April 17, 2015

Generational Shifts: Leadership Continuation

(note: when I refer to  the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) I am referring to all levels of the association, local state and national)

Today I'd like to follow up on last week's article, "Generational Shifts, Working for the Greater Cause," and include my opinion and thoughts on the future of NAHB leadership.
As NAHB continues towards the future, the present is constantly looking at "new blood" for boards and officers. State and national leadership depends mightily on the development of industry and association leaders that all come from the local level. It is only natural that the baby boomers are running out of potential candidates unless of course they bring back a past president to lead the charge once again. I applaud anyone who would offer to be of service, again, to lead an association. However if that reason is because no one from the next generation wants the responsibility then the leadership continuation process is broken. If it is broken or stumbling how can it be fixed?

The next generation, as written about in my past two articles (Generational Shifts and Generational Shifts, Working for the Greater Cause), has been placed in a box of misconceptions. Not because some of the "experts" are wrong. The misconceptions are for the overall, world view of Generation X and Y and not drilled down to NAHB specifically. While it is true that they value family time, are in an instant communication mindset and don't like associations, the misconceptions may really be lack of awareness, or worse yet, lack of in depth communication from nominating committees or current baby boomer leaders.

Let's list examples of some talking points for the boomers to successfully communicate the value of our association and and benefits derived from volunteer leadership. I will begin with atypical misconception/objection and follow with the counter;

  • "I don't have time to be involved with the association. I'm too busy with work."  If you, X or Y, are in the building industry for only a short period of time, then YES, you do not need to be active with the association. However, if this is your chosen career I would ask "how do you strategically prepare for your company for sustainability and growth? Do you have a 1 year, 3 year and 5 year plan? Where are you gathering the information to place you in optimal position to be as successful as you can possibly be?" They most likely will cite Google as a source to help them search for areas of expertise. However, as a point of fact, there is only one organization that is focused completely on the home building industry. Discuss with the next generation the features of being involved and then help them uncover the benefits of being involved. No bigger or better benefit is knowledge of your profession. So when an expert says the the next generation doesn't want to be involved with associations I would say that it is because they have a limited idea of what the association does for them on a specific basis. 
  • "I don't have the time to be involved on your board of directors." The common examples of a rejection for a committee appointment or a board seat are spousal, children and work. The association will take them away from those important factors (for single X & Y members, free time and work are the two main objections). My way of thinking on communicating the features of active roles within the association would be simply this; "spouses and children require 'things, such as a home to start begin your memories. Day trips or vacations that families enjoy. Uniforms for sports or scouts or equipment for sports or activities that require more than a uniform. You need to take time from work to go to sporting events or plays and parades so you can see and support your children and be the parent you need to be. You want to start a college savings account as well and prepare for your later years where your next chapter in life begins. I've been there and I can certainly tell you that this all takes dollars, and lots of them, with a stable source for ongoing funding." Only one organized body can help you achieve that financial security and longevity and that is our association. So when an expert says that the next generation doesn't want to be involved with associations, I will challenge them to let me know who else is out there protecting my income and my family's well being. 
  • "Mike, you're stilling not helping me understand why I should be on this association's board." Let me just say, and this is strictly my personal opinion,  that I will not rely on any one member to protect my present and future without my personal involvement. If I'm going to fail, it will not be because I did nothing. If I fail it's because I failed . Personally, I need to make sure that my interests are being protected. I would not invest in a 401K unless I knew what would harm it or what would grow it. The 401K example applies to the board, and I would again repeat the question "are you in this business for the short term or is this your career?" If it is a career, why wouldn't you want to know what could harm it or grow it?
How you decide to deliver above is key. You could write it in an association publication and hope it's read or you can deliver the message, like I also have done to two young professional groups. Writing the article will get your thoughts moving in a great direction. Your eventual success will be the in person/group conversation that will start the dialogue and lift this foggy veil away from the minds of Gen X and Y. How passionate you are about what the association has done for your career and financial well being will be the absolute key to bringing the next generation closer to association leadership. Incorporating the years with your own family responsibilities and business needs are key because you've literally been in their shoes.

