Gen X and Multi-Generational Leadership
On today’s episode of the leadership habit podcast, we are continuing our generational leadership series and talking with Steve Born. Steve is the VP of marketing for Globus family of brands. In today’s episode, Steve shares his insights as a leader and member of Gen X, and how he’s adjusted to bridge the generational gap at Globus.
Full Transcript Below:
Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall, and today I am going to be interviewing a Gen Xer for our multi-generational leadership series. Today in the studio, we have Steve Born and Steve is going to give us the insight on what it feels like and what it looks like to be a Gen X leader as well as how he interacts and how he sees the differences in generations in his organization and throughout his experience in his career. Steve, thank you so much for joining us today.
Steve Born: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Jenn DeWall: Great. And so for those of you that aren’t familiar, Gen X is the generation that was born between 1965 and 1981. You’re kind of that generation that’s right in the middle of everyone in the workplace right now. Huh?
Gen X – The Jan Brady of Generations
Steve Born: We are the official Jan Brady of generations. So we’ve got Cindy, you know that Millennials, the younger get all the attention. Then we got Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, the Boomers; everything’s about Marcia. So we’re officially right there. Jan Brady.
Jenn DeWall: Right. And there are smaller, right and they’re respectively smaller than the Baby Boomer and that Millennial generation. So just a little bit smaller in population size.
Steve Born: Yeah. You know, we’ve been sandwiched really by two huge cohorts with the Boomers, you know, leading that the free world, you know, for 30 years now, biggest generation of, of our lifetime. And then Millennials who match that Boomer number in terms of sheer size and, you know, we’re right in there, in between and quite a bit smaller but pretty sturdy.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, absolutely. And like I just looked up a recent statistic that said that Generation X actually makes up right around 50% of the leaders in today’s workforce.
Steve Born: Well, we’re in that sweet spot right now, you know, between the ages of 40 to 54 right now. So we’ve got that responsibility. That’s that layer of responsibility right now where we’re driving the business; we’re in key decision-making positions, often case we’re not the owner, we don’t have our name on the door — but really carrying a lot of that responsibility with it. And with that managing on both ends, a workforce fall of eager Millennials who have way more knowledge than we ever had or have functionally at this point. And on the other end, the Boomers who bring that wealth of experience. And of course, you know, not to generalize our friends too much, but they’ll tell you at, at every turn, you know, how they did it and their day as well to manage that. So really it is, you know, the way that you framed it really in that, that tweener generation between the two sides.
Does Gen X Get a Bad Rap?
Steve Born: And actually before this a podcast, Jenn, I looked this, I wanted to see, okay, where within the hierarchy of generations, where does Gen X rank and actually found this cat, Brad Stanhope. Brad, if you’re out there, he’s a Boomer. You know, maybe by the end of this, this recording this podcast, we’ll turn it around a little bit, but Brad actually ranked generations one through five, and I’m not surprised to see that at the bottom of the heap was, was Gen X. And this is our life. This is kind of where, where we been our whole lives, you know, just kind of smaller, underappreciated, you know, between the mega generations of Millennials and Boomers that tweener. The Jan Brady syndrome. You know, I’m going to seek Brad out, and I’m going to, you know, have a few words with them about that, but being ranked five out of five, you know that, that’s tough because as you said right now too, we’re leading a lot of the organizational responsibility positions right now and kind of managing both ends of that. So I guess we have a hole to climb out of.
Jenn DeWall: All right. Well, why do you think Gen X gets a bad rap by people? Like why would he give you a five out of five ranking?
Steve Born: Jenn, excellent question. I’ve been thinking about this, probably my whole life. Is why Boomers with, with all due respect, Boomers have been the generation that’s been enlightened, that’s been empowered that their whole lives, they’ve been professional consumers, their parents weren’t in need of, for the most part, weren’t in need of kind of the essentials. So their focus was on their kids, and the focus was on bringing up this generation in a peaceful environment that had everything at their disposal. And the age of consumerism blossomed with Boomers at the helm. Every convenience that we have around the house today was, at some point, driven by a need from a Boomer. And so self-importance and that the value of following your muse and finding what’s important to you and that you can do anything in life and the world is yours. Just go get it.
Steve Born: And, and life kind of creating that environment for them. And we needed that. We needed that consumer influence at that time in that workforce to, to take charge and get us out of the post-war recovery and, and with that, propel us and do amazing things. And so throughout their entire careers in their adult life, they’ve been constantly rewarded by these major advancements. You know, technological, even we had one yesterday with the 50th anniversary of the moonshot is that we have made in, in this, through this generation, we have made more advances in our culture, in our society than ever. And Boomers have been at the helm. And so course they feel it, right? Yes. We’ve done this. We’ve achieved, we’ve grown. Look at the status. We build America really to position the U.S. And and where we are today. It was really built on the, on the shoulders and the heels in the hands of Boomers.
Steve Born: So they deserve no doubt they deserve all of that. And then you have us. Everything, the Gen Xers, the Jan Brady, not that charge. They were invested, and you know, I can, I say this with all due respect, but the world told them to invest in themselves, to go create, you know, what they want life to be and what they want their future to be. And kids, for the most part, were a byproduct and not a focal point. Really. I can speak, you know, from true experience on that, that, that the latchkey kid generation is no misnomer. They were out doing their thing, left us a key under the mat. We had to ride a bike from school back home with no helmet by the way to get the key- to survive. We like to do it ourselves because Boomers were out conquering the world.
