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Generational Continuity

"We think it is complicated to change the world. Change comes little by little. Nothing worthwhile can happen in one generation." - Andrew Young

Future generations will be influenced and will build their lives on what we do today. Much of what we believe today will find its way into the culture in our children's lifetime. We naturally pass on to our children and grandchildren life principles shaped through the present cultural lens. Continued societal transformation begins at home.

It's no secret that much of our contemporary culture may not be intentionally building strong family values (which gives each member a strong sense of purpose), thus, unintentionally depriving our posterity of a sense of personal and family identity.

Generational thinking has been a part of societies for centuries. Many historians understand the natural consequences of a culture's beliefs and behaviors and their impact on future generations.

I believe every society should be aware of and accept the fact that we all have intergenerational obligations. Consider that the "why" behind how we raise our children is, in fact, an intergenerational obligation. Giving our children a clear understanding of our family history and good values is a great start; connecting several generations fosters a sense of identity and belonging that acts as a timeless moral compass.

The Generational Challenge

"We often hear about stepping outside ourselves, but rarely about stepping outside our generation." - Criss Jami

Mental Health Professional Michelle Blessing writes, "Today's generation strives to be successful but wants instant gratification. Most people change careers at least once if not more often during a lifetime, and freelancing is becoming a popular alternative to the nine-to-five workweek. Younger family members can become "permanent students", seeking more and more education.

The older generation was deprived of educational dreams (for the most part) and sometimes worked several jobs to support a family. Money was saved for a rainy day; formal education and luxuries were few and far between. Today's generation works to spend, does not save nearly enough for retirement, and looks at work as a means to an end."(1) When the necessity of personal preparation for the future begins at home, society reaps the positive consequences of those with that sense of destiny.

Uncovering family genealogies are extremely popular; searching online has made them easily accessible. Many businesses take the same approach connecting the past with the present. Corporations include their history and longstanding traditions in their manuals. Company plaques commemorating milestones connect current employees with a rich history and a compelling vision for the future. Instilling a sense of identity and belonging has been a part of successful organizations for years.

Mentoring programs, leadership assessments, certificate programs are all designed to identify and utilize employee gifts and talents for the long-term. Discovering and using the wealth hidden within us pays dividends now and well into the future.

Societies Treasure Chest

"I tried running away from my destiny, but it kept hunting me, until I realize that generations depends on what I carry in me." - Nkahloleng Eric Mohlala

Statesman Myles Munroe observes, "The wealthiest places in the world are not gold mines, oil fields, diamond mines, or banks. The wealthiest place is in the cemetery. There lies companies that were never started, masterpieces that were never painted. In the cemetery, there is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential. There is a treasure within you that must come out. Don't go to the grave with your treasure still within You."(2)

Through insecurities, self-doubt, lack of direction, or indifference, many pass from this life with tomorrow's wealth within them, depriving the next generation of a role model to emulate and the opportunity to glean from their wisdom. Unless we intentionally pass on what we know, the future will have profited nothing from our existence.

Thinking Intergenerationally

"A just cause is about the future. It defines where we are going. It describes a world we hope to live in and will commit to help build." - Simon Sinek

Generational continuity begins with understanding the previous generation and reaching out to the incoming one. Mutual understanding undergirds the whole process of thinking generationally. We must learn to see the world through each other's eyes and connect to clear up the generational misunderstandings.

Many leaders express their concerns about the problems and misunderstandings that multicultural intergenerational differences bring to the table. I see great opportunities for conflict resolution, problem-solving, and strategic thinking that can come from this intergenerationally diverse workforce if they master the art of communication and connectivity.

Within a multigenerational workplace, there's going to be a variety of reactions. Some may welcome diversity, while others may find it stressful, preferring to work with people who share the same values and outlook on life.

Imagine an organization's effectiveness with experienced teams that know how to connect younger in-coming employees with older, more experienced ones. The younger being motivated to glean from the more senior's experience, and the older learning new ways of seeing and doing things from the younger regardless of position or seniority.

Brene Brown states, "Only when diverse perspectives are included, respected, and valued can we start to get a full picture of the world: who we serve and what they need."

Securing a better future for our organizations and society is what it's all about. It's essential to recognize the good character qualities in tomorrow's young transformational leaders. Passing the baton and teaching them to do the same ensure generational continuity. An inspiring legacy will be indelibly imprinted in the annals of leadership history if we do.

“What we prepare for is what we shall get.” - William Graham Sumner

End Notes

(1) Michelle Blessing "Family Generational Issues"

(2) Myles Munroe

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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