 I'm not going to cover the roles of the association's officers. How the next generation fares with committees and boards will be on you, the established leaders at the local level. Change for the sake of change is not recommended. If your committees or board gets bogged down in minutiae while conducting business, have endless discussions on topics without clear cut relevance to the overall association cause or time certain dates, you will lose the next generation. If you cannot rein in your veteran members who are doomsayers and road blockers,  Generation X and Y will not be your next generation as officers or presidents. They do not have the patience for this type of volunteerism. Please don't think "good, who needs them!?" We all need them, for our future.

I am extremely fortunate to know so many leaders at national, and in my state, that have recognized the need to cultivate our future leaders. My hope is that others are recognizing that need as well. This part is extremely important and a very blunt end to this article. If you don't have the next generation at the local level, the state and then national leadership will eventually fade away and all that we have worked for will be for us and not the future we should care about. Every leader in our association, at every level, has one true responsibility and that is fiduciary responsibility for our association, its members and its future.



April 15, 2015

Generational Shifts: Working for the Greater Cause

Last week's article on generational shifts took off across the country and was viewed by close to 4,000 people in just one day. Emails that were sent to me were very positive and requests to reprint the article in HBA publications were numerous. There were a just handful of emails that were kinda, sorta positive with a touch of reprimand because the take away from the article was my recommending the "old folks" step aside for the new group. In two months I'll be 55, old enough to move into an adult retirement community. I have begun receiving emails and snail mails for the AARP and way too many people are calling me sir. I am with you, my fellow baby boomers, and I am not ready to step aside so I know I would never ask anybody else to step aside, unless of course you are blocking progress that is beneficial to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) welfare, stability and growth.

It's funny how an article can be read and perceived. 

I applaud the baby boomers within NAHB who stay active after 20, 30, 40 plus years of dedicated volunteerism. I just lost a very dear friend to cancer who was an NAHB leader and housing legend, nationally and at state, who was in the 55 plus range in years of extremely active volunteerism when he passed. He was a great mentor to me and others and believed that change in our NAHB, while inevitable, could and would include him because he stayed current with an eye and ear on tomorrow's advance. Yet there are some who aren't current with the ever changing, and at breath taking speeds, needs of a 21st century world and they can't see the proverbial forest for the trees. A few don't want to lose position, as if they are entitled to position and will protect it like a dog with a steak bone.  
Here's what we are all "entitled" to as building industry proponents and volunteers in NAHB; the right to help protect our industry in the present and since our present is always moving towards the future, we can confidently take pride in the fact that we are working towards a consistent, never ending vigilance to encourage the American Dream of home ownership. What we are not entitled to is holding on to positions. We are not entitled to taking care of now, however long an individual's now lasts. Our association is a great association, made great by hard working volunteers and exceptional staff. But, and I write this with utmost respect, true leaders of our association are truly protectors of the vitality of our industry. The true leaders want what's best for today but their love of home building transcends time, extending to the next guardians of NAHB. 
No, the fact is I am NOT asking anyone to step aside for the next generation. I am asking today's leaders to embrace the next generation by incorporating them on our team. I am asking today's leaders to understand that NAHB staff has many talents and is very adept at change. 100% of staff does not have to focus on one singular issue as some elder statesmen may think. My mind goes back to discussions of change during the Great Housing Depression and some would say, and I paraphrase, "we need to focus on getting housing back online. This initiative (plug in any here) should be shelved to a time certain or a certain measuring stick, say after we have hit one million starts." A sound housing industry IS NAHB's top priority but I'm amazed that anyone would think that staff could not have multiple, industry AND association, tasks on their list of action items.

Today's generation of Xs and Ys know how to multi-task and I'm quite sure that they would not want productive conversation shelved for the sake of a one track mindset. Two weeks ago I spoke to the "Young Professionals Group" at the Builders League of South Jersey. Two days ago I spoke to the "Young Guns Committee" at the Shore Builders Association of Central New Jersey. My take away from this particular meeting are echoed in the below bullet points. The group was vibrant, energized and ready to conquer the world. THEY were the ones who explained in a very firm and concise voice that they do want to volunteer but  cannot volunteer if they feel muted or pressured to back away from new visions. They are not impatient; they are business professionals who value their time.

