telephone meeting with Dave McCleary.  Following that phone call and an assessment that he provided for me, he sent me a copy of his book Leaving Prisons. In it, he describes 25 different “prisons” that keep us from leading as we’re capable.  In his correspondence with me, Dave confesses to struggling with each one of these prisons at various times in his life.  Suffice to say his book is not theoretical in nature.  It is narrative, it is honest, and maybe just maybe a bit on the autobiographical side.

    Recently, Forbes magazine published an article Dave wrote about the transition in leadership from Boomers to Gen X/Gen Y.  In this series, I’ve reflected on David’s thoughts about transitioning leadership from one generation to the next, and the challenges associated with doing so.  There must be no doubt on who that next leader will be.  The power inherent in leadership must be shared.  That example is set through the sharing of power with the successor.  Finally, the leader must go beyond simply sharing power to modeling mutual submission with his/her successor.

    Dave’s final comment is this:

    They both need an understanding and wise guide/coach to make it through – meeting with them individually and together monthly or 2x/month would be essential to making this happen well.

    It goes without saying that I agree.  A wise guide/coach is, among other things, someone who:

    • Understands generational dynamics
    • Sincerely appreciates the values that both generations bring to the table.
    • Asks penetrating questions that get at the heart and soul of leadership so that what is passed along is not just the tangible elements of leadership but the intangible

    Whether it’s business, family, church, or NFP, the passing of leadership from one generation to the next should be neither haphazard nor clumsy.  Know your next leader, share power with that next leader, mutually submit to one another, and do it with your eyes wide open and a third set of eyes on you both.

    The Land of If Only

    Posted in Change,Family,Generation X,Leadership,People Watching by treyfinley1008 on April 29, 2010
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    A transparent and authentic post from a blog I read today.  Wise words for those of you out there hearing regret’s footsteps close behind…

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