Young Thinking: Growing or Going

A favorite mentor of mine is always telling me you are either “growing” or your “going”. Over the years, I have truly come to appreciate the full impact of this simple wisdom. As more and more people are living beyond their savings and expectations, many baby boomers are finding themselves faced with more changes than they expected. This group has had to grow to face the realities of longer life. Conversely, younger workers, especially in family businesses, have found themselves facing longer succession transitions, finding themselves working longer to realize their opportunities.

Organizations also have had their challenges as technology has changed, global competition has become fierce, and resources scarce. The name of the game is to be able to change and change not only quickly, but intelligently. Strategy and succession plans have become more important than ever, as one miscalculated move can mean a quicker death than in previous decades.

Often times, I find companies, owners and managers neglecting one of their most valuable resources for assisting them in the effort to change and change intelligently – their “younger thinking” people. Companies are made up of two groups. Younger thinkers are committed to always learning new approaches, ideas and solutions. Older thinkers are committed to protecting the way things are. Unfortunately, the younger thinkers are more often than not, kept out of the change process all together.

To illustrate this point, one must assume the need for a change process is even necessary. Let’s assume that it is necessary. Most times the fear and/or resistance to change can be so thick it takes a near career and/or organizational death experience to shake things up and put things on the long-term track. This has become evident in the association industry. Older thinking members want things to remain the same, living on the lore and glory of yester year. Younger thinking members want to continue receiving greater value offerings and benefits from the association relevant to where they are. An association which only has old thinkers may only create visions of pastures and get-togethers with long-time friends. Young thinking members want to create environments in which they can improve their position both professionally and personally. Challenged with scarce resources, turf wars, budget constraints, and personal agendas, young thinkers can find it nearly impossible for their organization to be able to provide value to both them and their older thinking constituents.

So what often happens? Membership shrinks as new members and/or neglected populations leave to start up other associations or leave the association industry in general, thinking it a real waste of personal time and money.

Whenever I am given the privilege to speak and/or provide an educational workshop for an association, I can almost always spot the “thrivers” from the “not-so-soon survivors” by several factors – first, the number of new thinkers, regardless of age, who take the time to attend and participate in educational offerings; second, the number of new thinkers who stick around after the sessions to contribute value and continue to learn; finally, the number of participants come up to me to recommend a book, tape and/or educational session. New thinkers genuinely want to help others grow.

They are as serious about their continued personal and professional growth as they are about the financial end of their businesses and/or careers. Age and longevity are not the core value in these organizations. Education, growth, and giving back are.

With such a clear barometer of either thriving and/or not-so-surviving in front of us it makes we wonder about CLLA and it’s commitment to its young thinkers. Are we “Growing” or “Going”?.

About the author: Antony Firth