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The Rungs of Learning with Millennial and Social Media Star Chase Coleman

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

I'm embarrassed to say that I’ve never done a blog interview with a millennial before my conversation with Chase Coleman. It was a big reminder that I have some work to do in diversifying my network and who I learn from.

While Chase is earlier in his career than many of the people I interview for this blog, he models the characteristics of my typical guest - curious, open and reflective.

You're bound to get a thing of our conversation today and, if anything, maybe you'll give TikTok a try!

You’ve been a lifelong athlete and played sports in college. What learnings did you take from your athletic career into your post-college life?

My entire life growing up was all about athletics for as long as I can remember. In fact, last year, I was inducted into the Milton, Georgia Hall of Fame for being one of the winningest athletes in school history for basketball and football. For basketball, we played in four state championships and were rated #1 in the country for a long time. I also played varsity football and ended up going to a D1 school for football.

I took a lot of lessons from athletics to my career and life and I’m really proud of that. The biggest skills I carried over were teamwork, leadership, and time management. Major transition points were when I went from high school to college and from college to adulting.

In my younger years and high school, I didn’t understand the discipline needed balancing athletics and school because I had guidance from my parents so when I got to college, it was the biggest eye opener for me.

Growing up, I was one of the best athletes and was naturally gifted. Getting ready to play D1 in college, you know everybody there is fast, good, and was the best on their high school team. I went into it with the thought that I’ve always been the best in what I’ve done, why would this be any different?

At my first practice on campus in college, I quickly noticed that I didn’t work nearly as hard as some of my teammates. Before I even showed up in the locker room, there was a handful of guys already on the field practicing and in a dead sweat.

It made me realize that if I want to be a leader on this team, I won’t be called a leader because I’m the best on the team. I just can’t outwork everyone in the weight room, I need to outwork everyone on the field and in the meeting room. I needed to watch film and be a student of the game. It really taught me that I need to have a lot more self a discipline than I did early in my life.

With time management, once I was out of the regimented schedule of the athletic environment, I realized how much time I had in a day once I didn’t have all these other obligations. At first, I was like “I can chill as much as I want” but after a couple of weeks, I realized how bored I was. I wasn’t being productive and I had so much more energy to expend rather than sitting down on the couch doing nothing and that I could use my time differently and be more efficient.

You’ve been a boomerang employee at both Starbucks and Nestle. What did you learn from that experience?

When you leave a company, you think people are going to hate you or they’re not going to respect your decision. That said, when you come back, you’re networking with everyone again even if it initially feels a little awkward. I tried to remember working with people who boomeranged back and how easy it was for them to assimilate into the culture, and I used that as a model.

My boomerang back to Nestle was one of the best things I’ve done in my career. I liked working there the first time, but I left for Nordstrom because of the opportunities (or lack thereof) that were available to me at Nestle. When I left, I made sure to maintain my relationships and I was honest with why I was leaving. Coming back, I realized a lot of people respected my decision and I was able to fit back into the culture very quickly because there wasn’t a lot of change while I was gone, just different initiatives, priorities, and products.

When I came back, I showed up more confident because I had learned some other things. Before I left Nestle, I was a bit more hesitant to say certain things and it made me realize that I need to speak up because I have opinions that matter.

I would recommend boomeranging for people if they found a work environment that they enjoyed working at.

Who's a leader that made an impression on you and what did you learn from them?

Being at a junior level at all these companies, my managers had a big impact on who I am as a professional. One in particular who stood out was my senior manager Chris Johnson at Nestle. He’s the reason I boomeranged back.

I’ll never forget when Chris came up to me (I wasn’t reporting to him yet), and he said, “let’s go grab a coffee and get to know each other.” Chris got me into internal networking and suggested I meet with someone new once a month. He was also willing to spend time with me on things I wasn’t getting support from on my manager or when he wanted to hear ideas I had on how to do things better.

Did he agree with me? The majority of time “no” but for the right reasons. But he’d take the time to explain what he was thinking about and why he was thinking about it like that. He’d use it as a coaching opportunity for influencing, knowing your audience and storytelling through data. He also allowed me to flex my creative muscle and encouraged me to do what I want to do which gave me confidence to get started on TikTok and things like that. I’m forever grateful for him. He was one of the best leaders for me because he allowed me to show up as my true self and to stop hiding the person I am.

