Next Generation Leaders...Envisioning the Business through a New Set of Eyes

Posted by Rob Newbold on Jul 15, 2014 10:52:33 AM

Newbold_Rob_LowRes_ColorWritten by Rob Newbold, IMEC Manufacturing Specialist

It started for me when my dad asked me to program the VCR as a teenager.  For the first time, I could see that my knowledge set, experience at electronics, and willingness to test ideas was greater than his.  Now that I’m a dad, I realize it may have been that he was just too tired to get behind the TV to make all the connections and wanted to give me a sense of accomplishment.  Depending on which eyes you see a situation from can provide a very different set of outcomes.

Envisioning the business through a new set of eyes

For today’s family businesses who may be dealing with three, or even four, generations in a workplace, the different sets of eyes with varying business attitudes, values, work ethics and views of the company’s potential can become a difficult and disastrous liability if not addressed.  Facilitated discussions about company culture, roles, strategic and succession plans, and family dynamics with an awareness of the key attributes of each generation is a starting point.  Leaders that provide opportunities for younger family members to achieve the sense of accomplishment, purpose, and challenge that they need to feel a part of the family organization are most likely to set their companies up for a legacy of growth and success in later transitions.

Next Generation leadersMillennials, now moving into their 20’s and 30’s, are gaining influence on family business decisions.   Within several companies IMEC is now working, we see parents increasingly turning over key business roles to their kids.  Utilizing a natural tendency to acquire knowledge and collaborate through technology, the next generation leaders (millennials) are expanding the reach of regional companies into global companies as they challenge the operational styles to evolve to meet the new marketplace demands.

In one recent example, a 70-year old company still had the grandparents working in the office while their grandkids were seeking information on how to create new workflows for the projects they were now getting from national accounts.  What had once been a local, then regional company within a 100 mile radius, is now achieving national recognition for its quality, innovation and customized designs.  The start-up business problems that grandpa had to solve were important and critical to the company. Yet, they understood that they are not equipped to address the speed and agility issues that the company must solve now to have a successful future.  For these activities, they have turned to those who think and act with much different eyes (next generation leaders) to get the outcomes that will drive this company for the next 70 years.

Is there a comparison between connecting the VCR with running a company?  Maybe not, but the idea of utilizing youth to experiment, take risks, evaluate new strategies and create connections with customers, partners, and suppliers is far too important for leaders to ignore today.   You see, I realized that my dad gave me a challenge that he didn’t want to take on, he knew I had a desire to learn, and I would derive greater satisfaction from it than he ever could.  When you put these higher challenges into the equation, allowing young people to learn from failures and grow on their own, good things happen.

The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) specializes in assisting family- and closely-held businesses address the challenges and opportunities of transitioning a company to its next generation. For more information, or to begin your company journey, please contact IMEC at 888-806-4632 or email

Rob Newbold

Written by Rob Newbold

Topics: leadership, continuous improvement, strategy development

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