Memo to Baby Boomers: You Don’t Want to Lose Molly!

When you’re our age, sometimes it’s hard to remember.  Actually, most times it’s easy to forget what it was like to be starting out, to be the kid on the team, to be one step behind, to feel awkward, not to know your way around.  It’s easy to forget what being young was like – because it was a long time ago.

In case you’re having trouble remembering what it was like when the way ahead was full of promise, when every task assigned was an adventure, when getting a project to coordinate was like getting a promotion, when a “well done” from someone more senior kept you motivated for days, when turning 25 meant you could rent a car on your own, let me introduce you to Molly.

Molly graduated a couple of years ago with a major in graphic design from a small, excellent liberal arts college in the Midwest.  She went on three “study abroad” programs (to Peru, Barbados and Spain) to become fluent in Spanish, was on the volleyball team, danced in a couple of musicals, produced a campus comedy/improv group and got good grades.  She was a hard worker in and out of the classroom, working summers in her father’s manufacturing business.  A most valuable player in every aspect of her college years.

Before she graduated she had a job offer from an alum who was building a small startup division of a specialty retailer.  He needed a Marketing Coordinator who would be a most valuable player for the business and be willing to grow and develop with the organization.  A true entry level position.  She would have to move to Denver and then to the West Coast to the retailer’s headquarters if the team met their goals.

In the first 12 months on the job, Molly did a little bit of everything including planning logistics for a trade show and designing and producing the division’s first product catalog.  She was eager to learn, worked hard and nothing was beneath her.  Every assignment was a growth opportunity.  Every business trip an opportunity to expand her contacts.  She took on more and more complex and critical projects and became the go-to person on the team.

When the team made the move to the West Coast, there was no question that Molly would make the move too.  So now, under the full view of the corporate marketing team, Molly has more opportunities to learn, to get involved with bigger projects and to gain valuable experience.

Molly just turned 25, has 2 years of work experience and knows she could probably propel her career forward a couple of notches by leveraging her experience to find that next big step in a bigger company.  But she’s not doing that.  She’s thrilled with her colleagues and her boss and her company.  Her job continues to provide extraordinary experience and skill development and she’s proud of her work, her progress and her company.

But the keys to her “stickiness” are her relationships.  The relationships with her new boss, the division president and other corporate leaders who are coaching her and providing her with great learning opportunities and actionable feedback.  It’s all about how they care for her as a person and as a professional so why would she consider leaving?

I saw her work first hand last week when she produced an extraordinary marketing event at a company here in Las Vegas that is distributing her division’s products.  She was wrangling celebrity chefs, two CEOs, the press, the production crew, her senior management team and the logistics teams from both organizations like a pro.  She was confident, on top of every detail, and the event was gangbusters great.

So why discuss Molly?  Because she’s a lesson for all of us Boomers who believe all the hype about how different (and difficult) the GenYs among us are.  I think it is hype because in Molly I saw myself at 25.  And it made me think that, although the context of starting a career has changed significantly in the last 30 years, people are still people.  Young people want to learn, want to be trusted, want to try their wings.  They want their bosses to invest in them and care about them as people.  They want to be respected.  That’s what I wanted when I was 25.  And 30, and 40, and 50.

I loved talking with Molly and hearing the excitement in her voice, feeling the energy she exuded, and knowing the slight fear of not delivering what was expected – all at the same time.  Because I remembered when that was me.  Like Molly, I was lucky to have found organizations and bosses willing to create real relationships with me and to provide incredible opportunities for learning and development.  To trust in my abilities and to take risks in my intelligence and inexperience.

Strip away all the technology, the mobile apps, the globalized economy, and the effects of the recession and remember what it was like to be an excited, inexperienced kid full of dreams about how our fabulous career would unfold.  And then take a new look at the GenYs in your organization and talk with them the way you wanted to be talked to 30 years ago.  Create solid, real relationships with them and coach them the way you wanted to be coached.

While my Molly is certainly special, I think there are a lot of Mollys out there.  And the key to keeping the Mollys in your organization is creating real, personal relationships with them.  Trust me.  You don’t want to lose Molly!

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Memo to Baby Boomers: You Don’t Want to Lose Molly!