Steve Born: And you know, our, our folks were out conquering the world. They had big things to accomplish. We were a part of it, but not the focal point. And you know, so they had other priorities, that bigger balance of life where it wasn’t the generation that had five, six kids and, you know, everything was invested in that. There was a generation where, you know, it was a part of a more well-rounded sort of life situation. And we were part of it, but we weren’t THE part of it. We were in the back of the station wagon, you know, probably facing that back again, no seatbelt, you know, probably fighting with our sisters along the way. But really, you know, along for the ride along for where our Boomers that the parents, the older Boomers and, and matures before that, where they were going and where they were taking us and being the smaller generation, just the sheer numbers just didn’t work out in our favor.
Gen X – The Formative Years
Steve Born: And we went through our formative years, you know, coming out of school, a much different economic situation than the Boomers. You know, there was a supply and demand issue with the Boomers. That was their advantage. We needed workers; we needed roles filled, we needed leaders in jobs, which just definitely wasn’t the case for us because our jobs, the jobs we wanted were occupied by Boomers who are making it happen. And so we’ve been dominated, you know, by that force, that volume, that sheer scope. And then just when we thought we had it all figured out, then the Millennials come behind us. And really they’re the byproduct of the Boomer mentality; they’re the kids of the younger Boomers, so they have all that same energy and all that same appreciation for self-worth and self-accomplishment and fulfill your dreams and the investment in the kid.
Steve Born: The SUV came out of the Boomer connection with their kids to be together. We’re a generation without SUVs because no one cared. You know, it wasn’t about that togetherness there. You take your bike by yourself, take your bike, you go, you find your way, you know, figure it out, kid. Where the SUV was created by that connection between the younger Boomer parents and the value of being with their kids and their kids’ friends and be with him at the soccer field and the baseball game and the swim meet and you name whatever millions of activities were going on for the Millennials that they were, by the way, awarded ribbons for each and every one of them. That is a really healthy spirit of that connection and that togetherness and that connection that we were a little bit out of the mix on that we were on our own. And you know, again, I’m dramatizing this overall, but for the most part I think that really characterizes who we are as a generation and, and builds our values and a lot of the independent spirit that you feel now from Gen X driven by that was because we had to be, we were brought up that way and, and our life situation and getting from here to there and things we’d participate in oftentimes it was because we’re on our own.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, you had to figure it out. And I think that you brought that up perfectly to really show how Gen X did become the independent generation that they are today. Just how the economy was different in terms of finding your own opportunity, how your parenting style was different in terms of how you, you know, I guess interacted, and there’s a little bit of that self-governance or raising yourself in that generation. And I think that’s, that’s a powerful thing to recognize that the Millennials had a lot more of that togetherness, whether it’s through the SUV or whether it’s the fact that mom and dad were still coming back and giving them the support, whereas Gen X was just more independent. You know, they didn’t necessarily – right, wrong or indifferent- didn’t necessarily have that intense involvement I think by their parents and that the parents really wanted them to figure it out on their own.
Steve Born: You, you wrapped it up well and, and definitely didn’t want to, you know, insinuate that our parents were negligent for the most part. For the most part, it was a lot of it, I believe, there was some intent behind it. As you say, you know, in the end, well, they’ve got to figure it out sometime. I mean, you can just hear the voice of dad, you know, in the background like, well how is it going to figure it out if he can’t do it himself and the trial and error and that you know, you, you can do it. You figure it out sort of thing, which is really healthy. And I think in a lot of ways that’s a little bit of a consequence from the really good things that you get with younger Boomers, connection with their kids and the Millennials and that support that, that partnership, that nest, that you know, that you get that good thing. You get that feeling that, well, I can do anything. I can accomplish anything. I’ve got the support system around me. But a little bit of the compromise that you get from that is, well, that support system is just that. It’s not; it can’t do it for me. I’ve still got to do it on my own.
Jenn DeWall: And that I think is the more difficult, lesson you see with the Millennial generation is the parental involvement was so strong for many, that the ability to develop coping skills and understanding how to pick yourself up and how to persevere is not as developed across everyone in the generation. Some people have that and understand how to do it. Some because they had lovely parents with the most beautiful intent, just didn’t have that opportunity to understand that life goes on after things don’t work out, and this is how you’re going to pick it up, and no one’s going to save you. You kind of have to learn how to just sit in it, reflect on it, learn from it, and keep going.
Gen X Knows How To Advocate for Themselves
Steve Born: Well, one example of that, I think you hit the nail on the head is sports. So you can learn a lot from the field. You know, growing up, both as a parent and as a kid. So we have two kids, my wife and I, my son’s going to be 19 next week, and my daughter’s going to be 21 coming up. But, so we had, I don’t know, 15 years or so of sports fields like every, you know, we’re at a field every day, doing something. And the coaches that I always appreciated were that they were Gen X coaches, who if there was an issue, no problem, but the kid had to advocate for himself, not the parents. So no problem. They would address anything, you know, playing time or coaching style or whatnot. But the rule of thumb was it’s got to come from the kid. Too many times the parents would swoop in, tried to solve the problem, never went over well, never worked out. You know, just a valuable lesson there in that, you know, the parents can be behind, not in front. And I think that’s sometimes a lesson in the workforce that some managers have to retrain. And some managers have to work around, is that, you know, it’s about you and advocating for yourself and where you want to be and not relying on someone else to do that work for you.