Here's what I'm reasonably sure of;
  • We won't have a great pool of future national leaders until, and unless, we get over the fear of being "aged out" of volunteerism. Aging does not diminish your volunteerism, your leadership or your value to the association. UNLESS, of course, you feel entitled to stay in place which takes aging in place to a whole new level.
  • You know, I'm sure, the saying "we've beat this horse to death." If we continue to have meetings where we beat a horse to death, resuscitate the horse and then beat it to death again, we will lose any desire from the next generation to volunteer. Discuss an initiative, identify the outcome you would hope for and then build strategies around the end result. Move forward and make sure WE dictate the course of action not the financial environment. 
  • The next generation wants to stop being viewed as "the next generation." They are building industry professionals. They are here, now, engaged in home building. They are going to move forward, with or without the boomers. 
  • Stop the "remember when" conversations and "we've always done things this way" mindset. Oh yes, and the "we tried that ten years ago and it didn't work" answer that will kill any good mood. While it's a great history lesson it will damper the enthusiasm of the next generation because they won't know what you're talking about.
I also believe that;
  • The next generation has family and work time commitments, just like we did at that age. They have families; some are just staring while others are progressing through grade school and into high school. The next generation is coaching their children in soccer, little league or youth football. They are committed to being there for their children through school plays, boy scouts and girl scouts, proms and dances. 
  • Unless the next generation is either a) independently wealthy or  b) not interested in being in our industry for more than a few years, they will need NAHB because NAHB is the ONLY association that has THEIR best interests at heart. Making the correlation between personal life and financial wherewithal is vital in gaining their undivided attention and igniting an association passion. Their family's well being, supporting outside of school activities, family vacations, college funding and, as important if not more, having a decent roof over their heads. This is all obtained by having finances that can meet the needs of the next generation's familial needs. The next generation of home building professionals will need the continued victories of NAHB to keep their respective lifestyles intact, or improved. Do they know this undisputed fact?
  • You want them to take time and volunteer at the HBA? Do not squander their time. Embrace it by having efficient meetings that have a clear cut reason for taking place with a firm grasp on the desired outcome. Think of the next generation's time as an ATM card. Instead of dollars, hours. Most people do not have an infinite amount of dollars in their ATM. You choose withdrawals wisely and when absolutely needed.. This should be the strategy for asking for someone's time; it's not infinite, choose and withdraw my time wisely and with meaning. They should leave each meeting better educated and with a sense that their time is truly aiding the cause.
It really is that simple. Embrace, enlighten and engage the next generation. Like I wrote above, I am an aging boomer that, due to the housing crisis that recently passed, doesn't have retirement in my short range plans. I need NAHB because I need to maintain my lifestyle and prepare for that unforeseen retirement. I will remain active in NAHB, local, state and national. Why? If I fail, it won't be from the comfort of my couch. It will be from doing everything I can to succeed. If I am successful, I will take great pride in knowing I was not on that couch letting others do for me and by being involved as an NAHB volunteer, I helped. I need the next generation because they will help ensure my future, their future, our future, IF we can bring to them VALUE and a sense of OWNERSHIP while volunteering. 

We all see our younger selves in the mirror. There is nothing wrong with that image. As long as we can all understand that the association is for our industry, we as impassioned volunteer boomers will embrace the next generation, both X and Y, just like they will have to embrace the Millennials in the next "how do we bring in the next generation" discussions in 2030, which is in a blink of an eye.  Maybe, just maybe, with the help of the next generation of today, I will be retired by then.

P.S. I received two emails since my Young Guns meeting, on from a third generation builder member and one from a third generation associate member. What is eye opening here, for me anyway, is that I knew and worked with both their GRANDFATHERS!

