March 3, 2014

"X, Y, BOOM"

"The Times They Are a-Changin'" was released in 1964 which, coincidentally, is the same year as the end of the baby boomer births. I happen to be part of that generation and as I race towards my 54th birthday (June 8th: cards and gifts appreciated), I notice a lot more gray spreading through my hair. My facial hair, if I allowed it to grow out, would make me literally a gray beard. After more than a quarter of a century as a member, spending some of those years engaged in leadership roles, I am figuratively and literally a gray beard. I remember, like it was yesterday, my first day on my local's board of directors, age 34. I was "that" group of membership, the new kid on the block, but still, I was a baby boomer. As one of the new and younger board members, my thoughts and ideas were heard, but not truly listened to by my elder statesman (and one woman which was another issue back then!) on the board. 
Well, here I am almost 20 year later and I'm the elder statesman. I realized something along the way; I was taught to mentor, to listen to other, fresher points of view and to make sure I did my part to prepare the association for the future, well after I was gone. 

The association wasn't meant for me to rule. The association was meant to protect my industry and safeguard it to the best of my volunteer abilities. The one thing I did not do was think about the next generation. Lately, over the past 5-6 years, I self taught social media mechanics and application, created Facebook pages and Linkedin groups as well as engaged on Twitter. What I didn't realize was the next generation, X and Y, were already here in full force on social media. The Millennials are as well. I then look around our federation and realize we are not making inroads towards the  future of NAHB.

When we get married and start families, we are setting the course for our family's continued growth. We raise our children into adults, preparing them to start their own families perhaps. And on it goes. This is the way it has been for life, but why would we think our association is different from life? Are we preparing our "family" for its future or are we living in the here and now and letting  the next generation fend for themselves? 

Just so you know, the average age of an NAHB member is now 56 years old with the average age of our board over 60 years old. Where is the youth? Where will the future protectors of NAHB come from? We can certainly try and invite Gen X & Y, but they need to have a focused purpose. They have young families that take away or limit their volunteer time. X & Y have a dramatically different business climate to navigate and it's extremely difficult to break free for extended periods of time. Even if X & Y could participate, would they be listened to by the 50 plus year old  NAHB leaders, who sometimes could be set in their ways and have no appetite for change,  in discussions of association direction?
Change is going to happen whether the current NAHB leaders believe that or not. They just have to remember back when they were the new kids on the block. If we don't begin to incorporate the next generation everything we baby boomers worked for within NAHB will be in jeopardy of fading away. If you believe what you are currently doing as a volunteer is for the greater good of our industry,  you would be derelict in your role as an NAHB leader not to embrace the enviable; we must bring in the next generation. Now.

Gen X & Y will not;

  • participate if the purpose is not clearly defined
  • engage if meetings are long and not settled with a clear cut decision of action
  • will not leave their families for full weeks at a time
  • will not want to be involved with political positioning of others

NAHB Membership committee is currently forming a working group to start looking at tools to help the locals recruit Gen X & Y into the local, as members first, and then mentor to bring them into association leaders.  This working group will not have the traditional members or staff, meaning those who have been around. No, this working group is being comprised of, wait for it..... Gen X & Y members and staff. Hopefully, when all is said and done, the findings of this group will be sent out for discussion.

Generational change starts at the grass roots level which are the local HBAs. This gray beard fully understands that change will come. I won't resist, I'll embrace. What say you?

No comments: