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Leading in a Culture of Many Generations

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Many organizations are thinking through the Impact of the Millennial generation as they grow to become the majority in the workforce. I have written about how this is already making an impact in the world of sports. I noted that younger and older generations are an asset together on the same team.

More than adjusting to the workforce being made up of Millennials is the fact that since they’ve entered the workforce, many ages 50 thru 70 have been opting to remain employed in larger numbers be it part or full time, this has given us five generations working together for the first time in history.

  1. Traditionalists sometimes called “the greatest generation” born before 1945.

  2. Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964

  3. Gen-X born between 1965 and 1976

  4. Millennials born between 1977 and 1997

  5. Gen-Z’s born after 1997

This multi-tasking, multi-ethnic, multi-generational workforce offers the greatest range of talent, experience, and diversity we’ve ever witnessed. Think of some of the benefits and potential of such a workforce:

  • Numerous cultural influences

  • Different generational values

  • Multiple levels of education

  • A variety of perspectives

  • Innovative and creative talent spanning three-quarters of a century

Many leaders express their concerns about the problems and misunderstandings that this kind of 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.

Having five generations working together does present some challenges for leaders getting everyone on the same page. Leading multigenerational teams requires you to understand the unique motives and values of each person representing each generation.

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

Imagine the effectiveness of an organization 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 experience of the older and the older motivated to learn new ways of seeing and doing things from the younger regardless of position or seniority.

Rebecca Knight suggests five practical points to help bridge the gap;

1. Don’t Dwell on Differences

There seems to be a tendency to focus more on what is different about each generation than on what similarities might exist. Avoid the potential to accept as true the stereotypes about various generations; be alert to language that perpetuates stereotypes: “All (insert generation) are …,” or “My generation is ….”

2. Build Collaborative Relationships

We understand and appreciate others more when we have the opportunity to get to know them. Creating opportunities for employees of different generations to interact in both work- and non-work-related settings can help to build relationships and minimize misunderstandings.

3. Study Your Employees

Understand the demographics of your workplace as well as employee communication preferences. An annual survey can be used to help identify both differences and similarities between various employee groups.

4. Create Opportunities for Cross-Generational Mentoring

This can work both ways—don’t automatically assume that younger generations will be mentored by older generations. All age groups have opportunities to learn from each other.

5. Consider Life Paths

Understand where your employees are at in their life paths in terms of responsibilities and interests they may have outside the workplace. But don’t make assumptions. It’s important to remember that employees, regardless of generation, share both commonalities and differences. (1)

Connecting is successful in any generation

Here are five connecting factors from John C. Maxwell

1. Connectors Connect on Common Ground

All positive relationships are built on common interests and values. They’re founded upon agreement, not disagreement.

2. Connectors Do the Difficult Work of Keeping It Simple

Life’s issues can be maddeningly complex, and a leader’s job is to bring simplicity and clarity to them.

3. Connectors Create an Experience Everyone Enjoys

How you communicate often carries more weight than what you say.

4. Connectors Inspire People

The energy that people put into their work depends upon the inspirational qualities of their leader.

5. Connectors Live What They Communicate

In the short run, people judge a leader on his or her communication skills. In the long run, people follow what they see instead of what they are told. (2)

“Legacy is not what I did for myself. It's what I'm doing for the next generation.”
- Vitor Belfort

(1) “Managing People from 5 Generations” by Rebecca Knight

(2) “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” by John C. Maxwell

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

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