Here is an excerpt from the builder, Michael Kokes, Kokes Organization:

"Our Young Guns’s meeting was an opportunity for you to peer into what we have been organically growing and cultivating at the Shore Builders Young Professionals committee for the past year or so. 
As a side note, one misconception I want to get out of the way, is of our name. Although we are younger in relativity to the rest of our industry, I don’t want people to think of us as “kids” who are wildly pontificating about unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, I encourage anyone to attend our meetings, as we enjoy the perspectives of everyone, regardless of where they are in their careers. We like to think of our committee as more of a think tank, then a youth oriented “club.”

With that, our committee embodies a few things. First, that the youth of our industry have a lot of great ideas and passion for what we are doing. Second, that for any youth to be in this industry right now, you have to be either a legacy person or extremely ambitious, as there are much more “trendy” industries to be involved in. Finally, that our perception of our industry is untarnished from the history of the past few market cycles. To elaborate, we are unhindered by previous failures or experiences, which allow us to explore all ideas to the fullest.

Another great aspect of our group has been the social component. Despite what many “experts” say about us, we do still enjoy meeting face-to-face to discuss ideas. We actually tried to implement an online forum for our group, which ultimately was not successful as people preferred discussing topics face-to-face. Sure, we utilize technology to stay in touch, but the bulk of what I feel we have accomplished has been in a face-to-face group setting"

Here is an excerpt from the associate, Rich Robinson, Member Rebate Program;

You are a wealth of knowledge offering insight on the Local, State, and NAHB levels that every member should find valuable. Your guidance, leadership, and advice to our Local HBA Young Professionals Committee is extremely welcomed and appreciated. You helped to energize our group and we'll all be better from it. As a 3rd generation Associate member, I’ve known you as a colleague and friend for many years and I always make it a priority to listen intently to what you have to say about the HBA. Whether it’s in person or through your outstanding blog, Association Maximization, you continually help members of the HBA gain a better understanding of their HBA investment and how to maximize the return."


April 5, 2015

Generational Shifts

When the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) opened for business in 1942, a group of builders set in motion the building industry's united voice. Between then and now, many members have turned over, year by year, generation by generation. It's a lot like life. Think about it; there was the ancient world, from cavemen to nomads, Egyptians to Romans through the British Empire to the world we know today. Throughout the millennia, young adults become elder statesmen , creating many generations of thoughts and progress. In the eyes and minds of someone of a more mature age, there is always a young(er) person that seems to be challenging for position, encroaching on territory. Some of the next generation may in fact be doing just that, exposing some impatience. Most would embrace the opportunity to learn as they grow, teach of new ways as they continue, and still appreciate the value that their elder brings to the table as the two blend their minds.

The young gladiator defeats the champion in the Coliseum.  Old wooden warships give way to the ironclads. Single propeller gives way to jets. Jack Nicklaus overtakes Arnold Palmer. Even Father Time makes way for the New Year's Baby.
Just recently, I was watching the NFL playoffs and I saw a game between the Broncos and the Colts, or should I phrase it as Peyton Manning v. Andrew Luck? It should be Manning v. Luck because all the sportscasters were talking about was the young gun v. the "old" gun. The young gun beat the old gun that day and we may have seen the future start to overtake the present.

Before generation charts were kept, humans and all of God's other species always passed the baton to the one in front, some faster than others, but it was eventually passed. Ages were defined; Stone, Dark, Medieval, Industrial and even Gilded. It was the end of the 19th Century when we began to talk generations starting with the Lost Generation, followed by the Interbellum Generation. The Greatest Generation is well known mainly because they survived The Great Depression AND the second World War. Did you know the next generation was known as the Silent Generation

Now we have what we are all comfortable with today and in particular, within NAHB; Baby Boomers. We are comfortable with Baby Boomers because it's us. Yes, NAHB leadership, I'm referring to you and me, AKA us. We have been the kings and queens for so long that we sometimes forget when the baton was passed to us. We have Generation X breathing down our backs or sitting right next to us. Down the road  we see the emergence of Generation Y, our children and some are even seeing their, "gulp," grandchildren. We are already talking about Generation Z who is still in grade school! Is it me or have we run out of letters? Damned alphabet. Time does not stand still. In a blink of an eye we move from here to here (you fill your own locations). 

