Kate’s Take: Boosting Team Effectiveness through Multi-Generational Strategies

Our family and life experiences are integral parts of our development. The skills and values we learn help shape how our leadership styles develop. A successful leader will be able to recognize individual differences and manage to that diversity within a team.  In today’s society, where labels have been used to describe different age groups in the workforce (i.e. Baby Boomers, GenXers, Millenials), it is essential that good leaders understand the differences – not the stereotypes – and manage to them effectively.

While some may conclude that managing to these differences is a waste of time or unimportant, workplace unity is just good business sense. Developing each person’s growth and making the most of individual differences can actually strengthen the overall team’s outcomes.

General Types

Baby Boomers – Born 1946 to 1964

This generation was the one for activism.  They can be overly optimistic and generally burn the candle at both ends. Their need for regular feedback can result in them changing jobs frequently unless they feel valued by their manager or team. It was the first generation to experience mass unemployment and competition for work as the rule.  While computers did not play an early role in boomers education or early work years, don’t mis-read this as them not being technically proficient. Their use of the internet is immense.  They also tend to be extremely loyal and work to a very high standard. 

How to work with Boomers:

Respect them. Acknowledge their experience and be willing to learn from them.  Try to understand their competitive ethos – they may feel at risk and unwilling to share information.  Learn politics – Boomers are brilliant at working the politics of an organization.  Watch them and learn.

Generation X’ers – Born 1965-1980

Gen X’ers have a very large life outside of work and generally have multiple careers throughout their lifetime. This group was raised surrounded by computer games and have lived in blended families. Sometimes known as IKEA babies, they tend to seek out fashion in their clothing and lifestyle.

Working with Gen X’ers

Social media is their preferred means of communication.  Keep it short and to the point.  Whenever possible use bullets!  Give them a long leash rather than micro-managing them.  Make it clear who is responsible for each outcome and agree to work plans.  Respect their life outside work. 

Gen Y (Millennials) – Born 1981-1999

This inquisitive group has been exposed to technology throughout their lives.  They are pursuing advanced degrees at a higher rate than the previous generation. Their love of teamwork knows no bounds.  Socially skilled, they are seekers of knowledge about how decisions and policies are made.

Making the most of Y Gen

Technology, technology, technology.  Give them meaningful tasks and keep them focused on outcomes.  Provide regular feedback…but only by email please.  Listen to them and respect them.  They have a very different outlook and are eager to make a difference.  Ask them to keep you updated on the latest e-communications. They require lots of stimulation to stay engaged and committed to the company’s goals.

Conclusions

Use these models wisely and work hard not to develop stereotypes within your company. Continually develop your team and understand each others’ values, tendencies and preferred working styles. Not everyone desires to be the President of the company or shares your obsession with You Tube.  Patience and respect are the keys to building a highly effective and well-rounded team.

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