The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversations

you can't google it

Generational Conversations

Many people who write me express frustration about dealing with a different generation. Often the emails I receive are full of sweeping generalizations and accusations. Some are less frustrated, but sincerely baffled, wondering how to bridge the divide.

You Can’t Google It: The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work by Phyllis Weiss Haserot is a book written to help companies, their leaders and personnel of all generations work harmoniously together to understand each other and achieve their common goals faster, profitably and sustainably.

I recently spoke with Phyllis about her research and book.

 

“Some individuals in every generation exhibit what’s popularly called entitlement.” – Phyllis Weiss Haserot

 

Achieve Generational Harmony

Tell us about this word you coined: GENgagement™.

I’ve defined GENgagement as the state of achieving harmony, mutual involvement and cooperation, flow, and ongoing absorption in work with people of different generations.

GENgagement means getting all of the generations to understand each other, their influences, and their worldviews so they can work collaboratively, loyally, and productively. It is integral to the mission of transforming workplaces into engaged and productive environments for solving problems and being great places to work.

Benefits to organizations when workers are harmoniously engaged include desired talent retention, development of new skills, competitive intelligence, innovative ideas, and smooth transfer of external relationships – and increased profitability. According to an Aon Hewitt study, a 5% increase in engagement can generate an increase of 3% in revenue growth the following year.

 

Research: 5 percent increase in engagement can generate a 3 percent increase in revenue.

 

What are a few of the obstacles to achieving GENgagement?

Flip the Leadership Mind Switch and Rethink How You Lead

Flip the Switch

I’m often giving keynote speeches about the rapid-fire pace of change. From artificial intelligence to the gig economy, the world of work is changing at a record pace.

The Leadership Mind Switch is a new book by authors Debra Benton and Kylie Wright-Ford that helps leaders position themselves for the future in the midst of these changes. To keep up and succeed, you want to understand how to navigate to drive growth well into the future.

 

Rethink How We Lead

Why is it important to rethink how we lead? 

While it is always important to grow and develop as leaders, we are experiencing an historical era where tech advances married with sweeping demographic changes, plus a shift in the power base from corporations to individuals, have upended the way the future looks for work, workplaces and workers.

The sharing economy, the low marginal cost of becoming an entrepreneur and the preferences of rising generations mean that leadership behaviors of the past will fail in a quest for relevancy in our physically and digitally fused world.  Yet leaders are still using biographies of their favorite leaders from the 80s and 90s as their guides for the future.

As a Chief Operating Officer meeting hundreds of the world’s best executives, I was struck by the slow pace of change in the way we interact in the workplace relative to the pace of change in the outside world, the changing complexion of our customer bases in business and the demands of the rising generations.  Legacy thinking and iterations on past methods won’t cut it in the new world of work, yet many leaders are “nibbling at the edges” of the changes they need to implement to attract and retain talent and, frankly, to remain relevant. Free food and subsidized health memberships are not enough anymore.  Dramatic shifts in the characteristics and behaviors we value are needed to thrive going forward.

 

The Importance of Trust

The dizzying pace of change often make us believe that everything is upended, but some things have not changed for leaders. What is something that remains unchanged and just as important in terms of leadership? 

The ideal of being trusted and trustworthy has not changed over time.  It is as important now as it ever was, especially in the eyes of those impacted by less than honest leaders, but what is different now is our ability to get transparency on and take action against leaders that lie, cheat and create subversive cultures.

The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership, whether real or perceived, can often mask less than trustworthy behavior for a period of time.  However, we are entering an era where rising generations are seeking more from their leaders and their organizations.  Consumers, workers and competitors have more ability than ever to call out bad behaviors, share good behaviors and make choices.

 

“The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership can often mask less than trustworthy behavior.”

 

I have unwavering belief in our ability as a society to sift through the noise of leaders who are untrustworthy and that we have an opportunity to set a new bar for leaders who create positive cultures, leave enduring legacies and inspire those coming behind and beside them.  We just aren’t there yet.

 

What behaviors do leaders need today that may not have been “musts” in the past? 

Master the Boomerang Principle and Inspire Lifetime Loyalty

Inspire Loyalty

I remember when my grandfather retired many years ago. He had been at the same company for decades. My father, too, worked for one employer for the majority of his career before retiring.

