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Our Industry’s Generation Gap

Published: April 9, 2024
NSCA’s BLC 2024, held in Dallas from Feb. 27-29, seemed to attract a larger-than-usual number of next-generation attendees. Photo by Dan Ferrisi.

Working at NSCA and in my old job at Commercial Integrator, I have gotten a chance to meet countless integration industry company leaders — all of whom possess more tried-and-true business wisdom than most of us can ever hope to achieve. The companies in our industry benefit from strong leadership. Here comes the “but.” 

But… too many integration channel companies have not done a good enough job of creating a pipeline of next-generation leadership. These strong leaders can’t stay at the helm forever; what’s more, they deserve to take their foot off the pedal and not worry about the future of their companies. It starts with identifying rising stars within their organizations and making sure they’re nurturing those future leaders. 

In too many companies, there appears to be a generation gap between veteran leadership and up-and-comers. And that gap does not exist for lack of effort or concern. The integration industry is distinct. For many of our company leaders, it’s sometimes difficult to envision even the most well-schooled and experienced professionals navigating the challenges that are unique to running an integration company. That’s why, a couple of years ago, leaders in the NSCA Community started creating Next-Gen Academy, a set of content and discussion guidelines that foster learning around business and leadership challenges unique to our industry. A great way to sum up Next-Gen Academy is that it’s all about what veteran company leaders in the NSCA Community wish they had known (or had thought more about) as they were establishing their leadership roles. 

The goal of Next-Gen Academy is to help close that generation gap by training future company leaders and giving them a great chance to succeed. What has been lacking, however, is a platform for those discussions. 

Enter XBO Experience 

NSCA is launching a very different type of integration industry event, and it’s coming November 12 to 13 at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Those attending XBO (Excellence in Business Operations) Experience will be rising stars and future leaders of their companies. (This contrasts with the established leaders who typically attend NSCA’s annual Business & Leadership Conference.) Meanwhile, XBO Experience provides a dynamic platform for Next-Gen Academy content and discussions. 

BLC isn’t going anywhere. In fact, our 2024 BLC was sold out, and attendees really seemed to enjoy and benefit from the sessions. BLC will remain NSCA’s signature and flagship conference that best reflects the goals of the association. But primary among those goals is to help integrators with their businesses — and addressing this leadership and generation gap is something the businesses in our industry very much need.  

XBO Experience is all about the next generation. Yes, the content is based on a Next-Gen Academy outline. But, using that as a baseline, it will be planned by next-generation industry professionals for next-generation industry professionals. The principles presented, while tried and true, will be led and taught in an innovative and interactive way. 

There will be discussions on topics like these: 

  • Managing remote individuals 
  • Better understanding personality traits and not taking a one-size-fits-all approach to management 
  • Adapting quickly to rapidly changing situations 
  • Customer-facing communications best practices 
  • Situational awareness, assertiveness and difficult conversations 
  • Problem-solving methods and documentation best practices 
  • Identifying constraints and bottlenecks in general workflow/processes 
  • Transforming big ideas into smaller, executable steps and results 
  • How we interact with technical and non-technical team members 
  • Using our strengths and personality to gain trust and respect 
  • Issues and fears relating to overstepping authority 
  • The fear of making mistakes 
  • Ethics, integrity and honesty 

An overarching goal for the companies in our industry should be for their next generation of leaders to be as capable and as successful as those who came before them. That is not easy to achieve — especially given the great leadership this industry boasts. The first step, however, is to work toward closing that generation gap. 

A good goal for 2024 is to identify the rising stars and future leaders within your organization; then, make sure they’re getting the support they need to grow into their leadership roles. 

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