How to Bridge the Generation Gap and Lead More Effectively
Do you remember the excitement you felt when you were 20-something, preparing your resume, scheduling interviews, and dreaming about life in the “real world?” The options felt endless, the next chapter was sure to be one of the best. You would finally be taken seriously as an adult, you would have real responsibilities, a real job, new freedoms, and exciting adventures. It might feel like ages ago, but can you still recall your first day on the job? The nervous energy, the grand ideas, the innocent enthusiasm similar to Buddy the Elf who can’t wait to check out the mailroom! (Maybe you kept your enthusiasm hidden, but we bet it was still there!) Now, you’ve moved up in the company. You’ve grown along with the organization, you’re settled in your work life, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be tempted to view the young professionals in your company with disrespect or disregard. “They’re just kids, they don’t know anything” you might think as you fail to listen to their comments in a team meeting. Maybe, you feel threatened by their energy and good ideas. But as the workforce fills up with the next generation, it’s time to bridge the generational gap rather than dismiss it. Remember, you were a young professional once, too! You had something to offer your company, so it’s time to find out what the millennials on your team can offer today. You’ll lead more effectively, increasing employee satisfaction and employee engagement when you apply these principles today.
1. Put aside stereotypes.
By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. To grow your company, you cannot afford to let stereotypes guide your opinion of your employees. Yes, you and the young men and women on your team were raised differently, in a different social culture, and hold different values. But this doesn’t mean they can’t bring innovative ideas to the table. In fact, when your team becomes more diverse in age, you have a greater opportunity to learn from each other as everyone brings different experiences, approaches, and skills that will propel your company forward.
2. Get to know your team personally.
A good manager won’t focus on age as much as they’ll focus on their individual employees. Find out what motivates each person on your team. What excites them about their job? What are their goals both in life and in their career? Then, create an environment that helps them grow. Forgive their mistakes, praise their success, and help them develop professionally. Remember that every person on your team is motivated differently and requires a different leadership style to be successful.
3. Train your “replacement.”
Rather than being threatened by the energy and creativity a young person your team brings or dismissing their ideas as naivety, view them as your future replacement. Begin to mentor the young professionals on your team to take over your position. Imagine how confident and thrilled you would be to have someone else step into your role that was trained to do that job even better than you can! This way of thinking sets up the company for future success, makes you a better leader, and coaches your new hires in specific ways.
4. Encourage reverse mentorship.
Consider pairing up older managers with younger employees to encourage cross-generational understanding. Young people often have misperceptions about older generations just as older generations have preconceived ideas about young adults. With reverse mentorship conversations, young professionals can educate older team members or managers about the younger employees and share ideas about communication, company-wide events, or new ideas that help the younger employees feel included and valued.
5. Foster intergenerational respect.
As a leader, you’ll need to lead by example. Ask younger employees for their ideas and feedback, then listen carefully and see if you can implement their suggestions. Give regular feedback, set clear expectations, and provide ample opportunities for employee development. Establish a culture of cross-generational collaboration by removing judgment, practicing open communication, and showing respect to your tenured and new staff members.
At Front Line Leadership, our programs equip your managers and supervisors with tools that enable them to successfully motivate employees, manage different personalities, foster teamwork and collaboration, and increase communication effectiveness. To learn these tools and many others, contact us today.