Old People with Old Ideas Got You Down? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am fairly new to the workforce. I have a degree in accounting and got a great job right out of college, working in the finance department. I’ve been in this job for almost two years now. I like the company, the products we make, my manager, and my work.

My issue is that I feel there is so much more our company could be doing to appeal to people my age. Our CEO and our head of marketing are the age of my grandparents. I hate to be ageist, but we could be so much more successful if they were willing to expand their view of the market and to use social media. I don’t have a degree in marketing or even work in marketing, but I don’t need to be an expert to see the missed opportunities.

I hear a lot about generational differences, and I worry if I say something that I will be seen as a know-it-all or worse. Do you think I should say something?

Big Ideas

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Dear Big Ideas,

I can’t really say. But I can propose some ways you can look at this that might help you think it through and come to a decision that feels right.

The first thing to consider is the company culture, values, and overarching strategy. Are there stated values? If so, is there anything about innovation or continual improvement? Does your CEO communicate about where he sees the company going and the goals that are going to help it get there? You might find some clues there as to how open senior leadership might be to new ideas. You can connect any ideas you want to share to the values and strategy of the organization.

Your next stop would be a conversation with your manager. Generally, people in finance aren’t thinking much about marketing, but your manager should be able to offer some guidance of who might be open to hearing your insights. There could be a young counterpart of yours in the marketing department who sees things the same way you do. It wouldn’t hurt to develop a relationship with someone like that.

Finally, you might think about framing your ideas in compelling terms, depending on who you are talking to. Anything you can do to get to know people and what is important to them will help. You can check out their social media to see what interests them, and then tailor your pitch to leverage that. Some people will be interested in market share, others in revenue, and still others in creativity and the reputation of the company.

Be ready to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. If you ask “what ideas have you had?” you can weave others’ thinking into subsequent pitches so it doesn’t sound like you are only sharing your ideas.

The more you get people talking, the more they will end up thinking any ideas that get adopted were theirs. This would be a win! Start slow, with just a few people, and build from there.

I love big ideas! And, being a grandparent myself, I find that my world view is vastly enriched by engaging with the younger generations. But, of course, that’s me. Start by enlarging your network and developing relationships with as many people as you can. Find ways to connect your ideas to what interests them. Take your time and be respectful. You might just be able to spark some interest that becomes a fire. As long as you aren’t worried about controlling the outcomes, or being seen as the owner of whatever happens, you might be surprised at the impact you can make.

Having vision for what is possible is a leadership trait, Big Ideas, and figuring out how to influence people to see what you see is a critical leadership lesson. There are great things in store for you, my friend!

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

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