Providing Inspiring Leadership Across Generations (3)

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Habits of Highly Productive Transformation Leaders
Prof. Lere Baale

Here are some ways to address the generation gap in the workplace, help leaders look past the stereotypes, and effectively provide inspiring Leadership across generations.

  1. Let each generation learn from the other

Older workers often have great assets of significant experiences that cannot be learnt in school, and younger team members usually appreciate it when that wisdom is shared. However, being told that something needs to be done a particular way just because it is “how things are done around here” will open the door to pushback.

Those who have been in the workforce for a long time should recognise that just because that is how things have been done in the past does not mean it is the best way for the future.

There is a stereotype that younger workers think they should be exempted from tedious work. Older team members may remember “paying their dues” earlier in their careers and have no sympathy. However, what if, working together, you could devise alternatives to doing repetitive work or at least find ways to reduce it considerably?

Younger employees, many of them digital natives, may have ideas or technology options that have not been explored, and more experienced employees have the knowledge and expertise to make new processes work.

This is why some organisations, recognising the need to bridge the generation gap in the workplace, are beginning to pair their older and younger team members in formal or informal reverse mentoring arrangements, and equipping everyone to work together on virtual teams effectively.

  1. Flex the hours

Want to keep your organisation competitive in retaining employees of all generations? Take steps to promote work-life balance. Workers of all generations report that they are more likely to stay with their organisations if flexible schedules are allowed and telecommuting is supported.

Moreover, employees of all ages are willing to work long hours but want a life outside work. Whether raising families, preparing for retirement, caring for elderly parents or pursuing personal interests, employees often feel that their organisations forget that they have lives outside work.

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Leading across generations involves helping everyone on the team manage the work-life juggle, balance priorities, and fight burnout. Teams that feel overburdened can work together to find a solution so that everyone is not working all the time.

Perhaps one team member would be happy to start work early, while another wants to work late. Alternatively, you could balance out off-hours coverage so that not everyone has to be responsive 24/7.

  1. Share values and show respect

We often hear that younger people disrespect older employees and people in authority. We also hear that more senior people show no respect for younger talents and ideas.

Many people think that older and younger people value vastly different things. However, research has proven that different generations have pretty similar values. For example, “family” is the value chosen most frequently by people of all ages. Other shared values include the following:

  • Integrity
  • Achievement
  • Love
  • Competence
  • Happiness
  • Self-respect
  • Wisdom
  • Balance
  • Responsibility

The reality is that everyone wants the same thing, which is for their organisations to cultivate a culture of respect – they do not define it the same way. Some would argue that this is the secret to teamwork and leading across generations.

Get practical advice for managing, leading, and working with millennials to improve teamwork, increase productivity, strengthen organisational culture, and build a robust talent pipeline.

  1. Be a trustworthy leader

By and large, people of all generations and at all levels trust the people they work with directly — such as bosses, peers, and direct reports — more than they trust their organisations. Moreover, people trust their organisation more than they trust upper management.

What do different generations expect from their leaders? Conventional wisdom says older generations want a command-and-control type of leader and that younger generations want leaders who include them more in decision-making. However, our research says effective leadership is less about style and substance. People of all ages wish for credible and trustworthy leaders above all else.

  1. Address office politics
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Leadership: Yesterday, Today and the Future

Office politics are an issue, regardless of age. Everyone is concerned about the effects of organisational politics on their careers. Employees know that political skills are crucial to being able to move up and be effective at higher levels of management. Recognise your team for their work and ensure they have access to the resources they need to do their jobs well.

  1. Communicate change

The stereotype is that older people hate change, and younger generations thrive off of it, but these are inaccurate assumptions. People from all eras are generally uncomfortable with change and can experience change fatigue. Resistance to change has nothing to do with age; it is all about how much someone has to gain or lose with the change.

Communicating is the best way to manage change and be a successful change leader. Send out memos, host meetings, or implement an open-door policy that embraces communication. Make your team feel comfortable with asking questions or voicing concerns.

  1. Understand the context of loyalty

Loyalty depends on the context, not on the generation. Studies show that younger generations are no more likely to job-hop than older generations. The perception that older people are more loyal is associated with context, not age.

For example, people closer to retirement are more likely to stay with the same organisation for the rest of their working life, and people higher in an organisation work more hours than those lower.

  1. Do the right things to retain talent

It is as easy to retain a young person, as to maintain an older one — if you do the right things. Just about everyone feels overworked and underpaid. People of all generations have the same ideas about what their organisation can do to retain them. Employees want the room to advance; respect and recognition; a better quality of life; and fair compensation.

  1. Create a learning environment
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Everyone wants to learn — more than just about anything else. Learning and development were among the issues most frequently mentioned by study participants of all the generations surveyed.

Everyone wants to have the training to do their current job well. Create a working environment that enables team members to understand and get interested in what they need to learn to advance to the next level. Build the core leadership skills required for every role and career stage to boost employee motivation.

  1. Build coaching skills

Almost everyone wants a coach. We have heard that younger people constantly ask for feedback and cannot get enough of it. We have also heard that older people do not want feedback.

According to our research, everyone wants to know how they are doing and learn how to do better. Feedback can come in many forms, and people of all generations appreciate receiving it. Equipping everyone to hold coaching conversations can help create a more robust organisational culture for workers of all generations.

In summary, our research shows that people want the same things, no matter what generation they represent. The so-called generation gap in the workplace is primarily the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding, fueled by common insecurities and the desire for clout.

Successfully leading across generations is pretty straightforward. So, let go of your assumptions about generational differences at work and spend more time developing your leaders of all generations.

 

References

The Centre for Creative Leadership

Leading across generations – Steve Covey

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