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Bridging the Generational Divides In Your Business

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Category: Leadership

Do you feel totally in control of business these days?
Do you find everything easy?

I doubt it. There are too many moving parts, shifting at increasingly high speeds and in more random and uncorrelated ways than before. It can be dizzying, can’t it?

You’ve got multiple roles to fill too, I bet. On top of delivering on the targets of your ‘day job’, maybe you’ve got to coordinate your team’s efforts, work on cross-departmental projects, report to various groups and boards internally and externally, always be ‘on’ for your clients, be a loving partner, the perfect parent or tend to elderly parents.

Oh, and then there’s finding time for yourself.

Too tired to read on? I wouldn’t blame you!

There are so many competing agendas.  

But you’re probably used to it. Are you? At least, you probably have a way of dealing with things. Because you have a database of experience you can draw upon.

If you’re 40 or older, you earned your stripes in a more linear age. You developed in an era when you had more time to process things, whether you realised it then or not.

Spare a thought for your younger colleagues that you’re leading today. They haven’t had that luxury.

Think about it.

Busting millennial myths

It’s tougher for highly skilled and qualified millennial talent today.

When I first read about millennials being ‘entitled’, it didn’t sit well with me. Now, I’m not a millennial, but I immediately questioned the label as a lazily applied generalism.  

I have clients who are young enough to be labelled millennials and take more initiative to control their own outcomes than most people. Likewise, I see retiring partners take on consultancy roles in their organisations, feeling entitled to their position due to the time spent in the business up until then

Entitlement and millennials do not go hand in hand.

Neither do experience and value. Experience is potentially valuable. It can provide understanding, familiarity or direction when you find yourself in unchartered waters. But only if it is channelled effectively.  

Given the speed of technological advances, the changing regulatory environment, the changing geopolitical landscape and the instant availability of information, the ability to apply your experience from previous situations to what’s in front you is priceless.

Foster leaders fit for the future

You want your top young talent, highly skilled in different ways than you and your peers, to grow into managers and leaders fit for the future.

If you’re not supporting their growth, there’s a good chance you’re blocking it somehow by not lending them your experience. If that’s the case, then you’re depriving:

  • your team of greater balance and perspective in a digital age
  • your business of its inherent potential and future success
  • yourself of your succession plan and thus your desired career trajectory
  • yourself of the personal reward that can only be sourced in developing others
  • your pension – your top young talent will drive value into your pension!  

Beware of your generational bias

Give some thought as to what you think, say and feel about the younger talent in your business.

Every generation complains about the standards, values or behaviours of the next.

BUT, and it’s a big BUT on purpose, those complaints are more pronounced now than before, and thus more dangerous.

They’re also false in many instances. They’re futile, nonsensical and career limiting for all involved.

Ask yourself if the following statements about millennials ring true for you or not?

  • They’re an entitled bunch, always expecting instant gratification
  • They’re lazy, they don’t work as hard
  • They’re needy, seeking constant feedback.

You know what? They’re all correct! And they’re all wrong. It all depends on who the person is, but they’re certainly not true for everyone. If these statements do ring true for you, what are these beliefs costing you?

Consider what millennials might say about their elders in the workplace:

  • They’re inflexible and stuck in their ways
  • They’re selfish and lone wolves, they don’t know how to connect
  • They value security and stability over purpose and passion.

They’re all myths and assumptions. Because you can’t place everyone in the same box.

What stereotypes about you, your gender, your race, or your ethnicity annoy you? Why is this any different?

Even if you’re inclined to buy into these myths and stereotypes, you must realise that you cannot change the attitude or behaviour of a generation. So you’re going to have to change your attitude and behaviour towards them. Or suffer grave consequences.

Don’t assume the worst. Look for the best.

Instead of focusing on generational differences in your workplace, make sure you understand and value different work styles.

It’s time to bridge the gaps that otherwise widen if ignored. What’s going to happen if you don’t take positive action? How will relationships improve? How will future growth be achieved?

This is the type of content I write about in my regular emails, along with tips and tools to navigate such challenges. To read more about how to better lead your millennial team, achieve peak performance and get a free report called “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, click here to sign up.

About The Author

Jasper WalsheJasper and his team specialise in clarifying, simplifying and prioritising the many demands of the multiple roles leaders are expected to fill today. Against a backdrop of constant change leaders and their teams must develop a way of working that fits and works for them. Using a proven and sustainable framework called TRIPSTM, clients who commit to the process are guaranteed to improve performance, vitality, fulfilment and engagement at all levels.

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