Today, it’s not uncommon to change employers every few years. Millennials especially move around. After all, companies aren’t as loyal to employees as they once were, so it’s only natural that employees’ loyalties have also shifted.

What are the implications of these changes? What should companies do?

 

“Build a culture of value that consistently greens your own pastures.” -Lee Caraher

 

Lee Caraher has built several companies, and she’s an expert on Millennials. She argues that it’s important to create long-lasting relationships with your employees even after they leave. In today’s environment, you want them to be raving fans of the organization no matter where they turn up.

I love this philosophy. I followed up with Lee to ask her more about her experience and research into what she calls The Boomerang Principle.

Lee Caraher is the CEO of Double Forte, a national PR and social media firm, and the author of The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty from Your Employees.

 

“Boomerangs are the drivers of sustainable business.” -Lee Caraher

 

How Expectations Have Shifted

What organizational traits do Millennials look for?

6 Steps to Understand and Engage the Next Generation

Chasing Relevance

 

You may have read the facts:

83 million millennials are in the United States. That’s 36% of our workforce today and 75% by 2025.

How do we best connect with this next generation?

How do we attract and retain them?

What’s the best way to care about their success?

 

Dan Negroni’s new book, Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace, tackles the challenge. Dan is the CEO of launchbox, an attorney, a sales and marketing executive, and an expert on the millennial generation. I recently asked him about his work empowering the next generation.

 

60% of the world’s population is under 30.

 

Understand the Generational Divide

Is today’s generational divide greater than the ones that have come previously?

Yes, the difference surrounds how this generation was raised versus others.  The first difference is technology.  The rapid change in it and the connectivity in the world and dynamics of social media have changed the nature of who we are and how we interact.  We have focused less on the interpersonal and more on the phone or device as a means of communication together with the immediacy of action.   This generation wants action and now.  Millennials are not schooled in relationship-building skills, so they are not wired to connect.  This is the biggest difference.  Instead of dealing with the differences, we are just complaining that millennials are not good enough.

The biggest gap involves perspective and myths.  Each side is completely steeped in their views that the other perspective is flawed. For example:

Do the following statements about millennials ring mostly true or mostly false?

  • They have a sense of entitlement, and expect everything now!
  • They’re lazy and don’t want to work hard like we did; work/ 
life balance is more important than hard work.
  • They are disloyal and jump ship if they are not engaged or 
growing.
  • They need feedback all the time, 24/7/365. (“Please tell me 
how great I am. Every day. Twice.”)
  • They have different career goals from non-millennials.
  • They want everything digital.
  • They don’t deal well with authority.

Here’s the answer: It was a trick question.

All these are true . . . and false . . . and none of that matters. They are assumptions—myths, really—and there is no right or wrong when it comes to them. That’s because while myths, assumptions, stereotypes—whatever you want to call them—may be false as blanket statements (“all Americans are overweight” and “all fashion models are anorexic”), they come from a place of partial truth (more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight and many models are unrealistically thin). But who wants to be viewed through the lens of myths like these?

Consider the quiz from the other side. Do the following statements about non-millennial managers ring mostly true or mostly false?

  • They obey the Golden Rule: “I’ve got the gold, I make the rules!”
  • They are only in it for the money.
  • They are inflexible and don’t like change; they’re stuck in 
their ways.
  • They are so not tech savvy.
  • They don’t care about their teams or people.
  • They are “hard graders” and couldn’t care less about 
recognizing others.
  • They are afraid of nontraditional approaches.
  • They are willing to trade the pursuit of true passion for
stability.

If you are a non-millennial manager, does this sound like you? Or sound like how you want to be perceived in this world? Well, these are the things most millennials say about us. How much is true? Not much. Just as you are guilty of creating myths that lead to disconnect and frustrations with millennials, they are guilty of perpetuating myths about you.

managers vs millenials

 

Work from the Inside-Out

What do you mean when you say to “work from the inside out?” 

The secret to job and life satisfaction is internal self-awareness and growth.  Youth in general is a time where, if we can understand ourselves, we can start to create a journey to build great careers and lives. Millennials in particular require training on how to understand and accomplish learning about themselves to impact the world.  We believe the secret to success is predicated on understanding yourself to impact others, and they need help to learn how to engage themselves in the world and subsequently to create a talent and career track.  If we can have them connect to their inside motivation and goals, we can universally have them succeed along their journey.

