Let’s Meet Halfway

January 11, 2017

According to consultant, author and TED Talker Simon Sinek, Millennials have been dealt a really bad hand. Sure, he says, they are as entitled and narcissistic as this infamous Time Magazine cover story portrayed, but it’s not their fault. Says Sinek in this recent and widely shared InsideQuest interview, Millennials were raised with “failed parenting strategies” and addictive technology, among other things, that conspired to leave them with “low self-esteem” — and woefully unprepared for career success.

It’s leaders of companies, says Sinek, who now have to “pick up the slack” for Millennials trying to overcome these obstacles. If we employers just have “the courage to lead them,” says Sinek, Millennials will find their collective brass ring.

I say: Bull Roar, Simon!

This topic of managing Millennials has been on my mind more of late because we recently reorganized our business to better define career paths for our people and to help everyone here find their passions and develop their skills. (We’ll have more to share about all that in the very near future.)

As part of our reorg, we’ve had many conversations about what motivates our people and what it takes to succeed at a shop like ours. Those conversations are critical and ongoing as we continue to draw better alignment between our business goals and individual motivations. (Maybe that’s the “courage to lead” that Sinek advocates.) But obviously no generation is as monolithic as described by Sinek and others, and my conversations with each and every Pony, many of them Millennials, about their career aspirations have confirmed for me how complex a task it is to accommodate the hopes and dreams of a wide variety of people, across several generations, in any given workplace.

In fact, Fast Horse is chock-full of highly skilled, smart people who want to grow and be on our industry’s biggest stages. And, no matter what generation they come from, they have shown a willingness to take risks and work hard to get what they want from their career. I was reminded that those traits translate to success far beyond the walls of Fast Horse as I recently read two great memoirs written by guys who both overcame very difficult family situations and dire economic circumstances to find rarefied professional air, one as a legendary rock & roller, the other as a Yale Law School-educated investment banker.

The rock star, Bruce Springsteen, is a Baby Boomer; the Yale-educated investment banker and best-selling author, J.D. Vance, is a Millennial. You can read reviews of Springsteen’s excellent memoir “Born to Run” here, and Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis” here.)

Both overcame highly dysfunctional families and poverty to find success. They both did it through discipline, hard work, a little luck and a relentless drive to reach their goals. They also had help along the way from willing, perhaps even courageous, mentors and leaders.

All of this got me thinking. Maybe the message we really ought to send to those doomed Millennials Simon Sinek describes in his InsightQuest interview is this:

Let’s meet halfway. You bring the talent and inner drive, and we’ll do everything we can to create an environment where you can thrive.