You cannot lead across all generations with the do as I say, think as I think, work as I work approach. Like it, or resent it, leadership today requires careful consideration and an in-depth understanding of multigenerational approaches for creating buy-in, establishing credibility, and effectively managing communication.
As if that is not enough, creating a trusting environment with universal principles that are inclusive of every generation is a must. Below are five tips for leading across all generations:
- Illustrate loyalty. Many believe there is a lack of commitment to longevity by the more recent generations. In contrast, those same (more recent) generations believe the short-comings on commitment and loyalty are illustrated by old-school leaders who are frustrated with new school ideologies. Bridge the gap by providing evidence of loyalty, commitment, and opportunity across all generations.
- Provide opportunities for learning. College or no college, illustrate your interests in advancing the team through books, seminars, or videos. Everyone knows that learning improves performance. Old school or new school, experience or formal education, learning has been tested, and it has passed the test every time.
- Think across the boundaries. Open-mindedness is a value and belief system for many leaders. Be willing to stretch across formal frameworks and leap hurdles in the spirit of moral or social responsibility. People representative of any generation will likely thank you for it.
- Solve it with technology. Whatever stands in the way of progress, solve it with technology and let go of any workflow traditions that don’t include state-of-the-art approaches.
- Demonstrate that you value knowledge. Many people from any generation may realize that their experiences are not always in perfect alignment with the job. For this reason placing a value on knowledge—not experience—should be the focal point.
Perhaps the most important element of leading across all generations is the ability to illustrate and live by a culture of common focus, not a culture of a focusing on differences. Generational differences limit team effectiveness, commonalities bridge gaps. Make your approach one of mutual respect with a focus on what everyone has in common and never forget that generational differences represent a symptom of a greater problem, and are likely never the root cause.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker, and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.