Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series on what an advisory firm did to get its older and younger professionals to understand each other and work better together.

Growing up in Milwaukee in the 1960s, my parents dragged us to go “visiting” on Sundays. This entailed piling my brother and sisters into the car and visiting my aunts, uncles and grandparents who lived over in Bayview. There was one room in my grandma’s house which was reserved for visiting guests, and it held her nicest crystal. It also had a davenport, which was covered in clear plastic. I can still remember her saying “please don’t sit on the davenport!”

The davenport was the sofa. Why she called it the davenport, I have no idea. When I was allowed to sit on it, my skin stuck to the plastic in the most uncomfortable way. Why she covered it in plastic to preserve the upholstery that would inevitably go out of style, I have no idea. In all of her Glenn Miller phonograph records there was only one record I was interested in listening too, Elvis Presley’s Girl Happy. From the mind of a young boy, I thought the entire experience confirmed the difference between the older generation and my youth. 

I learned this past year that, in the eyes of my millennial teammates, I am my grandma. This past year was a discovery in the generational differences in how we think through and solve problems, take initiative to address problems, and work within established processes within the office.

As an SEC registered investment advisor, we are required to maintain a compliance manual which directs a large amount of the operations flow in the office. My team is very talented. Yet, one day my analyst stopped producing the required report. I hadn’t asked for it so he arbitrarily decided it was no longer necessary. It took me a while to recognize that it had stopped and it was quickly corrected. We beefed up our month end check list to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. In another instance, I discovered that my young traders were uncomfortable picking up the phone to actually talk to sales coverage. After insisting that they talk to our coverage, I found they would rather message our sales coverage. They didn’t appreciate that they were missing out on valuable conversation that would help bring context to a trade and help in their development. Managing the team was requiring more granular oversight than prior years and I began to understand why there wasn’t a reality show about an investment firm.

Having always worked with driven career-focused investment professionals, I struggled to understand why these young analysts wouldn’t follow through on their responsibilities. And, they struggled to understand why I was barking at them about signing off on their work and hounding them to read the newspaper. So we brought consultants in to help us understand each other. I’ve trained analysts my entire career and I realized now that I needed help.

I am learning that this younger generation is different from mine in many ways. In 1985, the first personal computer came into the bank offices where I worked at the time. Madonna, U2 and the Go Go’s were big. Within two years, all the typewriters were gone, but my new Discman allowed me to play my budding CD collection. Technology was changing the way we work, interact, socialize, solve problems and even relax.

This young generation has always known the smart phone and its addictive powers. It has also proven to be a significant barrier to personal growth and development. A barrier that has impeded thoughtful planning and critical thinking because everything comes instantly including the news, food delivery and conversations with friends in other cities. Now, in our office we are on a journey to better understand how to communicate and work together in a culture that requires consistent discipline and creative thought. There is no mistaking it now: I am my grandma.

Greg Hahn is president and chief investment officer of Winthrop Capital Management.