  1. Katy McKinney

    Excellent article! This “ride” has so much to do about cultivating relationships – no matter what generation we come from. There is a richness that comes forth from both parties when they are valued, appreciated and respected. And when we realize we are all really on the same team – (valuing, appreciating and respecting one another) everyone comes out a winner! The “Molly’s” coming up the ladder today are great reminders that there is so much to learn and we should all strive to be our very best everyday. I know my “Molly” inspires me to do just that! 😉

  2. Way to go Molly! I’m feeling the same and just wrote a blog post on managing young professionals. Take a read if you have time! http://bit.ly/iuLddw

  3. Great story and a reminder to all that no matter how successful we get we can always learn from someone else no matter who and what they do.

  4. You made me want to meet Molly and connect how much we Boomers have in common with GenY. ( Maybe the labeling tends to accentuate our differences too much).

    Then I realized I know lots of Molly’s but need to make sure (for their sake and my own) that I stay on top of our relationship since the tools they use might be very different than my generation (although I’m fully capable of adapting).

    Great story

    • Thanks, Gerry. When you think about it, the way people connect has been changing forever. Think about how Roman roads and chariots changed the basic behavior of connecting. Then fast forward to snail mail and letters. Then the telephone. Then email. And now social media. Seems like we have lots of history of the younger generations assimilating to new “technology” and leading the older generations forward. That certainly seems to be happening now. And the older generations always seem to get with the program, albeit kicking and screaming sometimes. 🙂 I think we’ve got Mollys all over the place — and they want what we wanted: to be respected, to have real relationships with their bosses and to live a life worthy of investment.

  5. China, that may be the best article you’ve written on this blog.

  6. I’ve enjoyed reading this article. It was somehow moving! It has become harder than ever to “make it” in today’s working world, and it’s great to see that hard work and effort as well as skills and quality are sometimes rewarded so greatly. Well done to Molly for never giving up and believing in herself and well done also to the people who, more importantly trusted and nurtured her in the person she has now become. Everyone should have this very same chance. Thanks, Fiona.

    • Molly surely is a great role model for her peers! And her management team deserves kudos as well for providing such a rich and meaningful experience for her. I think that’s what we all want!

  7. Debbie Brown

    Bravo- – great read!

  8. Thanks for the reminder about how important our inner “Molly” is in life!! What a great article and inspiring story!!

  9. China,
    Such wise advice! For the longest time, I was “the kid” in several of my workplace situations. Then, I wasn’t the youngest anymore and it was time for me to be the mentor, not the protege. Not all leaders “of a certain age” make that transition gracefully. Thanks for helping us “remember when” in a practical way that will help us be the best mentors we can be.

  10. China!

    I loved what you had to say about Molly! I too have my Molly’s in my life and I love them with all my heart!

    One thought I have that I feel is equally as important to the one you make in this post, is that the Molly’s out there mustn’t lose themselves. I’m 31 and having been out of college only ten years, I still remember what it was like to enter into the “real world” with breathless anticipation of making my mark.

    Well, long story short, through various tough employment & personal challenges, I lost my own inner Molly and I lost myself. I lost my courage, my passion, my eagerness, my dedication, and my commitment to the qualities that I so loved expressing. I gave up on myself and I gave up on excelling. I clocked in and I clocked out and then wondered why my life was void of purpose and hated myself as a result of my settling for mediocrity. My Molly was dead and I was killing other people’s Molly’s as well.

    Through a culmination of events however, the fire was rekindled. A spark gave way to a courageous man and my Molly emerged better, stronger and more passionate about my life’s purpose than it was when I had first stepped foot into the real world.

    So my point being, I believe each and every one of us has our truest Molly within and it is screaming to be released. Regardless of whether you are a Baby Boomer or not, the quickest way you can learn to keep the indispensable Molly’s on your team, is to have the courage to reintroduce yourself to your own Molly. Together, you’ll be an abominable force! 😉

  11. China-
    I’ve met quite a few Mollys in the last two years. Like you, I remember what it was like for me, only so much is different in terms of tools, how people work, and how they communicate with each other. What works a little better for me is the fact that I have a couple of my own children in that age group who are facing some of those same challenges. When one of them tells me about how hard it is to get recognized, I think about the Mollys where I work, and what am I doing about their recognition.
    Thanks for the reminder!

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