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.



Dianne Beaton said...

Absolutely great post! I am going to forward it off to my local and State HBA for food for thought! Kudos Mike!!!

Dianne Beaton, CGA, CAPS
National Associate Chairman 2015

Michael Kurpiel said...

Dianne, thank you. Deeply appreciated!

Arthur Aranda said...

Hey Mike, A thoughtful & interesting perspective on the generational changes afoot. Nice post.

Pat Coveny said...

This is exactly why I had the nation's first real estate/housing accelerator join NAHB. An accelerator hosts startup companies that are ready to launch or have just launched a product or service. We must make an outreach to the tech community to get these entrepreneurs to realize that there is a defined housing industry with lots of data they need. Most of these entrepreneurs are creating tech solutions for our industry without any of our input. We need to show them that we are open for any R & D they want to do on us and that we have the resources to make them successful.
There actually is a whole plan to do all of this I could share some day.
Pat Coveny
President HBAGC

Michael Kurpiel said...

Thank you so much; let's talk soon.

I'm not sure I'm following your thoughts. I don't see the correlation between the next generation of association member, that I wrote about, and your thoughts above. With the exception of me utilizing technology to make my point about generational shifts.