Generational shifts always occur.

I was asked to speak at a business/casual meeting at the Builders League of South Jersey (BLSJ) to their recently formed Young Building Professionals Group. It was to discuss the "why's, what's, how's and who's" of our association and leadership opportunities that would certainly be available as the Boomers step down and hopefully move to next levels of HBA leadership roles; state and NAHB. I reread an article I published beforehand titled "X, Y, BOOM." (Yes, I reread because I couldn't remember what I wrote! It happens, OK? However, I did agree with everything I wrote!)

I sat down at the head of a long dinner table with this group of young professionals, like some old patriarch, and broke bread. I explained, to the best of my abilities what the association has been, what it currently is and it where it will be going, with their help. My conversation with them was just that; a conversation of my offered opinions and their listened to opinions. The most telling revelation that came from this back and forth discussion, for me, was that they, X & Y, are not some disconnected age bracket. They are not all consumed with texting, Facebook, Instagram or other forms of social media. They can't be consumed if this is reality; it's just their way of life.

"Experts" speaking or writing books on the GEN X&Y subject, may be off base on their thinking.  We were told that Gen X & Y will not;
  • participate if the purpose is not clearly defined and had meaning
  • 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 

Guess what? The above four points are common sense. I don't want to be involved like that either and I'm a Boomer.  So maybe, just maybe, this next generation isn't different. Maybe the progress of humankind, and Gen X & Y's adaption of "new things," doesn't make them different. Maybe it makes the Baby Boomers, in general, just a bit reluctant to change or not readily available to adapt.

This is an excerpt from an email I received from John Chiusano, 3rd generation builder and leader of BLSJ's Young Professionals Group the day after I spoke; 


First, I would like to thank you for making it out to our Young Professionals event. To take time out of your busy schedule to speak to us really meant a lot.
Everything you said was great and I think really hit home to a few of us.  Describing how this group really becomes part of your extended family, but also directly affects your bottom line were really important points to make.  I have seen the benefits first hand in being involved with BLSJ, NJBA, and NAHB, but it is really difficult to put it into words when asked. You were able to really key in on the benefits and it got me excited to become even more involved in the future. 
I really hope that in the future we can set another time up for you to come and speak to everyone. Typically, I expect 15-20 young professionals to be at the meeting. I think even getting you in the same room with them would generate a lot of people to participate more than they do now. Again, thanks for speaking to everyone."

The next generation was receptive to the "seasoned" member and, as you could read above, I was able to overcome what the has been the perception of this next generation and helped to fuel the enthusiasm fire.

In 1885 an old man in a horse drawn carriage saw the young man drive by in his Benz Patent Motor Car, shook his head and thought "these kids just don't get it." No, they do get it and it is called humankind adapting. Gen X & Gen Y have adapted to technology. For the baby boomers, our first car phone was this $8.00 a minute monstrosity in a big bag. Today, we move from iPhone to iPhone with ease because life accelerated at a much faster pace than we, the boomers, were ready to accept.

Instant contact, instant gratification, instant whatever; it happens and it won't be slowing down. It doesn't mean we have to figure out what Gen X & Y will need to be a part of our association. They already know what they want and need to participate. We, the Baby Boomers know as well and we have to adapt as change comes. 

Just as important to understand in all this is the value the next generation places on the Boomers. The next generation will welcome mentoring, but not interfering. They will welcome institutional knowledge as a point of reference not the only way of conducting business.

The Boomers of NAHB should be like Tom Brady; aging gracefully with a skill set still intact ready for the next challenge but with eyes on the future.

Young adults learning from their elders only works if a lesson can be learned. After Andrew Luck dispatched of Manning, Luck met his match the following week with another "old" gun who wasn't ready to step aside; Tom Brady. Brady demonstrated to the younger Luck that age, while it's not stopping its trek, can certainly be slowed down. Brady also demonstrated that just because you are a "young gun" doesn't mean you have the best gun. It's the person behind the gun that matters. That person is the one who adapts and moves forward.