 

“Focus on where you want to go; not on what you fear.” -Tony Robbins

 

Bust Millennial Myths

Redefining Work-Life Balance

The Changing Nature of Work

How we work is changing. Technology is ushering in new possibilities. New generations enter the workforce with different expectations. With all the changes in play, there are some things that stay the same: the desire for fulfillment and purpose, the need to balance the professional with the personal.

Mason Donovan tackles these challenges in his new book, The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce. Mason is managing partner at The Dagoba Group, a New England-based diversity and inclusion consultancy. I had the opportunity to ask him about the changing nature of work, including generational changes, balance, mindfulness, and inclusion efforts.

 

Success Tip: Balance improves your relationships, satisfaction and productivity.

 

Achieve Greater Satisfaction with Balance

Is work-life balance possible? Why is it so important?

Work-life balance is possible.  There are a lot of gurus out there that say it is not in order to capture your attention in this crowded field.  Emphasis is on the word balance.  If you ever walked on a high beam or anything else in which you needed to physically balance yourself, you most likely fell off a few times.  Your balance will fall off to one side or the other.  It is important that you anticipate for these moments of imbalance, so you have a plan to get up.

Achieving balance will make you more productive in and out of the workplace.  It will enrich your relationships and allow you to achieve greater satisfaction in life.

 

“Alignment of purpose allows for the elimination of distractions.” -Mason Donovan

 

How is finding your purpose related to achieving balance?

In the book, I tell the story of executives on an interpersonal retreat climbing a mountain.  Their primary purpose was to reach the summit without talking about business.  The objective was for them to get to know each other better personally and share an accomplishment.  Without spoiling the story, their original goal is interrupted because they lost their purpose.

In order to know where you are going in life, it is important to understand why you are going there.  Work-life balance is no exception.  Only a handful of people actually stop and reflect on why they get up every day to spend the majority of their waking life in an organization.  When that somewhat simple-but-necessary reflection does not take place, you will default to acquiring things and making money, which almost inevitably leads to the golden handcuffs phenomenon.  You work more because you have to make more money.  You make more money so you can acquire things that require you to work more.

There has been a societal shift in why individuals engage in work.  Part of that shift is due to generational changes, while for others it was their awakening due to the Great Recession.  Aligning your personal purpose in life with your work and organizational purpose will help you eliminate all of the noise that does not fit that purpose.  Balance comes from awareness.  In The Golden Apple, I provide simple exercises to not only develop, but also align your purpose at each level.

 

“Work is not a four-letter word.” -Mason Donovan

 

Understand Generational Change

What are you finding in terms of generational changes? What are the new generations demanding at work? What’s the best way for current leaders to respond?

It is important to note that we are all unique individuals but are influenced by our shared group memberships such as our generation.  Clumping everyone together and solely defining them by generational attitudes can overgeneralize any particular person.  It is helpful to understand the influence of generational membership, which will give you a starting point when discovering their individuality.The Golden Apple

Each generational cohort has a defining moment in the shaping of their shared psyche.  When it comes to employment, for Generation X it was the broken promise of the organizational loyalty which fostered the cradle to grave jobs their parents subscribed to.  Millennials were highly influenced by the Great Recession which ushered in massive layoffs, foreclosures and lowered career expectations.  These defining moments create a collective influence on how cohorts view the work-life equation.

PwC’s NextGen study uncovered a generational shift when it came to work and personal engagement for their Millennial population.  Uncovering this shift was important to them since by the year 2020, they expect that fully 80% of their employees will be Millennials.  In short they found this group was far less likely to give up their personal life today for the prospect of a partnership down the road.  The value structure was shifting more towards experiences than acquiring things.

Interesting to note is how this new value structure is also being reflected in Baby Boomers.  The Great Recession robbed them of the ability to retire early as they saw their investments fail.  It required them to reassess what they valued in life: time or things.  Most have decided to choose to have life experiences in the time they have remaining.  Downsizing acquisitions and upsizing experiences has become the trend for this generation.

Leaders need to better understand the value they offer to their current and future employees.  By integrating work-life balance into their overall package, they will increase engagement and retention.  They should look at this challenge through a holistic lens so they do not perceive it simply as a specific generational or gender issue.  Policies and practices should be geared towards an inclusive solution that impacts the overall workforce.

 

Study: long working hours made 58% more irritable and over 25% depressed.

 

Mindful Practices