Leadership Across Generations

No two employees will ever be exactly alike, and that is never more true when we look at teammates and employees spanning across generations.

Did you ever stop and think – there are 4 different generations working alongside one another in today’s workforce. Each group has their own values and experiences that shape how they react to direction, interpret inter-office culture and respond to direction.  Being able to effectively manage and lead all four groups toward cohesive goals does not come with a fool proof guide, but it can be done.

How can we make sure that as leaders, we cultivate across all generations? Here are 5 areas we can focus on to help make the most out of the different generations in our workplaces:

1. Don’t give in to the stereotypes

By giving into the typical “labeling” of generations, a negative environment occurs. Be aware that you may be putting them in a bucket and ultimately polarizing individuals and this creates conflict in the workplace. Each generation uniquely has attributes and work styles that are beneficial in the workplace. Everyone needs to be open to a different way to solve problems, work together and deliver projects. For example, some generations are more collaborative, whereas other generations like to work independently.

2. Learn individual preferences

Observing each individual’s preferences, without making assumptions based on the generation they belong to, creates a curiosity and an openness within a team. It is important to be careful and not apply common traits of millennials in broad brushstrokes to the people that you’re dealing with. Like a family, every member of a workforce contributes to the culture, history, pride, and story that create the brand of the team. A positive workplace strategy today guarantees smoother workplace transitions in the future.

3. Harness inherent skill sets

Learning how to tap into inherent skill sets makes managers more effective and increases the overall effectiveness of the department. It is critical that managers draw upon the particular strengths and skills of each individual. Older workers can lend their vast industry knowledge and experience. Younger workers can shed light on demographic, pop culture and technology trends thanks to social networking and web 2.0. Bringing all the experience and skills sets together can make a powerful organization.

4. Communication

Open communication can lead to dialogue that helps in understanding and knowledge across generation gaps. Additionally, younger people often seek more guidance, feedback and acknowledgement on the job, which can create a perception gap. Go out of your way to learn from each other.  Older workers may think the younger group is needy or high maintenance, and younger workers may feel in the dark or unappreciated. The solution is with all generations communicating face-to-face and collaborating on a frequent basis, understanding and respecting the different communication styles.

5. Celebrate differences

Instead of focusing on what sets us apart, explore how we can utilize those differences for the greater good. When you come up against someone from another generation, don’t try to determine who is right and who is wrong or who is better or worse. Celebrate the differences.

With the next generation heading back to school this month our minds begin to wonder what this next generation will bring to the workforce and how we’ll again need to adapt and include. No matter what generation comes next, and what they bring with them, learning to effectively and compassionately lead across generations is an invaluable skill set for any leader!

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