As part of our white paper focused on Intergenerational Leadership, we interviewed five Family Office leaders from three generations. This is just one of many extracts from the white paper which you can download, in full, by completing the form below.
In this interview, we speak to Jason Ma, the Founder and CEO at ThreeEQ, a family-owned premier education and global business advisory firm where he is also known as the Chief Mentor of Next-Gen Leaders. Jason works with some of the world’s leading Family Offices to mentor and coach their Gen Z and Millennial children, as well as Family Office leaders, for their next-level success.
Jason talks here about why wealth is just one factor impacting Families’ well-being and legacy, what generational differences can teach us about the Family Office environment, and why lifelong learning and continuous honing of pragmatic ‘3EQ’ (emotional, social, and leadership intelligence), mindset, and soft skills are critical success factors for Family Offices moving forward in our turbulent, ever-changing world.
A GLOBAL MACRO VIEW
The future of work is here, and change is not only constant but accelerating. This was the case even before the global pandemic arrived. Worldwide, the growing impact of technological advances; especially AI and machine learning, investment opportunities, digital transformation, globalization, intergenerational and demographic changes, the “gig economy”, and other ingredients have been boosting Family Offices’ productivity and profitability.
At the same time, mediocre emotional intelligence (EQ), social media, socio-political turbulence, educational system issues and fake news have been increasing stress and anxiety, intensifying competition in various contexts. While many Family Offices are more conservative in hiring new employees during these challenging times, the loss of key employees who perform well and in whose development the Family Office has invested can be costly. In particular, Millennials and Gen Z family members and employees are not only digitally savvy, intellectual, and demanding but also stressed and anxious in their own ways.
To navigate the world’s ever-changing, complex market and talent dynamics, Family Office leaders must rethink and enhance their leadership skills to unleash their workforce’s full potential while dealing with their stress and anxiety. Linear career conformity and a fixed mindset won’t work. The strong will survive, and the strongest will thrive.
NEXT-GEN LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES
Leadership starts with a strong value system. What matters are values and principles, soft and hard skills, supply and demand, and then rewards. Service to others is core. Passion is a must. In my own family (playfully called the “MAfia”), I value unconditional love, humour, and high standards in what matters.
In business, I integrate my family values with the following principles:
- Integrity and authenticity
- Compassionate leadership and connection
- Strategic and pragmatic contributions
- Creative, open-minded, and deep thinking
- Lifelong learning and growth
Leaders show character, communicate well, demonstrate compassion, dislike overly political “yes people”, listen well, and obtain the best collaborative effort. A leader finds and works with the right people. Leadership today is about influence, not titles. A leader is passionate about the vision of an idea and knows how to get there.
Aware of a dearth of truly high-quality, next-generation leaders worldwide, I have dedicated my second career to transforming select young achievers, preparing them for admission to great universities, mentoring them to develop powerful mindsets and soft skills and guiding them to enter and thrive in high-end careers and family businesses as impactful, compassionate leaders.
Privileged to be known as the Chief Mentor of Next-Gen Leaders in Family Office and high-level circles, I find it important to instil in my students a visionary, outcome focused, and purposeful mindset, key soft skills, strategies (in global business, school, and personal success), and execution effectiveness with pragmatic emotional, social, and leadership intelligence (3EQ). My students range from high-achieving Gen Zs to Millennials to Gen X C-suite leaders. I often “partner” with Gen X, Boomer, and even elder matriarchs and patriarchs for their collective success.
The future of work at more advanced Family Offices and Businesses should embrace the digitally savvy and highly competitive, but somewhat inexperienced, Gen Z. With zero to minimal experience in an analogue world, Gen Z has expectations about communications and collaboration that will reshape our work and digital world on both the demand and supply sides.
GEN Z: MINDSET AND NEEDS
Unlike previous generations, Gen Zers were born and raised as tech-savvy digital citizens with increasing interconnectedness and diversity in a shrinking world.
Growing up, they were exposed to the pains of the post-9/11 period, the Great Recession, tragedies, broken political systems, fake news, and divisive echo chambers. Their smartphones, which provide instant updates, are like natural extensions of their bodies. These experiences have strengthened their resolve to recreate a better world. Today, they care more about solving real problems than about who uses which bathroom.
Driven and pragmatic, Gen Z achievers care more about meaningful, challenging work and making an impact while shaping their own significance and identity. Many have clearer career aspirations and paths than previous generations did and establish these aspirations and paths earlier than their predecessors. Gen Zers care about authenticity, genuine connection, and compassion, they value integrity and honesty in a Patriarch or leader and have grown up in history’s most diverse culture, and they also appreciate mutual trust and respect.
If you spend time helping them clarify their visions, dreams, and aspirations, and aiding them in directing their development and growth, they will likely be engaged, effective performers for a long time to come.
As you lead and inspire these Gen Zers, clearly articulate your Family Office’s vision and the key goals for your Gen Z colleagues. The real performers won’t stay long if they feel that you don’t appreciate their contributions or if they aren’t emotionally aligned with you and the Family Office. Empathise—but focus on what matters to you as their leader and to the Family.
Gen Z has an entrepreneurial spirit and likes to (co)create. This isn’t to mean they all want to start businesses, but they enjoy a sense of ownership in creation. They care about adventure and autonomy. Environments that seamlessly integrate physical and mobile/online help will put them in a positive mental state for creativity and innovation. They enjoy working at home on occasion but also take pleasure in traveling.
