It can be difficult to navigate working closely with people from other generations, especially leading them. In order to work better together, we have to understand one another. Just like ethnic and gender diversity is important, generational diversity is as well.
First, each generation brings its own set of expectations and experiences. Bringing satisfaction to your team happens when you manage their expectations. Conversely, conflict arises when there is a distance between expectations and reality.
Here is an overview of the generations that can be working together today, their general observations on life, and how we can learn from them:
Traditionalists or Builders (Born 1929-1945) who would say something like “Be grateful you have a job” when they think about their expectations and experiences. They are great story-tellers and full of resilience.
Baby Boomers (Born 1946 – 1964) who would say something like “I deserve better” when they think about their expectations and experiences. They are great life coaches, and full of wisdom. Give them the bottom line.
Generation X (Born 1965 – 1982) who would say something like “Keep it real” when they think about their expectations and experiences. Seek authenticity and realism from them. They are resourceful and great at seeing the pros and cons of a situation. They do not want to be micromanaged.
Millennials or Gen Y (Born 1983 – 1995) who would say something like “Life is a cafeteria” when they think about their expectations and experiences. Leverage the confidence and energy of them. They are optimistic, tech savvy, and aware of influence. They want to do meaningful work.
Gen Z or Centennials (Born 2001 – TBD) who would say something like “I’m coping and hoping” when they think about their expectations and experiences. They are the best with short and frequent communication, and want the freedom to do their work in their own way.
As you reflect on the relationships you have that span the different generations, keep these insights in mind:
Effective leaders play chess, not checkers. Chess requires you to understand each piece of the game, whereas in checkers you treat each piece the same.
There is no one size fits all for leadership. Each generation brings its own strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and learning styles.
We want to build bridges, not walls. We naturally migrate to those who are like us and prejudge those who are not. If you take the time to get to know those who are different than you, we believe you will improve your leadership in many ways.