Jenn DeWall: Right. Thinking that, Hey, they’re going to notice me, they’ll see me, and they’ll pick me up and bring me to this next opportunity or this next position. And I think that is something you might see. I think you probably see a balance of both with the younger generation, either that so much lovely confidence that they are very strong and advocating for themselves. And then you have the people that may need or really desire someone to do it for them. Right. But before we go back in there, I have loved our conversation so far. But for those that don’t know you, which I’m going to assume many of our listeners are just getting to know you for the first time. Steve, tell us about your path to where you are today, what your role is today and how do you, the evolution, how you grew and started through your career. Right.
Steve Born: So currently, I am CMO of Globus family of brands, and we’re a travel company, and we specialize in international travel and have four different ways that we do that. And I’ve been with Globus now for 18 years, and I know some people probably just fell over when they were listening to that, but it’s true 18 years, and you know, I didn’t go into that with intent. Like I’m going to start this job, and then we’ll be there for 18 years, and then we’ll see where it takes you. But my path to that job started way back when, when I was out of school is wanting to be in the communications business and, and to be in marketing. And so, you know, the job market was really tough. I would take anything that was related to that and just get started. And the whole idea at that time was just get started.
Steve Born: It doesn’t matter where what you’re making or what level, if you just go in and, and like we were talking about with that Gen X value, just get started. Just prove yourself. It’s up to you. Just do it. Get in there, you’ll figure it out. You figured out how to cook a Swanson microwave dinner every Saturday night when you were alone at home. You can figure this out, too. So there was a real priority on a sense of just urgency to get started. And that’s exactly what I did. I took an internship that I don’t even think it was paid you know, that’ll build into, you know, a full-time job, which, you know, got hired by the advertising agency. I started at $18,000 a year. And all I cared about was, is that enough to move out of my parents’ house? It wasn’t, but I did anyway.
Steve Born: And you know, just lived, you know, hand to mouth and you know, just get in and, and make the best of it. I guess that was the approach. I don’t think that was unique to me, Jenn. I think that was really symptomatic of the generation and the time started working in 1990, and I think it was just about we’ll just get in and get started and then grow. Just you, you can do it with hard work, perseverance gain skills on the job, and just keep going. Just keep rolling. And kind of how I attribute success with it is that there wasn’t a lot, not just with me, but I think a lot of folks in our generation, not a lot of moving from one job to another, maybe one or two big moves, you know, that seminal move that gets you that big opportunity that you can’t refuse.
Steve Born: But it wasn’t a natural part of what I saw from my peers. It certainly wasn’t with me. I’m in my second job right now. I think it was more symptomatic of that value that I can work this out, that it’s in my hands to make my situation better. If I’m not getting an opportunity that I want, it’s not my boss’s problem. It’s not the organization’s problem. It’s my problem. And I’ve got to figure out a way to make this a new reality. And the phrase I always use, it gets eye rolls from, you know, Millennials in our workplaces that, you know, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it. And so make that investment in where you are and create your own reality and continue to grow and develop where you are before you look elsewhere.
Jenn DeWall: No, that’s a great point too, because, for many, it’s the belief that either they don’t know how to advocate for themselves or feel like they aren’t really sure what to do to advocate. Like, what should I be advocating for? What do I even want to do? Do I even want to work here? Yeah, but what you’re saying is that remember the power is all within us, that before you take that leap to that next company, make sure you understand what you’re jumping for. What do you really want to achieve that you’re lacking in your current position, and can it be something that’s resolved from even a conversation with your own boss to say, I am really passionate about this, or I really enjoy this. How can I infuse some of this into my current role versus just abandoning that, which, you know, it’s interesting you said it’s your second job over your tenure.
Is Gen X More Loyal Than Millennials?
Jenn DeWall: And one of the characteristics that’s used to describe Gen Xers is they’re very loyal. And that to me that, you know, that really demonstrates that sense of loyalty. Like, I will work here, and I want to commit and invest my time for you. And it’s a beautiful thing because when you see that return for companies of having that institutional knowledge and someone that can also just develop everyone around them on the past, on the present and the future, it’s powerful in terms of what you can do for an organization given your tenure there.
Steve Born: Right. Well, that loyalty, I’m glad you touched on that because that really goes back to what we were talking about, you know, getting started and when you’re being raised as a Gen Xer is pretty much our parents parenting style was you, it’s your deal. It’s your deal. Like if you were having an issue with your teacher at school, it’s something you need to account for. We’re not going to go in and talk to your teacher because we assume she’s right, and we assume that the overall organization, that the structure has a point. So if you’re struggling, you figure it out, you deal with it. We’re going to give the benefit of the doubt to the hierarchy to the structure. And you know, that’s not necessarily very nurturing, but certainly, you know, builds a lot of character and resolve about what you mentioned about loyalty and making of a situation once you want it to be.
