Wisdom from the Oldest Person in the Room


It hit me at an HR conference I spoke at recently that I was not only the Subject matter expert on stage, but I was also the oldest person in the room. How can that be? I’m innovative and several years away from contemplating retirement.

To be fair, without acknowledging it, I was the oldest HR executive in my last organization too, and only had 1 older than me at Marcum (my prior firm). I have to go back to 2011 to find any significant amount of older HR staff than me on my team.

At Leviton we had several “lifers” folks who stayed to retirement. When I became a VP at Leviton in 2002, I was the 2nd youngest of 26 VP’s and C-Suite members. In essence I was a child among grown men, at least that’s how I felt for at least the first yr. Some were concerned that I was too young and not ready to be a VP…and I had to prove they were right to promote me.

By the time I left Leviton 9 yrs. later I had graduated to the “adult table” and was firmly entrenched in the middle of the bell curve of senior management age distribution. I never felt old at Leviton. It was hard to with an 86 yr. old CEO (Harold) and an 84 yr. old CFO. At Leviton and Marcum the average age of our employees surpassed 41 yrs. old. At Success it was 27.

That’s a dramatic difference (14yrs.). I thought Success was an anomaly, but it’s not. The workplace is getting younger and I am getting older. It’s normal to not see what’s right in front of you. Most of us can’t see our own nose without looking in the mirror.

I didn’t see that I had grown up. Literally….

It was there right in front of me. The anxiety and challenge of working with a millennial workforce. Being the only one in the office at 830am…the only one with pictures in frames for my desk and awards to hang on the wall. Today’s generation is used to working without walls around them…and you hang your pictures on Instagram.

It should have hit me, having been recognized as one of Long Island’s 50 around 50, and again this yr. as one of the 50 over 50 HR executives nationally.

So with all that said, what do I do about this ???

I am not sure if I should change a thing. I continue to speak at national and international conferences. I still write for major publications in print and on-line. I teach graduate level HR at Adelphi and volunteer on a couple of boards… I have been doing this for years…so why change now?

I seem to be mentoring more and coaching less….helping new and emerging execs navigate. I recently helped a former student switch vocations from public accounting to HR and she is so much happier now.

I do personal coaching for folks in transition. Sometimes one’s own experience is better than any theory.

And finally I am continuing to learn and transform my skills. I do my presentations with mostly images behind me. I have learned to be a story teller. I don’t sell, I respond to client needs….I am a work in progress, one might say I am in “Beta” mode….In reality I have always been in BETA…

Maybe that’s the best advice, always be in test and trial mode…


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