Last summer, I revisited some important business lessons as I observed the experiences of my two sons, Michael and Adam, and Alexa Scorda to, my social media sidekick. Although they were just starting either their college or professional careers, we discussed many times over the lessons that I had learned in my 30 years since I graduated (I can’t believe it was that long ago):
Work hard and train hard because there are no shortcuts to success.
Love the work you do or else work just becomes work.
Help others help themselves if you want to achieve true greatness.
Looking back at the last 10 months with Alexa, my BFF at Mzinga, I know for a fact that Alexa has internalized these lessons and more. Working side by side with me, she’s seen the amount of work it takes to build a business, the type of passion needed to persevere, and the fundamental principle that we all must “give to get.” She has also learned the hard lessons of this economy and the difficult decisions leaders must make to build and sustain their companies during good and bad times.
Afew months ago, Alexa came into my office to deliver the message that she wasresigning from Mzinga. The news wasn’t asurprise because I could tell there was something weighing heavily on hermind. She expressed her desire to pursue her life’s dreams, to enjoy every moment of work (given how much there was ofit), and to fundamentally change the world in the process.
Having talked to my sons and other young professional’s of Alexa’s age (she’s 22), I am finding that Alexa’s sentiments aren’t unique. The question is, what canbusiness leaders of my generation do today to help these young professionals be successful and achieve their dreams — not just become cogs in the world offinance, consulting, or today’s definition of industry?
I recently conducted a webinar with Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital, and we discussed this idea of workforce management as it relates to the rise of the Millennial generation. There are tons of young, brilliant minds out there like Alexa’s and my two sons who are eager to work hard, yet they’refinding themselves completely lost within the enterprise or worse, unsatisfied, under appreciated and under utilized. Given this reality, how do we adapt our organizations to meet theirneeds and in the process, turn their passions into profits and productivity gains?
Working with Alexa, I learned the following:
1. Mentorship is a two way street: Every traditional leader today can benefit by hiring an assistant who is proficient in today’ssocial technologies. Working with Alexa,she helped me expand my presence across multiple social platforms, and forcedme to stick to a regular blogging and twitter schedule. The secret to social media buy-in at theexecutive level is really to have a digital native work side-by-side andreverse mentor leaders on these new tools.
2. The best business intelligence can be gleaned in the most unexpected places: I learned a lot about Mzinga from my conversations with Alexa. She often had insight into the way the company was functioning and the culture that was developing around the water cooler. AsI’ve said many times, social interactions are the future of business intelligence (both online and offline). Having a role in and ear to those ‘grass root’ conversations is critical to success into day’s connected society.
3. You can’t buy loyalty, you have to earn it: Any leader who thinks that a salary can create loyalty amongst their employees is wrong. Any leader whothinks that a price point on a product can establish loyalty with customers isalso wrong. Loyalty is based on honest, authentic and transparent two-way communications. I’ve invested an endless amount of hours mentoring as well as listening to Alexa, AND I know that thedividends that I earned will continue to pay dividends well past her last daywith us.
In the end, we can choose to look at young professionals as inexperienced,untrained people with little skills other than texting and writing on eachother’s walls. But in my book, theypossess the skills that every company and every leader needs as they expand their social capabilities and build social networks that will help the minnovate, serve customers and market their products and services. In short, if we want to be successful asleaders today, we need to listen to them, learn from them, and be mentored bythem. Together, we will find ourselves building better, more connected and more social enterprises.