Steve Born: And of course, you know, don’t be ridiculous about it if you find a real roadblock or a difficult situation or there’s an opportunity you can’t refuse, of course, you know, to look at those opportunities. But really that to work through it first. Another thing you mentioned, Jenn, was advocacy. And I’m really glad that you brought that up too. I think, you know I’ve had a lot of experience with folks that I’ve worked with who are desperately trying to find that next step sometimes because they’re unfulfilled or sometimes because they just think that’s what life is and you just keep taking those next steps, and you take them quickly. And I’ve seen what I think the right way to advocate is from the viewpoint of the employer. And that is what can I do to help this business more than what I’m doing today?
Steve Born: And that is a very different point than- what can you do employer to get me where I want to go? And it gets the same result actually that, that first is, is a faster result in that the viewpoint of it’s, it’s not about me or, or at least I’m going to frame it, not about me. I’m going to frame it in terms of what, how I can make a bigger contribution, and advocate for yourself based on that as opposed to, Hey, I’m not personally where I want to be. So what are you going to do about that? And that’s, that’s a challenge I think that we run into a lot in terms of that, that career growth with some of our younger employees.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, that’s a, you know, that’s a great point that I think is very easy, especially when we’re excited or if we’re experiencing pain or if we want something different and we’re comparing ourselves to our friends. We immediately have that sense of urgency to say; I want this. What can this company do for me because I’m going to leave? Whereas if we really start with that reframe of thinking, how can I add more value? What can I do to further the mission and strategy of this? Because sometimes in my past life I dabbled in HR and what I, like I had one experience that I will never forget, and it was a recent college grad, and she had come into my office, and she had seen a result on Glassdoor because you can see salaries there. You can see that information through a lot of different similar platforms.
Jenn DeWall: But she came in, and she was like pushed it over and was like, I need to be making this. And she’s like, and if I don’t, if I’m not making this, then I’m going to quit. And I looked at her, and I felt like it was the, you know, a little bit of that nurture to say, I’m going to make this a teachable moment for you. Right? But versus thinking, you know, like first and foremost, like never go to the negotiating table and tell someone that you’re going to walk away. Right? Especially when you’re in an entry-level position, you have to understand that entry-level. Like you may be a great person, but if you’re already starting to show a lack of loyalty, what, what would incline someone to come to the negotiating table, right? And so sometimes it is thinking and remembering that as much as we do have a lot of power because we have that power of choice that’s associated with technology and globalization, that we still have to remember how we need to support an organization and that what the employer is actually going to want from right now.
Steve Born: How did that work out for her?
Jenn DeWall: So it worked out well. We did end up getting her a raise. But that was not, and it came after me having a direct conversation with her to say, yeah, I, you know, this is your teachable moment. You are lucky you met me and I not, you know what? I didn’t say that in a pompous way, but I’m like, I want to say that my background is within coaching, and I want to help you with this, but never do that to someone again because they will probably matter.
Jenn DeWall: And so we have lots of, we had a few other meetings after that, and I eventually did work for her, and I said, this is what you need to do, right? We need to, how are you producing value for them? Why do you think that you earned this? And let me also teach you about what negotiation is. So down the line, if you are negotiating something so you know how to ask for it upfront versus after the fact. Yes.
GEN X: Experience over Ambition
Steve Born: And you know, on that story, people get employers, you know, no matter what the generation, Gen X, Boomers totally relate to ambition, totally relate to speed of growth and responsibility and adding and, and feeling more of, of not only your own ambition but where you want to be long-term. I totally get it. That and sometimes I don’t know if that’s something that clearly gets expressed because sometimes the pace at which that happens is a bit unrealistic in terms of expectations, especially at that entry-level because everyone’s exposed to everything, right? Everyone sees what everyone else is making. You can find, you know, you can find what you’re looking for. And so your visibility is so broad, but your experience with that is so narrow. And so it’s, we understand that the pace then of that progress can be seen as, as slow or, gosh, they don’t get it or they’re trying to just keep me in that spot because, you know, that works better for them. They don’t get me. It’s definitely not that at overall, again, just totally generalizing here, it’s that there’s a balance between knowledge and experience and just because you’re exposed to it and because you can see it and have functional knowledge it doesn’t mean that that is yet rounded out into the next opportunity. It’s like every Western, I dunno, do Western still exist? Every Western you see. Yeah, I know now. So in the old West… No Western movies. Okay. I should reframe that.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, you are dating yourself.
Steve Born: Yeah, Google it. I mean, I’m sure you could find a Western on YouTube or something, right? So there’s always like the grizzled, you know, that gunman, and you know, the veteran gunman and there’s always that, you know, the young one and that the young guy is like a perfect shot, right? He’s like, excellent marksman. He can hit the cam off the fence post from a hundred yards away. It is like, let’s go; I’m ready. You know, let’s go out, you know, tackle the wild West. And the veteran always looked him in the eye. Like, you know, there’s a big difference between being able to hit that can and looking at a man in the eye with a barrel of a gun. That’s the difference between knowledge, that functional knowledge of being able to hit that can, and the experience of being able to know when to use it and have the wherewithal of, of having that experience to put it in play. So I think, you know, westerns probably teach us everything we need to know about generations right there. Yeah, exactly.
