This week we’re looking at an issue involving vocabulary because sometimes the particular words we use can have a big impact on how we’re understood.
Regular readers will already be familiar with the term “rising generation”, as I’ve been using it for about five years now, ever since I heard James E. (Jay) Hughes use it during the first PPI Rendez Vous I ever attended, in 2014. The Rising Generation in Family Business
Hughes had explained that using terms like G1 and G2 (first-generation, and second-generation) was very limited and sometimes confusing, and suggested instead that we in the industry use the expression “rising generation”.
Look at the Life Cycle Instead
Here’s a paragraph from that blog from five years ago:
“So here comes the “Rising Generation” to the rescue. Hughes pointed out that when we refer to the rising generation, it helps keep everyone focussed on the fact that every person, and hence every family, and every business, has a life cycle.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself (see what I did there?).
So I started using “rising generation” or “rising gen” about five years ago, after some others like Hughes, but before many who have “caught on” more recently.
The field is evolving and so is its vocabulary, and “better words” can help people make important progress.
My favourite example of this remains “continuity planning”, which is slowly replacing the term “succession planning” which has way too many negative connotations, especially when it comes time to get people to have the conversations that are necessary. See: Continuity Planning: Who’s at the Table
What About on a “Family Basis”?
Okay, enough with the industry vocabulary, let’s get into the more important aspects of this, i.e. in a particular family, when does the “next generation” actually become the “rising generation”?
I’m glad you asked, because it’s an important question.
And in many ways, it’s mostly a question of mindset. The interesting thing about a mindset, though, is that each person has their own mind, and therefore their own mindset. The trick is to get the entire family to come to share the same mindset.
Let’s look at it from each generation’s perspective first, while recognizing that different people in the same generation will have slightly different mindsets, but that the most glaring contrasts are usually found when comparing the mindsets of the different generations.
Mom and Dad’s View of Their Offspring
Let’s start with the “NowGen”, who are the ones currently “in charge” of things, especially in the business, and typically even in the family.
When their offspring are young, little thought is given to their eventual ascendency to key roles in the business family. At some point, though, there comes a mental shift, where ideas about roles that these young ones might one day play, as their “human capital” matures, begin to take form.
But even then, those first thoughts are usually about them as the “next gen”, i.e. as people who will make a contribution “some day”, far in the future. It’s almost like they are parked there, and one day, their parents will beckon them and they will arrive on cue.
The Rising Generation’s View of Themselves
Meanwhile, those offspring have their own views, and they are often more realistic, maybe because they are the main actors in this play.
As those actors think about their lives and potential roles, they are more likely to think of the progress that they have already made and will continue to make, because they are living the “action” of rising.
Their view of the process of the “rising” is truly “first person”. They will more easily feel like they are on their way somewhere, and are hopefully well on their way to shaking off the label of “children”, which connotes being “stuck” at some age that typically starts with a “1” or worse, is a single digit.
When My Mindset Becomes Our Mindset
So here we are, back to the question of the differing mindsets in the family. My premise is that the rising generation’s mindset is the more enlightened one, and that it behooves them to do the work necessary to convince their parents’ generation of its validity.
The two key points there are these:
- The onus is on the Rising Generation
- It will take work to do it.
It won’t happen overnight, it’s a process. And it’s never too early to begin.