Complain that as a young professional your life never slows down
5 Steps for Emerging Talent Starting on Your Path to Tomorrow
but only gets busier and more complex, and you’re sure to get some empathy—or even sympathy. But tell Pierre Quinn you don’t have time to think about your future, much less your leadership skills, and you’d better be ready for his response.
“I think it’s a fallacy when someone says they don’t have the time or bandwidth to work on their leadership skills,” says Quinn, leadership development expert, author and CEO of The Cardell Group in Laurel, Maryland. “Many of us make the mistake of thinking of leadership as a title and responsibilities instead of a set of behaviors,” he continues. “I don’t need to sit in the executive seat to lead at work or at home because leadership is more about how we talk with people, how we respond when things are uncertain and how we give instructions. Leadership involves everyday actions we take and need to be cognizant of, whether we have a title or not.”
Quinn is not the only expert advising emerging talent to start thinking about and planning their futures now. Just Google “The Future of Work,” and you’ll find page after page of entries for blogs, articles, research papers and videos addressing the need to think sooner about later.
Terry Grim, Futurist, Partner and Co-founder of Foresight Alliance in Washington, D.C., says the future of work is changing so quickly that even the best advice about it can soon become outdated. That’s why she teaches foresight as a discipline for better understanding the future and frameworks for examining it.
“Leadership involves everyday actions we take and need to be cognizant of.”
Pierre Quinn, The Cardell Group
“I think change is happening so fast that many new careers haven’t yet been identified,” says Grim. And although parents and other older adults often give career advice with the best intentions, Grim makes this observation: “The world your parents and grandparents lived in is not the world you live in. Change happened slower then, and kids could follow in their parents’ footsteps. But in many cases, that’s no longer possible. Young people need to use their own knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in the world now and not count too much on what older people tell them.”
Here, then, are five steps to help increase your knowledge and awareness on your journey to the future of you.
1. Assess Yourself
Both Quinn and Grim are known to members of ELFA’s Emerging Talent Advisory Council (ETAC), having spoken at events sponsored by the Council, ELFA or the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation. They believe taking steps now to better understand yourself and others can only enlarge your window on the future. Quinn says one such step is honing your communication skills, since they are essential to effective leadership.
“We’ve found that conflict in communication runs in predictable cycles and that when conflict occurs, most people default into behaviors and types of responses they are hardwired to make, based on their personalities,” he says. “But there’s a way to change this by developing what I call ‘the voice of a leader.’ We can analyze our own personalities and communication styles and learn to identify those of others. Then we can pivot when we encounter a conflict and choose our responses to better connect with customers, employees and everyone who is important to us.”
To develop your leadership voice, Quinn suggests first taking a behavioral and communication assessment such as The Innermetrix DISC Index. The Index measures four dimensions of behavioral style categorized as Decisive, Interactive, Stability and Cautious. “This is a tool that analyzes how you respond in any given situation,” Quinn says. “It helps you understand who you are and how you interact with the world, and, just as important, it helps you understand others you engage with so you can be more effective.”
2. Go Wider, Deeper and Longer
To be a more effective thinker, Grim advocates developing your foresight. “When we go wider, we synthesize ideas from a wider area,” she explains. “This means looking at ideas not only inside equipment finance, but in other industries and environments. We do this because the future doesn’t happen only in our lane! Change comes from all sides, so we have to look wider.”
Going deeper means challenging your assumptions. “These might have been valid in the past, but often they are no longer true,” says Grim. “They are barriers to understanding what’s out there, and you need to get rid of them to move forward.”
To go longer is to “look farther into the future,” she clarifies, remembering that “the future does not follow a straight path from where you are today, and that actions in the future will continue to change the future.”
To share her own early brushes with foresight, Grim tells a story:
“I decided to study computer science when I went to college in the ‘70s because it was interesting and fun,” she says. “But my father thought it was stupid and that I was wasting my time. Afterward, when I had, like, 25 job offers, he didn’t say anything.”
But when her son was planning his future, Grim says her attitude about it resembled her father’s. “My son is a gifted artist who was raised by two engineers, and we thought he’d be an engineer, too,” she recalls. “Instead, he went to Savannah College of Art & Design, and I envisioned him as a poor street artist. But he got a job as an animator in Los Angeles, and he earns more than an engineer! He knew what he wanted to do, and we had to accept it and embrace it.”
“I think change is happening so fast that many new careers haven’t yet been identified.”
Terry Grim, Foresight Alliance
To that point, Grim says this to emerging talent: “Understand what motivates you and what you enjoy doing. Then work to build something around it. And don’t feel constrained. Understand what you want to do, then figure out how to pursue it. And as with any foresight activity, consider multiple options.”
3. Select Mentors Just Ahead of You
To broaden your perspective and provide a sounding board, Quinn advocates spending time with people ahead of you in your journey. “This is so important as a young person, because your work thrusts you into a new role and culture, and you need some navigators,” he says. “People who’ve been there and done that can help show the way to your next moves and help you avoid mistakes.”