Jenn DeWall: No, but I think that’s it. That’s a really great way to look at it. And I would put it back to you in a different way. I think that oftentimes we undervalue, the role of technical skills. And sometimes we may look at our technical functionality as now I am deemed an expert, but we’re missing the fact that the soft skills are on the other side of it and that those are the ones. So as in westerns, you might know how to shoot the gun, but do you know how to actually decide when to use it? Whom to use it with, what the consequences are willing to be that big-picture view of what you’re looking at and so I do love, I just love the western example, but it is very true. I think there are some times when you don’t have that experience. You place a lot of emphasis on the technical skills of your role, and you miss out on the fact that there is actually another side of it that you really need to have developed that will put you in a better position to actually be successful if you trust that that needs to happen.
Steve Born: If you appreciate that is there, and I’ll tell you that the knowledge, the functional skill is miles ahead of where we were. Miles had the knowledge, the expertise, the confidence, that talent that the Millennials have that they can apply to a functional skill is amazing. I mean, I’m amazed at our workplace every day based on just the confidence in and the security that they can show in a functional skill. Now they’re, there are three parts to wisdom. One is that knowledge. Two is the experience we talked about in third kind of down the road, his perspective, you know, and being able to really have a feel of a when to apply it. But if, if all three layers, I don’t know if I’ve ever met a person that, that has nailed all three layers of this wisdom at the right time, I guess they’d be, you know, some sort of a, you know, guru or you know, Zen master if they, if they had all of that at one time.
Steve Born: But if you can mine the functional talent that Millennials have in spades because of how well educated and informed and energized and accessible access that they had to the finest education and ongoing education that we’ve ever had as human beings. If you can, you know, add that on top of that knowledge, some sense of experience like, OK, like not to sound a hundred years old, but just that framing of, okay, maybe I don’t know everything. Maybe I could learn about application. And then that third level of, you know, having some perspective of like, okay, I’ve seen it work, and I’ve seen it not work. And, and just knowing when you’ve tried something and it hasn’t gone too well, just having that under you just really rounds out. That whole idea, of wisdom. I think it’s unfair to ask Millennials to have all three. I really do.
Steve Born: I think a focus on that knowledge is exactly where they should be because the organization doesn’t have it without them. We don’t know how to do this, how to get from here to there, how to apply technology at the rate that it’s growing in the best way for our business. Thank God they’ve got it. Thank God that rounds out our workforce right now, and it’s much appreciated. If on the other end that more was appreciated from Millennials of like knowledge doesn’t equal wisdom that I need. I could learn from this old dude. I could see how it’s worked for them in the past. I could, you know, spend a little bit more time to kind of round out my viewpoint before I jump into something that, that I think what’s fair to ask is, is, is grasp that knowledge sees hold of it and don’t let anyone ever forget. You’ve got it. But to know that there’s, there’s experience, too that comes with it that can help guide you and maybe make things a little bit more graceful when you’re looking for that next opportunity.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, my grandpa said this to me, and he said it multiple times, but the quote, I have $1 million of advice, but to you it means nothing. And it’s speaking to the fact that he has wisdom. Right. But until I experienced it, until I understand it, it won’t have any value for me. And I think that’s kind of where, and I’m part of the Millennials. I’m part of what you would call the cusper (in between Gen X and Millenial generations), like in between, so and I’m a 1982 child, so I’m right there.
Steve Born: You can appreciate everything.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, but it’s, you know, I think the sense of urgency, even when I was early in my career of just wanting to climb, climb, climb. If you asked me, you know, this is now over five years ago, before I switched trajectories and where I wanted to go, I would’ve thought I would’ve been a buyer, and I would have been doing all of these things at a large retailer or maybe a small retailer and now I would do that for fun, but I would never want to do it for a job again. But if I didn’t get the career opportunity that I wanted with as you know, and as fast of a time that I wanted it, yeah, it was devastating, right? Because we put that sense of urgency, we don’t understand how everything works. And so then yes, we come, and we can make those assumptions. Like my boss is holding me back or they don’t see this where it’s, it actually has nothing to do with you at all. Nothing to do with you. Right. It’s just the way that it goes and you need to rely on people that have, you know, a little bit more developed soft skills and experience to make those decisions, especially when they get higher up and they’re going to have a greater impact to your bottom line.
Steve Born: And you know, my boss has taught me that there are always things that you won’t see. Everyone has a boss, and everyone has a boss who is privy to things that they are. It’s just the nature of the workforce, just the nature of the business world, and that sometimes you have to appreciate that you don’t have the full view and no one, no one does. I mean in unless really it is your company, your building, your name, you know, you are the shareholder, you know, it’s all you, then there’s no way around that. And that’s hard to swallow sometimes, especially if you are eager or not saying impatient, but if things aren’t moving at the, at the pace you believe it should. Just in appreciation that, okay, maybe there’s another side to the story. Maybe there’s more I need to help uncover here. And like we talked about earlier, you know, do that from the perspective of the employer. How can I add more value instead of how can I get what I want?
How Does Gen X View Other Generations?
Jenn DeWall: Right. So I want to go back to- I love our conversation. I want to go back to kind of understanding how you, as a Gen Xer, see the differences in your organization or through your experience. What generational differences do you notice in the workplace with a Baby Boomer versus a Millennial versus a Gen Xer?
