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leadership lab

President, JustJunk.

When building a management team, what’s the right balance to strike? In startup cultures there’s a push for innovation, to be on the edge of the next great technological breakthrough. And the youthful energy can make that innovation feasible … for a time.

But what happens when a business grows to a point where you’re interacting with more and more businesses or a customer demographic that isn’t full of millennials? The millennial drive has peaks and valleys, so when I was expanding my management staff – positions filled by younger, innovative people – I opted to go a different route. I asked, “What could experienced staff bring to the table?” Though it almost seems divisive, generational gaps can be beneficial in management teams.


You’re full of new and innovative ideas and highly efficient as a result of being raised with technology. Many in the the older generations have, of course, experienced technology but have had to adapt to it. You have grown up with it, developed with it and integrated it into your lifestyle. You’re forever on the cusp of the new digital developments and will be the primary customer demographic before you know it. Everyone will want your attention and you’re uniquely aware of how brands and advertisers operate. Millennials will keep businesses on their toes.

I have noticed a trend, however, that millennials in business typically avoid the phone like the plague and prefer to correspond via e-mail and text. Some people communicate very well this way, but I wonder if there isn’t a loss of a personal touch by removing the human voice and face from these conversations. E-mail and text communication loses a lot of the nuance that comes through in phone calls or face-to-face meetings. A light tone or a joke in an e-mail may not translate, and I’ve had to field more concerns than I thought I would about e-mail communication.

My advice to younger staff:

1. Pick up the phone more often; don’t jump right to business. It helps to develop longer-lasting business relationships.

2. New technology can offer great new methods of reaching your customer, but if your customers don’t use that technology you may be in for a struggle. Know your customer first.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask. This is where the experienced staff come in handy. Their years in the industry might help them answer a specific question you may be struggling with, and they’re always happy to chat.

Experienced staff

Hiring for experience, on the contrary, will minimize trial and error in your organization. The fast pace of younger workers should be met with a sense of calm in solving any contentious issues that may arise. Experienced talent acts as a voice to quickly determine how to get from A to B, without making many wrong turns along the way.

Though they may be less tech-savvy, having experienced staff almost always guarantees a strong work ethic without the worry that focus will shift in too many directions at once. My advice to the experienced staff is:

1. Don’t fret the tech. Though younger staff may be more in tune with technological developments, their respect for experience often excuses any missteps you may have with it. Often the younger staff is excited to share with you just how to use technology to make your life more efficient.

2. You can never overshare your experience. Millennials in management are eager to hear how you learned over the years and how you built companies from the ground up. You share their spirit, their eagerness, and their will to succeed and try new things. They know that what got you where you are can get them where they want to be, too.

We’ve been able to marry the two work ethics together. We’re still on the cutting edge of technology and keep up with new ideas, but we’ve tempered that with the patient business experience that only years in industry can hone and develop. When both groups exchange their tactics, the entire organization benefits. It’s a strong, forward-thinking blend that continues to work for JUSTJUNK.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.