Mentors need not be in leadership positions or even work at your company, but Quinn suggests selecting those only slightly ahead of you in their careers. “You’re just looking for someone who has a bit more experience,” he explains. “Sometimes we try to get advice from people who are 100 steps ahead of us, and they may forget what it’s like to be in your shoes.”
4: Tap ETAC for Resources
Ryan Van De Boogaard has already started on his path to greater self-knowledge and outside awareness and says ELFA’s Emerging Talent Advisory Council (ETAC) has helped. An ETAC Member and Leasing Manager at Key Equipment Finance in Superior, Colorado, Van De Boogaard says his involvement with ETAC has shaped his thinking about the future and about remaining in equipment finance. “Having the opportunity to serve and volunteer for ELFA through ETAC allows me to network with leaders, future leaders and peers,” he says. “This is a tight-knit and unique industry, and I think the earlier you can get involved, the more value you’ll get from it. You really don’t understand the impact you can make on our industry until you volunteer to serve. I’m honored to be helping grow the future of this industry.”
“This is a tightknit and unique industry, and I think the earlier you can get involved, the more value you’ll get from it.”
Ryan Van De Boogaard, Key Equipment Finance
ELFA created ETAC in 2014 to engage emerging talent at Association-member companies earlier in their careers. “We used to wonder why so few young people were involved in ELFA events,” says Mike DiCecco, ELFA Board of Directors Liaison to ETAC and President, Huntington Equipment Finance, in Cleveland. “Now it’s amazing to see how, given the opportunity, they’ve really embraced getting involved.”
DiCecco says ETAC works to improve the way companies identify, recruit, develop and engage emerging talent displaying the aspiration and ability to grow into leadership roles. “There’s a lot of talk among industry executives that millennials aren’t loyal to companies, but the way to change that is to earn their loyalty,” he emphasizes. “We’ve noticed that many talented young people will stay at a company if they’re challenged, developed and inspired by the purpose of their roles.”
“There’s a lot of talk among industry executives that millennials aren’t loyal to companies, but the way to change that is to earn their loyalty.”
Mike DiCecco, Huntington Equipment Finance
The Council promotes self-development through numerous events held in-person and virtually. Online offerings include Q&As in the “Ask a Leader Interview Series
,” and the recently launched “Equipment Finance Matters
” podcast, featuring ELFA Board Chair Martha Ahlers as the first interviewee.
Helen Woodhouse, ETAC Member and Senior Marketing Executive for Sopra Banking Software in Bristol, U.K., says remote participation is easy, fun and beneficial. Having covered the North American market remotely for three years before her appointment to ETAC, Woodhouse now meets with the entire Council and individual task forces though regular phone calls. She also enjoys the online offerings.
“I’m still fairly new to ETAC, and already it’s been an amazing opportunity to connect with other professionals in similar positions to mine,” she says. “Getting involved in different task forces with different objectives means I’ve already gained new knowledge, and on our frequent calls, I feel like I learn something new virtually every time. Being part of ETAC has boosted my confidence and widened my network.”
“I’m still fairly new to ETAC, and already it’s been an amazing opportunity to connect with other professionals in similar positions to mine.”
Helen Woodhouse, Sopra Banking Software
Woodhouse says she has also gained insight into ELFA’s purpose and now has a better understanding of dynamics between companies. “Information of this type isn’t always accessible through the sales process or attending conferences, and within my marketing role, this gives me a different perspective on how we can best serve lenders and our partners in the industry,” she says. “I’d be missing all of that if I weren’t part of ETAC.”
5. Continue to Explore and Learn
That’s one reason Woodhouse adds her voice to those urging emerging talent to start pondering their futures now. “Along with ELFA, many companies are now creating succession and mentorship plans, making it easier than ever to help you progress,” she says. “And since such tools are likely to improve continuously, competition for top roles could increase. You don’t want to be the one who misses the boat!”
Van De Boogaard agrees and encourages emerging talent to be proactive in their search for new experiences and opportunities. “I’d tell young professionals just starting in equipment finance to learn what ELFA and the Foundation have to offer and then get involved,” he says. “It’s amazing to see an industry full of competitors come together and find ways to improve our businesses, find creative solutions for our customers and improve the industry as a whole. ELFA and ETAC provide many opportunities to build out your network, which is so important in growing a career.”
To companies that have yet to engage their emerging talent in an ELFA or ETAC event, DiCecco gives a nudge: “Investing in emerging talent is investing in your future. ETAC provides young professionals with a network and skills to get the most out of engaging with the larger industry at future events. Invest in your young talent and you’ll learn as I have that the future of our industry is bright.”
ELFA Resources for Emerging Talent
Visit ELFA’s Emerging Talent webpage
for more information on the following resources.
: ELFA’s Fundamentals of Equipment Leasing and Finance, other online courses and Principles of Leasing & Finance Workshops get employees up-to-speed on industry practices.
: ELFA holds networking and learning events for emerging talent throughout the year.
Generation Next LinkedIn Group
: ETAC created this group to help young professionals share career building and relevant industry content, connect up-and-comers with influencers and engage and educate emerging talent.
: A platform from the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation for students and organizations to find each other and make connections.