Steve Born: Wow. Gee, isn’t that the big question right there? Well, you know, from my experience, one, one discernible difference that I can see is that you know, I would, I would define leadership as getting a group of human beings to accomplish an intended goal. And I don’t think that that definition of leadership is exactly what most Millennials would use. As opposed to saying, Hey, you know, a Gen X approach like we talked about with independence and kind of self-sufficiency is okay, that’s the intended goal. We’re going this way. You guys are with me. Let’s go. And you know, one difference I see with Millennials is, remember they were in the SUV, they were a part of the community, and they had been from day one. They were all together, and they were making the collective decisions together from day one. You know, be it, Hey, where are we headed in this SUV or what sport I’m going to play.
Steve Born: Or things were dictated to them, they were a part of it. And I see that almost daily in the workplace that part of a project or even project leadership is more communal. And it’s more about I need to know my role and how it plays in the overall picture. I don’t just need to know that we’re going in that direction. And how I need the, why. I need that rounded out for me to be on this bus, you know, to be a part of it. And I need the why. And for us, the why was secondary. It was almost like why, what, what do you mean? Because that’s what, yeah, because that’s what my boss wanted of me and that’s where we’re headed. And isn’t it a given, you know? That’s where we’re headed? Can’t you see that’s where we’re going is that it’s assumed, and you know, taking that step back from a genetic standpoint and understand that people play a more valuable role than just fulfilling, you know, one specific slot in the overall picture and they can contribute more, and they have more, like we talked about, more knowledge functionally and overall they’re, they’re smarter, they have more to contribute, and they want to know more about the total picture than maybe just that one little piece that is the part that we need to happen in order to get to that, to the goal.
Steve Born: So I think for Gen X, they’re, we’re still learning. I know that I am in stopping stepping back and saying, this is the “why.” This is what we’re all about here. And getting some buy-in on the why and making sure that people understand the whole picture before just charging ahead. Then you asked about Boomers. What’s the difference with Boomers?
Steve Born: Right. I can, I guess from your perspective, it’s going to be more than more likely that you had Boomer leaders like to have a Baby Boomer leader, Baby Boomer leaders. How would you describe their style? Wow. Okay. So I don’t have vast, vast experience here because like you said, I’ve had two careers in my life. My boss is a Boomer; he’s a great guy. Okay, now I’m about to insult him. I feel like this is a trap. Ha!
Make Yourself Relevant to Boomers
Steve Born: The thing is you have to make yourself relevant to them. I’d say. Again, it’s about them, and it’s about what they have on their plate, and whether they’re going, that’s probably no different than any boss, no matter what generation you are actually. And now is the thing that I need either help with the decision or support resources. How is what I need relevant to them and what’s relevant to them I really believe is probably what’s relevant to all humans is that- I’m going to make this, it is going to help you. This is going to help you. This is going to help your work. This is going help your career; this is going to help your day to day life that I’m here for you. And then Boomers, everyone’s been there for them, their whole lives, their parents, their society, consumerism products, things were built literally designed for them around them. And I think work the workplace is no different. So how, how can this help you? How can it, how can this be a thing that I’m not going to burden you with? I’m actually going to help you out by involving you in this.
Jenn DeWall: How do you think, in your experience, how do you think the workplace has evolved from when you started with more of a larger percentage of Baby Boomers in the organization to where you are today, where you’re likely having more Millennials and the Gen X mix in there?
Steve Born: It’s, it’s better. It’s faster, it’s smarter, it’s more agile, it’s more dynamic, it’s more empathetic, it’s more responsible. These are all influences from Millennials. Everything I think I just rattled off about the “mores” is an influence from Millennials. Helping businesses keep pace and sometimes pushing businesses in directions like kids. You know, I’ve looked back on my life and kids, they can be the instigator really in a household to move ahead you know, be it a move or you know, something needs to happen or even, you know, like being more responsible in the house. And, and I think that’s no different in the workplace. We are far better off with the incredible minds that we have today entering the workforce. So there’s no doubt that businesses are, are more position now to compete on the international level due to that influence. If Boomers and, and Gen X can guide that with more of that balance of experience and perspective than we’re in the chips. Then we’ve really hit a home run.
Steve Born: And I think that’s our responsibility for Gen X and Boomers before they completely give up and retire on our shoulders, which they will, you know, they will, they’ll get all the good houses and all the good condos.
Jenn DeWall: And then Gen X will get nothing.
Steve Born: We’ll get nothing and like it! Once more. But at least if you know before they had out can make that contribution to help round out that knowledge with really consciously trying to, to, to make perspective and experience tangibly in the, in the workplace. And that’s tough, you know, cause you can’t, no one has time to sit down and say, well come sit with me and let me impart my wisdom upon you, you know, for the next hour, let me schedule a meeting with you where I just give you, you know, random thoughts about success in the workplace. We have to consciously do that though. We have to consciously think of projects that we know through a connection with the Millennial by our side, that that’s going to give them a sense of perspective that’s going to give them a sense of experience and the project’s going to be better because they’re going to move it faster. Their knowledge is going to accelerate it. So I think that’s probably a practical way to do it in the workforce is by the project. To consciously pick out projects where you’re tagging Millennials for development.
Gen X Working Style
Jenn DeWall: And then you’re bringing into that, you’re answering that why the more that they can get involved in some of those projects, I think you’re helping them see that why, which is giving more of that desire for meaningful work or doing work with purpose. What would you say is your working style as a Gen X leader?
