November 2019

Proud to Have Milennials Teach Us Their Way

It is often said that millennials are a complicated breed of super-humans with unique ways of living, learning, playing and working. “Difficult” is a word often ascribed to this generation, and there is a lot of literature written about how to manage, motivate and deal with these young men and women in a highly competitive hiring/work environment. Recently, one of our Investment Banking Managing Directors relayed a personal experience, and we found it so compelling and instructive, we wanted to share it with the entire firm.

On a recent Thursday evening, the CFO of a public company called this MD about a merger they were considering and for which they needed to hire an advisor. The Board wanted to evaluate several firms, including Jefferies, for the advisory role and had scheduled the competitive pitches for the following Tuesday in the company’s office. The presentations needed to be at the client by Monday, three days after the request. The pitch involved a complex analysis of the situation, valuations of both companies, consideration of every possible transaction structure and a thorough discussion of all other potential combination partners. This was clearly a heavy lift by any standards, but when you add the three-day deadline with the backdrop of a perfect-weather weekend, the task approached herculean. The MD assembled two other senior professionals to discuss staffing needs and to create a strategic game plan to achieve our client’s aggressive ask. At this initial planning meeting was a junior associate (a very recent direct analyst promote) who was asked to join because he was known to be extremely facile with numbers. This associate is also what we call “a millennial.” After the senior leaders mapped out the magnitude and scale of the work required, they concluded that a full team including several VPs and SVPs were needed to provide perspective and oversight.

After this conclusion was reached, the junior associate went back to the MD’s office with a very straightforward request: “Can I partner with a brand new associate who just joined out of business school and two first year analysts I know well and without distracting any VPs/SVPs, please mandate us to manage and oversee this project? You have our word that you and the client will be very happy.” The senior leaders loved the initiative, confidence and proactiveness, but they had to weigh this against the risk that, if it wasn’t executed flawlessly, there probably wouldn’t be time to fix this in time for the client. After providing this newly formed group the big picture guidance on what was expected and required, the decision was made to allow the “millennial team” the opportunity to back up their strong initiative and be solely responsible to execute the project.

After what was surely three days of non-stop focus and work, the team delivered a draft of the presentation that far exceeded all expectations. The senior leaders expected to see how detailed and accurate the presentation was, but the extreme level of thoughtfulness, wisdom and big picture perspective blew them all away. It is doubtful the end product could have been much improved with a team of other senior professionals deeply involved in the weekend work. They also noticed something different and special about the “millennial team.” Instead of being exhausted, burnt out and bitter about being locked up for a weekend grind assignment, the team was incredibly motivated, proud and eager to get the final feedback to complete their “work of art.” All deadlines were met and the senior leaders were proud to have the new associate join them with the client on Tuesday and pitch for the business together.

There are more than a few lessons that can be drawn from this story:

  1. We should all strive to contribute more than what our title may suggest.
  2. We have some of the most amazing “millennials” in our industry all around us and we need to trust them and delegate more whenever appropriate.
  3. “Ownership” is a powerful motivator and truly the best way one can have the chance to learn. “Millennials” don’t just want a job, they want to be owners. Maybe they aren’t so different from those of us who have been doing this for a while after all.
  4. Juniors need to speak up and show the initiative when they believe they can add value. They also need to be willing to take the risk of operating outside of their comfort zone.
  5. When juniors are given the chance to “take the shot,” you need to do everything within your power to score.
  6. It may be easy for juniors to get caught up in the daily grind and not really be able to step back and fully appreciate how much they have learned by putting in so many hours and doing so much hard work. Juniors should be proud of themselves and appreciate how much they have learned and how valuable their experience and perspective truly is, even if they have only been doing this a very short time.
  7. Seniors are always more effective professionals when the team of juniors are rallying to help add value versus feeling obligated to meet another never-ending and misunderstood deadline. It is also more fun and emotionally rewarding working “with” juniors than having them work “for” you.
  8. There is no excuse for any junior or senior person throughout Jefferies to not take away something important from this story. We are a wonderful firm, but we can always be better.

We don’t want to embarrass anyone by naming names and we are sure that there are many other similarly wonderful examples throughout all departments of Jefferies. We cannot tell you how pleased we are to not only hear this story, but to have this high caliber of people as partners at Jefferies.

Millennials at heart (if not in years),

Rich and Brian

P.S. Special shout out for absolutely no apparent reason to Michael Donaldson, Saad Ahmed, Brian Habacivch, Jessica Reilly, Adarsh Gupta, Devin Thomas, Jeff Snyder and Gaurav Kittur!!!


CEO, Jefferies Financial Group
@handlerrich Twitter | Instagram
President, Jefferies Financial Group