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Interview with Eloise Lawler

HLC_Interview 18.002

As a serendipitous addition to our work with young people, Nick Lawler’s daughter, Eloise, offered to intern with us for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer. A millennial college student in Bristol, she reviewed our tools and offerings and gave us feedback on their relevance to a young audience. She also hosted our first gathering of teenagers who discussed the leadership maturity curve, the coffee jig, and the hindrances jig with great insights.

Topics discussed in this interview

  • Leading millenials
  • Segregation of generations and cultures
  • Globalization
  • Opportunity and the need for tools to navigate one’s life path

Transcript

Stephen:
Hello, will you please tell us your name and where you are from?

Eloise:
My name is Eloise. I’m nineteen years old and I’m from the UK. I’m currently studying Geography at university.

Stephen:
Which university is that?

Eloise:
Bristol University.

Stephen:
Good! Thank you for joining us.

Eloise:
Thank you.

Stephen:
I’m wondering, from your perspective as a young person, how you see the kind of world that adult leaders have created? What does it look like from your perspective?

Eloise:
The world that has been created is quite detached. There’s a lot of segregation between most groups. I think there’s a lack of understanding between adults and young people. It becomes quite hard for leaders to actually reach a wide range of people when they’re only understanding themselves.

Stephen:
Do you think that that serves the leaders or the people that well?

Eloise:
You will get a lot of people who will not respond well to leadership that’s not meant for them. They will do what they are required to do but there will not be any passion. The job may be finished but not to a good standard.

Stephen:
So who do you think benefits from all this division and divisiveness?

Eloise:
I think people in the top think they do because they have a lot more power and control because nobody actually has the confidence to express their own ideas about their situation. However, realistically, for everyone to be successful, singular success is not the answer.

Stephen:
Someday you’re going to be, along with your generation, in charge. How do you think we can move in a better direction from here? What would that look like?

Eloise:
It’s a direction that listens to more voices for sure. In my studies, I’ve always been very interested in globalization. It’s about bringing together more than just one country, the States listening to the East and listening to what is working well for other countries. I think the UK is another example of a country that can go in all guns blazing, thinking they are superior. But, maybe sitting back and listening to everyone, using other people’s ideas, could bring about a more harmonious society. We are not achieving this at the moment.

Stephen:
So we have globalization of trade, cultures, and these sorts of things, but somehow it’s at the same time splintering?

Eloise:
There is definitely politics going on now that’s actually trying to prevent globalization. I don’t know if that is their intention, but it is causing conflicts and unrest between different societies. I don’t think segregated societies is therefore going to be successful in the long run, we can work well together.

Stephen:
So do you feel, as a young person, that there’s more reality to the differences or more reality to the unity within human societies? You and I can choose to look at our differences, or we can look at what brings us together. Which one do you think is more real? How do you think leaders can work with the reality of this?

Eloise:
I think it’s easier to look at differences. For example, physical appearances are easy to differentiate, and people then make assumptions of other differences that may also arise. But if we recognise something that brings us together, then we are more likely to be able to listen to each other and actually respect the conversation that we’re having. So, we need to spend less time identifying differences and trying to work on them. We need to identify what unifies us and see what happens, it could be an interesting result.

Stephen:
What do you wish that the older generation, the generation of people who currently have the majority of leadership, understood better about your generation?

Eloise:
I think maybe acknowledging that we’ve grown up in a very different world. We have grown up with a lot being very accessible to us from very young age. Even success is so easy to find, it’s there right in front of your eyes. Although you see lots of people being successful, it seems to far fetched for yourself and you doubt what you are able to achieve.

Stephen:
Does this have to with social media and the media culture in general, showing very clearly this set of values that has to do with financial success and traveling the world? There’s a challenge for you and your generation of how do you bridge from where you are as humble students to reaching that goal.

Eloise:
I agree, but the bridge can seem too big. I think success has been depicted to include lavish travel and such. For some that isn’t achievable, the goal is too distant and it can cause people to freeze up.

Stephen:
That’s interesting. So, if the gap is too big you’re not going to try to jump. But then you step back into being more passive individuals, with restricted possibilities.

Eloise:
For sure. I think a lot of adults think “oh my god why are they stressing, they’ve got everything handed to them on a plate?” But sometimes, having everything does not include the guidance needed by young people to accompany the resources given to them on a plate. There’s definitely miscommunication regarding what young people want from the older generations in terms of helping them to succeed.

Stephen:
So is it that you are given the ends and means, the desired result, but you are not necessarily given the experience using the tools to create and use these resources?

Eloise:
Yes we are not communicating what we need necessarily. This is causing confusion and conflict between different generations, as people do not understand the reasons behind other people’s actions.

Stephen:
Tell me more about people not acting the way they should be acting, can you give me an example?