What was one of the worst leaders and what made them ineffective?

It was at Starbucks and she was first-time people manager and I think she was in over her head.

What was really ineffective about her leadership style was her lack of trust in me. When I first started working, I was fresh out of school and didn’t have any corporate skills, so I understand the need to be hands on in the beginning. That said, after working together for awhile, I thought I was doing well based on our monthly performance conversations.

But then she’d do things like walk over to my desk and see me on my personal email or Facebook and make a comment like “shouldn’t you be working on that deck? It’s due in an hour.” And in my mind, I was thinking “I showed up at 7:00am and I’ve been working on this since 7:00am and it’s almost lunch time, my eyes are crossing, and I need a break.”

We didn’t have a great relationship because she was very micromanaging (to the level of nitpicking what should be bolded versus underlined) and it resulted in me not being as transparent with her about my workflow or not cc:ing her on every email. I wanted to prove that I was capable and didn’t need the oversight.

She brought me an extra level of anxiety because I felt she was always on my back. That feeling never went away and being early in my career, I didn’t know how to talk about it with her.

I learned that it’s important to instill trust immediately and allow someone to prove they can do the work. I want someone to prove me wrong that they can’t do the work and then I’ll step in. You have to let people trip and fall and recognize their growth over time.

Shifting gears and to continuous learning, how did you get into TikTok and what advice would you offer?

My friends got me started when they showed me some corporate humor and the said that they thought I’d be good at it and it would be a great place to grow my podcast. I wasn’t on the platform because I thought it was for kids so I was kind of against it.

Then I was sitting in my room one day and thought “what was the worst that could happen?” I created nine or ten videos, started watching different videos, noticing what inspired me and learning from others on the platform. I did have a thought “what if one of these goes viral?”.

A week later I decided to press send on them before I went to work. At the end of the day, I logged off work around 6pm and checked in on my TikTok posts and I was like “oh my god - this has had 200,000 views” and it kept ticking up and up. The dopamine kicked in and I was like “oh my god, I went viral”. But then I had this immense amount of pressure that now I needed to keep creating and still keep my 9-5 job and maintain my productivity levels.

What I’d say to others interested in creating content or starting a side hustle is put your ego aside and just do it. You have to be okay with people not agreeing with your business or your content. The negative comments always stick out even if they are few and far between. After talking to my buddies about it they said ‘who cares? It reached millions of people. You can’t have millions of people like you.” Hindsight is 20/20 but I’ve been in Fortune and the BBC and who would have seen that coming? I’m working with LinkedIn and Slack too.

You have to put the fear away and ask what’s going to make you happy. Even if I didn’t grow a following, I’d still be making TikToks because they are fun and a creative outlet for me.

How can I, a GenXer, be a better leader for your generation?

I think at the end of the day, we millennials just want to be listened to. I grew up hearing from my parents that you go join a company, be loyal and they’ll take care of you with a good pension. That’s no longer the name of the game anymore because, to increase your salary, you need to jump from company to company.

Millennials are very different from Gen Z. Gen Z is very loud in what they want and what they need but millennials are a lot more empathetic. If you tell us you don’t have budget for a pizza party or holiday party no one’s going to be hurt about it. But don’t tell me that and then go throw some crazy executive party that you have budget for. There’s a lot of what millennials see from businesses – they say one thing and do something different.

Millennials appreciate transparency even if it’s not what we want to hear. For example, if you send out a memo that business is tough, but you don’t explicitly acknowledge layoffs, we can see through that. When it comes down to it, if you just listen to me and hear me out and don’t lie to me about it, that I can never be mad about it.

What are you focusing your learning on these days?

Time management and organizational skills. I have a puppy now and a girlfriend and I don’t have as much free time as I used to. Work is crazy and I still need to get content done for brand deals and for myself. I need to find efficiencies so I can get to things like a book I’ve been writing for four years or even just to take a nap.

Want to learn more about Chase? You can find him on these social channels: LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok. Hre's one more of his TikToks for fun:

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