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Q & A: What Leaders Should Know About Retaining and Developing Generational Talent Featuring Carina Diamond, CEO of Stella Secunda 

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1. Can you provide a little bit of background around the work you're doing and how you help people through Stella Secunda today?

Stella Secunda was founded a year ago, and it has been a process. Sometimes you have an idea in your mind of where you’re going to be, and you end up completely somewhere else based on what the need is. And that would be a good example of that. One is consulting in the FinTech space, working on a financial wellness app for a large financial institution, which is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever thought I would be doing. Working with a lot of young talent and very cuttingedge technologyI could probably do it for free because it’s just so cool and I’m learning so much. I’ve also been leading a diversity initiative for a consortium of universities across the country to try to get more underrepresented people into financial services. So that’s also been an interesting journey. And then finally, I’ve been doing various speaking and coaching for different organizations. 

2. What is the zone of genius or Brilliant Difference™ you’re noticing about yourself?

“I kept getting awards and accolades and promotions—all this wonderful stuff I’m very grateful for. And it was comfortable, but I just almost felt that I’ve got something more inside me. I just I couldn’t articulate it maybe, but I just had this feeling that I can do more, I can do something different. And sometimes there has to be a disruption for that to happen. So, I made a very difficult decision about a year ago. I sold my business back to the company I was working with, transitioned clients to my outstanding team, and walked away. And it was, quite frankly, somewhat terrifying. The result has been: I have met more interesting people in the last year than I probably did in the prior 10 years. People that think differently, but people that see me differently, which was also weird. Like, wait a minute, I’m good at this, but you’re thinking, ‘What is this over here? So, I don’t have it all figured out, but I have a number of things I’m considering right now in developing. It’s actually a very exciting time. 

3. What are you noticing about generational talent and how leaders are showing up for their teams?

“I could write a book on things I wish I had done differently. But I always say when I get really old, I’m going to be really smart because I try to remember all the many lessons I’ve learned. But I’m a driver. I can be very focused. I can be very intense. And I think a lot of leaders have those kinds of characteristics. I’ve definitely noticed, particularly with working with multiple generations, that I try to slow down. I try to speak less. I try to ask a lot of questions; I’ll ask a lot of follow-up questions. One of the biggest things I’ve gotten much more comfortable with is silence. I get an answer and I just say, ‘Well, what else? And it’s been astonishing what comes out. And then they say something, and I just say, ‘Okay, what else? And the next thing you know, the problem has been solved or a new idea has come out and everybody feels much more engaged. I think in the past I was much more directive because I’m thinking, you know, I know what to do and can’t you just do this? And you know what? I’ve learned sometimes easily and sometimes the hard way that there’s lots of ways to do it. And it’s going to be way more effective if I can close my mouth more often. 

4. What are some tips you can offer fellow leaders to retain and develop generational talent?

1. Authenticity

“I think the first thing with leaders is authenticity because if you’re not authentic, people can smell that a mile away. And putting your ego aside… I was in some restaurant, and I saw this thing that said, ‘Your ego is not your amigo.’

And it stuck in my mind because really ego subordination is another way to call it. And you have to make it all about your people. Having that authentic connection—listening, caring, asking questions, supporting, giving guidance when it’s being asked, offering resources—these may sound like simple things, but I’m shocked at how often they’re not there.  

I met with a firm recently with two principals in their late 50s, and they really wanted to bring in some young people. Can I help them? Well, sure, let’s talk about it.  

And after I described how I could help them, I started talking about what I needed them to do, they kind of looked at each other and they said, ‘We don’t have any time to be mentoring. Can’t you do that?’  

And I said, ‘Well, I can help with some of this, but this is your business, not my business. And you need to be the ones that are taking some responsibility.’  

And they just said, ‘We don’t want to really do that.’ Again, they said, ‘Can’t you do that?’  

And I said, ‘I don’t think I can really help you. I don’t think this is going to be a good fit.’  

So, no matter what level of leadership you’re in, you have the ability to connect and teach and mentor and advocate people. And even if you don’t think it’s your job, it is your job because it takes a village to lead.” 

2. Mentor and Mentee Relationships

So, let’s say you’re the mentee or you’re the younger or mid-level person… It’s very interesting how younger people think about being mentored. The biggest advice I would give would be number one, be grateful.  

I’ve actually had people say to me, ‘I didn’t know I was supposed to say thank you. People have always helped me because I’m young and pretty and wonderful.’  

Well, that could be a turnoff. So don’t forget the grace notes, genuinely saying thank you, and seeing if there’s a way you can help them because upward mentoring, upward leadership is something that is really the next phase of where we’re going to see leadership go.” 

3. Learn From Different People

“Leaders today… there’s so much information coming in and they have to be very discerning and filter out, you know, what’s important and what’s not.  

I would encourage leaders to expand their information sources. Just because you always talk to these three people to get your information or you go to these three departments or you read these three magazines, try to expand that because you’ve got to dare to be curious. It does threaten people. And it can feel kind of scary sometimes. But if you’re not curious and you’re not changing your field of view pretty regularly, I think you’re going to miss a lot of things that could cause stumbling blocks.” 

Interviewer

Finka Jerkovic 

Leadership Coach, Performance Advisor, and CEO of Finka Inc.  

With 25+ years in leadership and sales and the financial services industry, she has witnessed the power of recognizing and celebrating people’s unique strengths and differences (a.k.a Brilliant Differences™) within a workplace. When everyone’s unique talents are appreciated and people work together using them, that’s when the real magic of business growth happens. Fast forward 10 years. Finka has established programs that help corporate companies grow their businesses by tapping into the full potential of their teams, so they can clearly define their strengths, value their differences, and perform at their best. 

Interviewee

Carina Diamond

CEO of Stella Secunda

Carina Diamond is a financial services veteran with decades of experience founding, building, and selling businesses. She is a champion of women and underserved individuals working in financial services. She is a mentor and role model to numerous college students and founded a leadership program for graduate student women. She is currently consulting to the trade on FinTech, succession, and growth strategies. 

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