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The Inter-Generational Divides

The Inter-Generational Divides

Many young leaders who have to manage older, more experienced workers find the whole process quite intimidating. Equally, older leaders who may have gotten by in their careers using a more directive leadership style, are confounded by their inability to lead millennials to do what they want them to do!

If you’re a leader, you may have workers from four different generations in your team… from Baby Boomers, all the way through to Gen Z. Although each of these generations has defining characteristics, the leadership principles remain the same.

It’s critical to treat everyone on their merits, and lead them by tapping into their individual motivations and personal drivers. If we start to manage people based purely on generational stereotypes, we’re bound to get it wrong.

There’s no doubt about it, people are working longer into their lives. And this is a good thing for all of us: working longer is associated with lower mortality, depression, and diabetes risk for both men and women. Delayed retirement reduces the 5-year mortality rate for men ages 62-65 by 32-percent relative to non-workers.

Older workers are generally undervalued in the job market. As a leader, if you can see the incredible potential for value that older workers offer, and find a way to tap into that, you can unlock some real value that your competitors haven’t yet discovered. But you have to have the confidence to lead strongly… bearing in mind of course, that you might have to use some slightly different techniques to get the best out of these workers!

My top tips for leading older workers are:

  1. Deal with your own issues first. Make sure you have the confidence and capability to lead people who know more than you do. This is about mastering your own insecurities.
  2. Understand the value that older workers bring. If you don’t allow yourself to be intimidated, you’ll be able to embrace and use their experience… If you employ a deep expert in any given field, you’d expect them to know more than you—that’s what you’re paying them for. Think of older workers like this, and you’ll find it much easier to lead them.
  3. Set a consistent standard, but don’t expect the same things. You want everyone on your team to meet the minimum acceptable standard. Not everyone is going to be a high-powered, driven, ambitious star. But everyone has to meet a certain standard, in terms of both behavior and performance–don’t let that standard slip, because you may feel as though you have to make concessions for older workers. The standard is the standard!
  4. Make sure someone benefits from their wisdom every day. Older workers bring years of accumulated experience and judgment. For the most part, they have the type of experience that only comes with miles on the speedo. So capitalize on this any way you can.
  5. Use them as a source of guidance for your own growth. Older people love to think that they have something of significance to contribute. Their willingness and desire to mentor younger and less experienced workers is a huge plus, and this can provide fertile ground for accelerating your own personal development.

Millennials, of course, have different issues… but if you look to liberate the value that every individual represents, you’ll become comfortable with it eventually.

What constitutes great leadership hasn’t changed: the things that worked best for Boomers and Gen Xs, will also work for future generations. People are still people, and 1,000s of years of DNA development doesn’t suddenly become radically different…

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