Continuous learning and career/personal growth are important to Gen Zs. They appreciate employable skills-building and opportunities for advancement. Often, they don’t know what they don’t know but, with effective guidance, they relish unleashing their potential.
However, they can be emotionally volatile. Their non-stop experience with social media and online apps, which use algorithms that grab attention and foster addiction, can make them feel lonely, anxious, or fragile. So, coach them compassionately to be more mindful, make progress, and grow.
HOW TO WORK WITH GEN Z IN YOUR TEAM
I mentor leaders to effectively accomplish the following as part of a greater mission:
- Give Gen Z meaningful and purposeful work, especially anything digital. Involve them in product and service innovations, digital marketing, and other creative work. However, easily automated, and routine work will bore them. Along with the rise of predictive AI, VR, AR, and the Internet of Things, tech-savvy Gen Z believes the future of digital work, play, and education will be increasingly connected, personalized, authentic, secure, and dynamic.
- Focus on genuine, authentic working relationships with Gen Z. Be inspiring, positive, authentic, direct and compassionate. Ensure they feel aligned with the Family’s vision and mission. They may need more autonomy and freedom, but they also value regular communication and being held accountable for their performance.
- Get Gen Z to reverse-mentor you. If you lack digital skills, work with your Gen Z employees to create them. Establish a simple process or program in your department and for others across the company.
Young people are digitally savvy but often lack wisdom in more complex contexts because they are not there yet in life and in terms of work experience and skills. From a Silicon Valley perspective, an analogy is machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Over time, to train a machine (i.e., mindset and skills), one must feed it lots of data (i.e., experiences). The machine is worthless if it does not feed on, analyse, and learn from quality data or implement useful applications (i.e., real skills applied purposefully)—no matter how powerful the algorithm is.
Family Office principals and executives must apply their human resources more optimally. While mature leaders have the most wisdom and life experience in some areas, their digital skill set is nowhere near that of Gen Zs.
Family Offices should utilize and learn from this.
When Gen Zs reverse-mentor elders, both groups can learn and grow. No matter how bright they are, Gen Zs are still young and require feedback. They must feel appreciated and believe that they are being taught and developed. When the working relationship is effective, the entire team can do great things at the next level. So, Family Office leaders should ask their next-gen achievers to reverse-mentor them but be humble and don’t let ego get in the way.
MORE ON PRINCIPLES AND LIFELONG LEARNING
When mentoring and guiding Family Office executives and Families’ children for next-level success, I have them start with outcomes in mind. Then, I guide them in working on what to do next, step-by-step, strategically, and tactically. I help them identify and execute short, medium, and long-term goals. Once again, Gen Zs want to constantly grow and develop while seeing their resumes look better and better. Sometimes they get over-anxious. I help them not only achieve the best outcomes but also hone their mindset and soft skills, which include resilience, tenacity, and resourcefulness, as well as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication, and people skills. Their basic needs include growth, accomplishments, significance/identity, connection, certainty, and some fun. Next-gen leaders, both Millennials and Gen Zs, want to know who they are, where they can go, and how to rise.
In the turbulent world we live in, we must continuously learn, develop, and grow. Lifelong learning isn’t just a skill; it is a necessity.
Traditional Family Office practice is mostly about preserving and accumulating financial wealth. Many Family Offices opt for mechanical family values and governance in documents which are, in reality, a bit superficial. My framework for guiding Family Offices is more about working towards outcomes that align with the Families’ truly empowering values and principles and focusing on how they will be reflected in the communities and markets that the Family serves. You need genuine, heartfelt values, not just mechanical governance that you write and post on the wall.
If your next-gen teammates do not buy into the “governance”, your life as a Family Office executive will be harder because they will fight you (at least passive aggressively). If the matriarch and patriarch are passive or ineffective, and if the next-gen leader takes over, painful and prolonged fights (or worse) may result.
While many UHNW Families have made sound decisions that led to financial success, they aren’t as successful in every area of their lives. I like to look at Wealth and Health holistically by exploring their spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being, which isn’t always on par with their financial status.
A REALITY CHECK
Many UHNW families make subpar in-decisions and costly mistakes because they are in one or more of the following states: Myopia, Denial, Pride, Fear, or Neglect.
Some families are short-sighted. Many parents and students are obsessed with the partially media-induced university/college admissions hype (I call it “college admissions myopia”). College/university isn’t their destination. Rather, it’s part of their journey and a steppingstone to greater career and personal success.
Some parents think they or their family members are experts because they are highly successful in their careers or businesses, because they attended elite universities decades ago, or because an older child was admitted to an elite school. In reality, this scenario reflects operating under pride or denial.
I have boiled it down to a motto: Start early, reduce stress, achieve greater success, and as a result, learn, work, and live more happily.
Families should learn from each other and work on themselves. I am a huge believer in delivering joy and extending longevity, so happiness and health play a big part in my belief system. Above all, I try to eliminate the misconception that you must do all of this alone. Family Offices consist of private people but finding and using third-parties whom you can trust will be your single biggest secret weapon and lever on your journey to performing well at next levels. You must work with people who understand the Family Office environment and who have wisdom and a trusted skill set.
Read the full white paper here and join the conversation – is it time to think about your next-gen leader?