Steve Born: Wow. To be critical about it. We’re going to do this here it is. Linear, I think, would be a style that would characterize a lot of Gen X, not just me. We’re here. We need to be there. It’s that way. Let’s go and charge, let’s go. And again, you know, going back to where we started a conversation, that’s really how we’ve lived our lives is gotta do it. Have to go no choice. And that’s probably, that is different, that linear approach. It’s more circular, I believe. You know, with Millennials and gather round, you guys are going to be a part of this. You guys are going to each contribute to something bigger than ourselves as opposed to just accomplishing a goal. You guys are going to be more fulfilled and rounded out by having this experience that is also, by the way, going to contribute to us getting to our goal.
Jenn DeWall: So one of the things that I guess I’ve read about Gen X, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot for answering for an entire generation, but one of the things that I guess one of the criticism sometimes that can be brought out by Gen X is that they’re so independent and they have such a hands-off approach because they prefer that for themselves because that’s how they were raised, that sometimes they apply that to their Millennials and then that’s where they could have hiccups because the Millennial might be wanting a little bit more focus and hand-holding as a result of their parenting style. What do you have to say about that? The bad rap of saying that you’re too hands-off.
Steve Born: Right? The downside of this self-sufficiency independence. I think there’s truth to it. I think there’s truth in every stereotype or every generality. That’s kind of the fun part of this podcast is we get to talk about it, you know, kind of bring these to light and make these broad generalizations. I think it’s true. I think that is a consequence just as we talked about Millennials may be a consequence of their involved and engaged parenting has been that they sometimes, you know, expect a soft landing. That’s a consequence. I think, in the case of where we were growing up that this single-mindedness and independent spirit is a consequence. It’s helped forge a lot. It’s helped get many businesses where they are now and get a lot of stuff done with a very little. But the downside is that we knew a better, we need to do a better job as we get to this point in our careers where it’s really the magical time where we need to think about consciously that this idea of perspective, and in stopping, and saying, wait a minute, people aren’t just going to follow me because I’m going, you know, people are going to follow me in, dedicate by following me.
Steve Born: Like really dedicate their, their hearts, and their minds to a goal. They’re really going to be dedicated if there’s a difference in the approach and, and it’s hard. It is hard. It’s hard to slow down and to have that perspective. But it’s on us. It has to be a conscious decision that we make. That if we can provide that balance with that independent spirit, with that sense of the “why,” then I think we’re cooking with gas.
Jenn DeWall: Well, and I think it’s, it’s not all just on you Steve, right? Because do the Millennial, it is putting that on. There is a level of ownership and responsibility that they, that Millennials, and I’m a Millennial, so I can say this like we have to make things happen on our own. We can’t trust that there is going to be always some great opportunity that just perfectly falls into our lap or that someone is going to see this beautiful like speck of talent and want to nurture and grow it. We have to take that responsibility to make it happen on our own, and also we need to learn what to do when things don’t go our way and that, you know, having those coping skills of saying, okay, well this didn’t work out. I don’t have to quit and leave. I can figure out another approach or I can do X, I can do Y. You know? It’s that balance of coming together. Yes, Gen X needs to slow down a little bit. Yeah. But Millennials, I would argue might need to step up a little bit and take more ownership of that.
Some Tough Love From a Gen Xer
Steve Born: Jenn, you’ve entered the tough love segment of the broadcast right now.
Jenn DeWall: Is this where it turns into a parenting type thing?
Steve Born: It is. I think, well, I was always of the belief that my boss is never going to lay awake at night worried about me and my career. And that sounds a little harsh. I mean, again, my boss is a great guy. I don’t know if he’s ever going to listen to this or not, but he’s a great guy and, but the reality is tough love. He’s not worried about me. He’s worried about the business, and he’s worried about him and his family and, and what he’s got going on. And so I can’t assume that I’m his problem, right? So I’ve got to show value to him. I can’t do the opposite. I can’t put it on him to do. And I do think that that’s a value that Gen X, for one reason or another, that really have an understanding of that. Like, my stuff is my problem, it’s not my boss’s problem. Right? So this, if there was a way that Boomers could have given that value, could you have done that? You know, to their kids about, you know, what your boss, it sounds harsh, because it’s the wrong thing to say. Of course, you want to believe that your boss is all the time thinking about you and your needs and your growth and where you want to be. And they really, they are but not like in the moment, you know, big picture. Of course.
Jenn DeWall: That is an insane pressure or expectation to have. And I think to say it in a different way back to you, Steve- to maybe give you the ability to trust that you know, it’s okay. We don’t, no one has the attention span anymore to really be thinking about everyone at the same time. No one does. And it’s not; it doesn’t make a boss a bad boss. We’re not constantly having someone on the radar. It’s that we are all as a society juggling and wearing so many different hats that we don’t always have capacity to think about every single person and how that’s going to impact them. And that is where we have to have the ability to be our own advocates.
Steve Born: The wisdom from this Millennial here, Jenn, is amazing. You know, that you just imparted you’re absolutely right. Just you have to make it relevant, right. No matter what generation you are, that if you want to get somewhere or you have a need that you need to fill, that there’s another group of human beings that are going to be involved in that decision. You need to make it relevant to them. Right. And maybe that’s part of the, the knowledge that the Millennials still need to round out a bit.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, they’ll, and they, we have, we’ve got time,
Steve Born: You’ve got time. You totally have time. You guys are so far beyond where we are. I mean it’s, it’s really encouraging and exciting to think about where it’s going to go from here.
