Six Ways To Lead On A Multi-Generational Team

There is rarely a time that generational challenges don’t emerge in my leadership workshops or coaching sessions. The comments and concerns range from:

“Why can’t they have the same work ethic as we do?”

“Why are they so fixated on their phones and technology?”

“Why can’t they be more open to new ideas and different strategies?”

“Why can’t they see the value in a flexible workplace?”

“Why is work/life balance so scary to them?”

I am sure you have heard these same perspectives in your organization and may be wondering why we all can’t come together. Some even believe that if we just focus on the individuals that the generational differences will dissolve.

Which is it? Do we really have generational divides or are we just making too much of this issue? My answer to that is: A little of both.

Six ways to lead on a multi-generational team:

 1. EMBRACE DIFFERENT GENERATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

While it is never a good idea to create or perpetuate stereotyping, it is helpful to consider the different generational work ethics and behaviors. Whether we want to accept it or not, technology has changed the way we go about working and that has allowed more flexibility in our organizations. Whether we used technology later in our careers or it has been part of our entire life, it has impacted the speed of work and how we go about tackling our projects. Yet technology cannot provide institutional wisdom and knowledge that can propel younger generations forward with clients and office politics.

2. CREATE A VISION TOGETHER

It’s all about the partnership and dreaming together in formation- knowing exactly where you are going. When working on a multi-generational team, make sure there is a clear vision and it is shared system wide.

  • Include all generations in building that vision
  • Ask for input
  • Listen for possibilities never considered
  • Write it out clearly and put it front and center

3. USE VALUES TO GUIDE DECISION-MAKING

Just as a vision steers the way, values help us make clearer and consistent decisions. Core values help the different generations come together for a common language and spirit. One way to make better decisions in times of ambiguity is to look at your values and test out each decision or action against them.

4. GROW EACH OTHER’S GIFTS

Each generation may have varying strengths and talents but in order for a team to be high performing, it is critical to leverage those gifts. Studies show that developing an individual’s strengths is way more impactful than spending too much time on their weaknesses. Once we recognize one another’s expertise, then learn from each other. Reverse mentoring is an extraordinary way to grow our leadership.

5. TRY OUT NEW PATTERNS FROM ALL GENERATIONS

As with any new skill or knowledge obtained, practice using it.

  • Set up mentoring relationships that go across generations where each is a mentor and each is a mentee
  • When you see a new behavior being used in the workplace give that person a “way to go”
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be afraid not to try
  • Ask for honest and respectful feedback

6. SEE INDIVIDUAL WORTH

Generations are made up of individual people who are all unique and special. Never pigeon hole anyone but instead delve deeper to see their value and help them cultivate stronger leadership strategies.

How do you lead on a multi-generational team?

(Credit image: FlickrCC-Richard Foster)

6 thoughts on “Six Ways To Lead On A Multi-Generational Team

  1. I really liked this comment: “While it is never a good idea to create or perpetuate stereotyping, it is helpful to consider the different generational work ethics and behaviors.” It’s such a fine line between understanding the differences that age creates in the workplace and stereotyping people because of their age! The bottom line is that different generations grow up with different ways of looking at the world. I’m actually thinking that Millennials will bring back values and expectations that previous generations have frittered away. Great reminder that we need to find ways to honor every generation because each has something important to add.

  2. Great post Terri! It is so important to see the strengths and knowledge of each other. Having core values and leadership that encourages diverse teams to learn from each other can help to break down the walls of differences, unleashing learning, teamwork and synergy! Just one possible outcome: Younger generations benefit by absorbing years of business knowledge, older generations benefit by learning technology while forming extraordinary relationships.

  3. Each generation brings their own gifts to the workplace and organizations that spend energy trying to judge one another is wasting their time. Strong leaders will help their teams see the strengths that each generation has to offer, while including individual talents in growing their teams. A clear vision and common core values can help teams make relevant and impactful decisions.

    Thanks LaRae for your wonderful comments!

  4. It is a symbiotic relationship between all the generations. If team members can be encouraged to keep an open mind about different ways of approaching projects and challenges, so many extraordinary outcomes will result. That’s why reverse mentoring can be so meaningful to team members of different ages and backgrounds

    Thanks Chery!

  5. Great idea to create cross-generational mentoring relationships. I’ve worked with some “old school leaders” who’d probably scoff at the idea but truly, it’s a structured way where both parties say “I’m open to listening and learning.” Most would agree that in mentoring relationships there is two-way benefit but formalizing it empowers those who are newer to the workforce to step up and be forthright and for the more senior leaders to have a new context for the relationship too.

    Will share!

    Alli

  6. You make a wonderful point- “Most would agree that in mentoring relationships there is two-way benefit but formalizing it empowers those who are newer to the workforce to step up and be forthright and for the more senior leaders to have a new context for the relationship too.” I have seen reverse mentoring be so successful in cultivating trust and growth for leaders at all levels.

    Thanks Alli for sharing your insights with us!

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