I heard some unexpected advice from one of America's greatest warriors, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal from a dinner I was lucky enough to attend with my wife, hosted by Stevenson University in Maryland. (Pictured: Tom Hood, Sharon Hood and Gen. McChrystal)
Gen. McChrystal (he prefers Stanley) is the retired four-star general who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
The advice was unexpected because it comes from one of the most hierarchial, command-and-control organizations you can think of — the U.S. Army. Yet Stanely was full of paradoxical thinking and advice that evening, even on the subject of war, which he says could be minimized if there were more emphasis on relationships and shared understanding.
“Listen to your junior officers,” he said, because so much has changed in the last few years, especially when it comes to technology, and nobody knows it better than the “boots on the ground” and those junior officers. He went on to say that a general's job is to set context and strategy and then listen to the advice from the junior officers and troops about how to execute the orders.
Turns out this is also what Don Tapscott has been saying for years and outlines in his book titled, Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, in which he talks about the “Net Generation” (millennials) as the first generation in the history of mankind to actually have more knowledge and skills about media, technology, and collaboration than many of the older generations in the workplace. He inspired me to take his advice and hire high school students and college interns that led us to two groundbreaking projects — CPA Island in Second LIfe and our most recent XBRL case study.
Then there is our 2012 Beach Retreat, where two children produced, directed, edited and published a video to capture the excitement of the Pirate Booty Extravaganza. Take a look at this:
Starring (and produced, directed, edited, and posted by) Kayleigh Padar (daughter of Jody anda Chris Padar) and Carson Lewis (son of Donna and Michael Lewis) — 12 and 11 years old!
Listen to (and trust) your junior officers. They may know things that you don't.
Finally, there's our work with our Leadership Academy graduates and our New / Young Professionals Network, which produced three MACPA leaders in the last 10 years (Tami Bensky, Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, and Byron Patrick) and our whitepaper about leadership in the CPA Profession, What Got You Here Won't Get You There.
Last point: In our work with the CPA Horizons 2025 project and our recent Young Professionals town hall meeting, the younger generations in our profession believe they are not being heard and that they are not being asked for their ideas about strategy, better ways to do the work, succession planning, etc. They want to benefit from the wisdom of us “older” professionals but want it to be a two-way conversation. This was the number one issue in the trends research. We need to do something about this soon. To quote from our first CPA Vision report CPA Vision report, “If not you, who? If not now, when?”
Let's start listening to (and trusting) our junior officers and the younger generations — now!