What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?
Jenn DeWall: I have, I have two last questions, and I’m not surprised that our conversation went over, but I have two last questions for you. The last question would be, what advice would you have given your younger self? Because you have, you have worked your way up the, you know, throughout your career, and you found a lot of success to now where you are today as a CMO. What advice would you have given your younger self?
Steve Born: I think I got a lot of opportunities looking back. I think at the time I felt like I got them because I was great. You know, I was smart, and yes, of course they see it, they see it in me. But I think in reality I got opportunities because I took a shot and I tried to apply creativity and do things a little bit differently when I had an opportunity and if I was asked to do some things, like how can I do it in a way that stands out a bit and you know, that’s more fun. It’s more fun to work that way, you know, cause it at a minimum, you entertain yourself along the way, you know, to put more character in it. So looking back, I think that I gained a lot in my career by taking a shot at things.
Steve Born: I mean still, you know, in the, in the circle of safety, you know, it wasn’t like crazy, you know, knife-wielding, you know, cat juggling sorts of risks, that sort of thing.
Jenn DeWall: Cat juggling?
Steve Born: Just a little Jerk, the movie reference right there. But you know, just when, when you have an opportunity to apply your personality to it and take a shot and have fun with it and stand out, make you make your mark, and I don’t think you can ever lose by that. At a minimum, if it doesn’t go over very well, you just learned a very valuable life lesson about boundaries.
Jenn DeWall: Executive precedent.
Steve Born: Yeah. I don’t think; you don’t have rarely looked back on things and think, Oh man, I wish I, I when I took a shot, rarely looked back and said, I wish I wouldn’t have done that. It’s the inverse. It’s the inverse. You look back, you say, Oh, I could have done more with that. I could’ve applied that differently. I could’ve had more creativity with that. I could have made that stand out a little bit more. So say take a shot. I mean, the world is cluttered like you said before, attention spans are tiny. What does it now, three seconds that people really have focus. So we’ve lost people. People have dropped on this podcast like flies. We’re not talking to anybody right now, but you know that just with that attention span and you know, express your personality, your, you’ve got one- take a shot. Once you have that, that content down, do that extra work to put that icing on the cake. I’d say that would be my advice.
What is Your Leadership Habit?
Jenn DeWall: That’s great. And I love that. Like be yourself, take risks and be authentic with it, you know? And if there’s anything to gain from it, if it’s failure, you’re still getting a valuable lesson. Exactly. So my last question for you, Steve, is, and you know, again, I could talk to you all day about this. I really enjoyed our conversation, and I hope that whoever is still actually listening has enjoyed it too. But we wrap up every one of our podcasts with a final question. And that is what is your leadership habit for success?
Steve Born: My leadership habit for success is transparency. Transparency. I’m not smart enough to lie cause it, you know, can’t follow lies, there’s too much to keep track of. And so if you’re feeling it or you know, there’s a reason behind it. Put it out there, and people will appreciate it. I think you’ll get credit for being really direct about it. People are bad at hiding things anyway. And you know, Millennials are too smart. Humans are too smart, you know, they see right through it. If you’re not authentic that they know something’s up, they might not know what is up, but that something is up And so overall I just, I don’t think you can lose it all by transparency that if you feeling something or there’s a reason for it, that you can disclose legally of course, that you put it out there and you share it.
Jenn DeWall: Great. And then you build trust along the way. And you did touch on a great point, too, with the transparency. People can sense it. Millennials can sense it, Boomers can sense it. Gen X can sense it. And I would just say just as similar as to why we need to watch for tone in an email; people can sense how you’re coming through to them. And so think about how you want to communicate and how do you want to build trust with people and to develop and nurture that relationship. Yeah. So transparency. I love that.
Steve Born: Yeah, you wrapped it up well; it is people. People are too smart, you know, they can, they can see through it and if you’re not authentic. People know when a there’s a little bit of a hitch and like you said, even they can pick it up, an email or a text, a nuance. So, and then it’s a relief, too. You feel better when you’re actually, you know, able to put it out there at a minimum. It’s therapeutic.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. Well, Steve, thank you so much for being willing to talk with us today about Gen X. I hope we didn’t make you too much of a target when you go back to work.
Steve Born: I know exactly. Millennials and Boomers after me, Marcia and Cindy.
Jenn DeWall: No, but thank you so much for joining us, for being interviewed and also imparting your knowledge on us. It was a great conversation that I really enjoy talking to you.
Steve Born: Well, thanks. It was great to be here, and I hope it helped.
Jenn DeWall: Thank you. Steve.
Thanks for tuning in today for our conversation with Steve Born of Globus family of brands. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, please subscribe and write a review. If you’re looking for opportunities to develop your leadership skill set, how don’t over to crestcom.com there you can learn more about our 12-month leadership development program and find out how to schedule a leadership skills workshop for your team. Stay tuned for next week as we wrap up our generational leadership series with Stephanie McCauley, a millennial consultant, and trainer who shares her perspective working with multigenerational teams.