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Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce

by jcp
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Q&A with Main Street Events’ Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Zuckerman, on Leading a Diverse and Inclusive Multi-Generational Team in the Fashion Industry

Q: Tell us about Main Street Events. Your team works at the intersection of fashion and events, connecting manufacturers, brands and retailers in the better contemporary market. How does having a multi-generational team contribute to your success?

Main Street Events is a boutique live events and trade show company with a focus on producing industry events for the benefit of creativity, community and collaboration. Our premier event, ILOE STUDIOS, is an expertly curated fashion event that works directly with the women’s apparel market to create a unique exhibiting and buying experience. The event showcases the best in outerwear, contemporary and women’s ready-to-wear, accessories and footwear.

We are a family-owned business that has grown from decades of innovation and entrepreneurship within the fashion space. Our founder, Al Zuckerman, serves as our chief relationship officer and his early experience, perspective and connections created a strong platform for us to build upon as the industry continues to evolve and become more globally connected. As we grew, our team has become more diverse. We have every generation represented from baby boomers to Gen Z.

In my role as chief executive officer, I can see how our team’s diversity represents a significant differentiator. We not only offer our clients decades of experience and industry insight, but also have our fingers on the pulse of the latest trends. Our clients have both the benefit of long-term relationships with trusted voices in the industry as well as the fresh perspective of those we aim to develop into our future leaders.

Q: We’ve all seen the “OK Boomer” memes and criticisms of Gen Z. How do you manage conflict among such a diverse team?

We believe conflict is both natural and essential to developing a successful business. Our goal, however, is to mitigate the negative effects and harness conflict toward innovation. While we may not all agree on a business strategy or idea, we maintain a culture of inclusiveness and respect for each other. We prioritize this culture above all else, which has helped to build trust across the entire team.

Maintaining our culture starts with our hiring process. We intentionally seek diverse individuals who are interested in bringing unique relationships, skills and insights to the table. We place a high priority on cultural fits for our organization because we have learned that interpersonal skills make the difference between an individual contributor and a highly valued team member.

Q: Gen Z will soon represent the largest sector of the American workforce and consumer market. What advice do you have for Gen Z workers as they start their careers?

Our Gen Z team members are highly creative, energetic and digital-first thinkers, which are valuable skills in the fashion and events industries – and beyond. It’s important for every generation to lean into the knowledge, skills and experience that make them unique while leaving space for others to contribute. I would encourage Gen Z workers to begin their careers with an open mind and a willingness to learn from those around them.

One piece of advice that has served our team well is to start with tried-and-true methods, seek feedback from across the team, then innovate with that feedback and your own unique ideas in mind. That is one way our diverse team has been able to develop well-rounded solutions for our clients.

Q: Many organizations have eliminated the “corporate ladder” in favor of a flattened leadership model. How can older workers maintain their credibility and leadership without alienating millennials and Gen Z coworkers?

Being open-minded and inclusive is cornerstone to every generation’s success at work. I am a millennial chief executive officer working with boomers, Gen X, fellow millennials and a growing group of Gen Z workers. As their leader, fostering a culture of mutual trust and respect is my responsibility and, in return, I need each generation of workers to be comfortable to not only share their unique perspectives but also in challenging my own. There are numerous times when our boomer and Gen X workers have contributed invaluable insight that enabled our team to take a measured risk or avoid a serious pitfall.

I encourage older workers to be confident in the value of their life experience, business acumen and mentorship. Engage early and often with millennial and Gen Z workers, and invite them to share perspective when brainstorming or providing feedback. Find ways to lift each other up and make room for more seats at the table. Doing so will build trust across generations and further demonstrate your value in setting up the business for success now and into the future.

About Jeffrey Zuckerman

He is the chief executive officer of Main Street Events, a leader in fashion industry and trade show events. Zuckerman leads a dynamic team of live events professionals, breaking the mold with innovative and personalized trade show experiences. He can be reached at [email protected].