Eloise:
I think it’s a big conversation between adults and young people these days, with various misunderstandings of how we all act out our lives. But I think as a result, that lack of understanding has led to people getting frustrated with each other and that frustration is producing bad energy. It’s not achieving anything. People are asking questions and making accusations but not coming up with any answers. I think real progress could be made if people sat and listened to exactly what each others challenges are and then start moving forward from there.

Stephen:
So one of my ideas is that really good leaders are really curious and really curious in a creative and empathetic way. Have you had people in your life, leaders in your life, who would have been like that?

Eloise:
I definitely had teachers who would listen to why I was not responding well to work they had set me rather than just being frustrated. They often got better responses from me, as we would find a way for me to complete all of my work and enjoy the process too. But the opposite has also occurred, where I have felt trapped in a room and that has resulted in me shutting off and having no real interest in what I am being taught.

Stephen:
So I am interested in questions of humane leadership. In the situation where you felt trapped in a room, from your perspective, what would be the constructive humane path if you’re not understanding the work or wanting to do the work?

Eloise:
I think through school you’re very much within a structure that involves sticking to one road and that’s usually to get really good exam results. But on some occasions, it’s helpful for the focus to stray away from the final exam result and instead look at what you enjoy and benefit from. It helps people re-focus on their work and gain more out of it than a final result.

Stephen:
I call that hope-based internal motivation. Rather than using external fear based motivation which would be “I won’t pass my exams and get the mark,” you’re saying that good leaders help by coming alongside you and getting curious with you, finding out what your hope-based internal motivation is.

Eloise:
The job still has to be done at the end of the day, and getting good results can make your life easier. But, taking the time to help people understand and enjoy their subjects means that they’re going to put more work in. Subjects can be so vast so there is likely to be something most people can get excited about and start to explore in their own way.

Stephen:
That’s interesting. So for the humane leader in here, there’s something about curiosity and empathy helping to uncover internal motivations. But, it’s also about contextualizing things and finding personal meaning and purpose in the world. Supporting that curiosity in the student or in the worker so that they can discover for themselves how their personal purpose aligns with that of the organization’s meaning or purpose and that of the final outcome too.

So you’re studying geography. Is geography your family business and is that why you chose that line of work? Tell me about how you chose that path and what your experience has been choosing it.

Eloise:
No, in fact my mom did a very vocational option, as she is now a doctor. She went to medical school and so had a very structured pathway. It’s very hard work, it’s pretty hard to even get on that path and I have much respect for that. But from a young age, I realized that wasn’t the path that I wanted to follow myself. I think there’s a lot of assumptions made that when you have a parent who has taken a vocational pathway, you are going to follow the same road as they did. Now when I say I do geography and people find out what my mom does, they are always quite surprised. I did consider doing a vocational degree for a while, but in the end I decided that wasn’t going to be a good decision for me. The subject I ended up with opened more doors than it closed, even if it wasn’t going to land me a job straight away. It also increased my opportunity of finding a career that I would really enjoy and ultimately I’m not ready to be limited to a single path.

Stephen:
So your choice for geography as the path, was about opening more doors for yourself, rather than choosing a door?

Eloise:
Yes

Stephen:
That would lead through to a whole other set of doors. That’s interesting, for a young person to understand their need for flexibility and at least you were clear with yourself that you didn’t want to go down a more structured pathway. Was there any tension around that for you? Was it a challenging decision and did you talk to your parents about it?

Eloise:
I mean it’s scary because you are investing a lot of money into your education. So, I know you go there (university) to learn, but it also had to be a good investment. You have to go and achieve something that you’re going to be proud off, that is actually going to be useful to you. I did not know if I was definitely going to get a job with my geography degree, but I hope it equips me with the skills to make me a good person. I went through several different ideas before I made my final decision, I considered engineering, dentistry, and even for a short while, medicine. So yeah, it’s not something that I took lightly. It’s scary taking the road with so many unanswered questions, I’d ask myself regularly what are you going to do when you’re older and I still don’t really know, I have ideas but there isn’t anything set in stone for me just yet.

Stephen:
How did you hold that line, you know through all of its strife, from announcing your decision, the uncertainty and not having values aligned with knowing what job you are going to have? How do you hold all of that personally, as you lead yourself through this part of the river? It’s bumpy and well, sounds scary.

Eloise:
I think it was the recognition that it is my life at the end of the day. I’m gonna have to do something that I’m gonna be satisfied with and not something that was only in line with my parents’ values. I would end up resenting them, because even if it was my decision to do it, just doing it to please them would not be enough. I don’t need to do that. I could do something for me, take a bit of a risk, and then see where it takes me.

Stephen:
Fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

Eloise:
It’s a pleasure.

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