Just The Beginning
Here we are, just 14 days into 2017, and it has been an absolutely wonderful year so far. In addition to some extremely exciting and unexpected things springing up on the professional front, every year in January I launch a new cohort of my gen-xyb™ program. This inter-generational leadership development program I run for women enables them to spend dedicated time over the course of the year advancing their leadership skills, gaining exposure to thought leadership, frameworks, tools and techniques they can leverage to great effect as leaders in the workplace, and building new relationships across multiple industries to both expand and deepen their network.
Every year I am impressed and inspired by the women that make up the cohort for the year. These are women that highly committed to their own advancement and growth both personally and professionally, and to providing support to other women on that same journey. As we took time at the kickoff for the women to get to know one another, and heard the perspectives of this array of women from different industries, different business functions, and different generations, you could feel the palpable sense of energy, excitement and anticipation as the women started to engage with one another and taste the potential of what they can accomplish both individually and collectively in the program over the course of the year.
By way of facilitating the introductions this year, I had assigned each pair of women a unique set of questions which they responded to as part of their introducing themselves to the group. The conversation that transpired and the observations and insight that was shared amongst the group as we navigated through these topical introductions was powerful. I have picked out just three of the many nuggets of collective wisdom from the group to share with this broader audience, in the desire to take some of the energy and inspiration that was generated in that room and pass it along to you.
Age does not matter; it is about the skills
We live in an era where teams are mixed across all ages, where someone from a younger generation could be managing someone from an older generation, and where age is not a de facto indicator of what you bring to the table. As people seek out your advice on how they can keep progressing and get to that next level, the emphasis is no longer on how many years you have put in to something, but rather on the skills you have amassed along the way. Lifelong learning becomes a key for your own continued career progression, and building up an inventory of stories about what people have done successfully to get them to where they are today becomes a powerful coaching tool that you can use as you in turn guide others who come to you to seek out your advice.
Continue to cultivate the skill and power of storytelling
The ability to tell stories and impart a vision and lessons learned through those stories is an extremely valuable skill for leaders to possess. The Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers tend to take the time to make greater use of this important tool. For them, spending some time in a meeting to engage in that storytelling is fundamental to the journey of accomplishing business objectives. For our Millennials (also known as Gen Y), the focus is so much more on efficiency – get to the meeting, stick to a tight agenda, be succinct and to the point, do not waste time, get the meeting wrapped up and get back to work. There is a recognition by the Millennials that in adopting that philosophy, they place less value and emphasis on the skill and use of storytelling for leaders, and they are noticing the negative impact of that absence of storytelling as a leadership skill. It is extremely important that as we collaborate across the generations, we continue to illustrate and cultivate this skill across all generations of future leaders.
Your best yes, and learning to say no
As we spoke about taking risks in your career, there was commentary on how it can be easier to take professional risks earlier in your career, and that some women are then finding that they get to a stage where they need to start taking risks that on a more personal level to enable them to take better care of themselves. This is not easy, as typically by the time you get to that point, so many stakeholders are pulling on you both personally and professionally, that those risk choices are magnified in terms of their potential repercussions. It therefore becomes critical to carefully evaluate ‘your best yes’, and to get very comfortable with saying ‘no’. Those two things are not necessarily opposite sides of the same coin.
This is just the beginning, just a tiny taste of the journey this group of talented women are headed on as part of their 2017. It is an honor and a privilege to lead them on this journey. I hope that all of you reading this post are in turn inspired for your own 2017 journey, and that as part of that journey you continue to learn, you work on developing your own leadership stories, and you make those important choices about which opportunities warrant your best yes and where you need to establish boundaries by saying ‘no’. Here is wishing all of you a wonderful 2017. It is just the beginning of the year…make the most of it!