Good Leaders Do NOT Mess with Generational Differences
The best leaders do not care that much for generational differences. I have found that factors such as age, or sex, or background, or religion are relatively oblivious to them. While at the same time they take a keen and sensitive approach to each employee’s potential, needs and aspirations.
New research shows that millennial’s want variety, choice, access and transparency in the workplace. Coincidentally traditionalists, generation Xers and baby boomers want about the same things. Also, research demonstrates that the differences of Generation Y have been exaggerated. Good leaders are not that concerned with these matters anyway. Good leaders deal with each person as an individual not as a grouping or category or mindset. For example, just because a person is older does not mean he wants to retire or cannot be creative. Likewise, just because someone is younger and inexperienced does not mean she is not capable of supervising others or making quality decisions. Good leaders give everyone an opportunity to contribute fully and to do what they do well and to improve. As much as anyone can they have few biases or prejudices.
Generational Differences: Good leaders relate to each person uniquely
Good leaders relate to each person uniquely and with empathy. This is what keeps them from stereotyping and limiting their employees. They ask these five key questions about each member of their team to supervise them with flexibility:
- Skills: What are employee’s strengths and where does he or she need to improve?
- Performance: What is the employee’s performance level and how can I help them get to the next level?
- Career: What are the employee’s goals?
- Motivations: What is the employee’s “hot buttons”?
- Interests: What does this employee care about most?
Age is not that crucial to a good manager when determining how to treat employees. Instead, they relate with each person respectfully, with dignity and fairness. (See my post, Workplace Diversity: 4 Ways to Lead Respectfully) Their goal is to help each employee succeed on the job. They are other centered, committed to bringing out the best in each person, while achieving their company goals. So, they set high expectations in terms of job performance and teamwork.
Generational Differences: Two Examples
For example, Joe is a Service Manager for a large international company. The economy was booming in his country because of the oil business, and it was tough to keep employees who became lured away by big money. Joe pulled long hours, did double duty as manager, and filled in when he was short of employees. He never complained. Everyone knew he understood what it took to succeed at the job. Joe asked his team for three things:
- Want to do a good job.
- Do a good job.
- Step up when it is needed.
While he had high expectations, he had no employee grievances. He treated people right (communication, training, recognition, incentives etc.) and he formed a culturally diverse team. Eventually, despite the oil business, he reduced employee turnover significantly. He also led his company in sales and was a leader in customer retention. None of this was by accident. Oh, by the way, I am not sure he ever read about generational differences. Yet, he is employee focused and well respected.
In on other example, Martha manages a call center for a large hotel chain. She has close to two hundred employees of all age groups and nationalities on her team. She says her goal is equity and integrity. Her supervisors are well trained in call mechanics, customer retention, employee relations and coaching skills. She says, give respect and you get respect. Also, she learns everyone’s name and continually emphasizes individual strengths and goals. In addition, she achieves the highest levels of customer service. Generational differences never came up as a problem when I was working with her.
Pulling It All Together
You know, I have come across a number of managers like Joe and Martha. They lead people and do not manage generational differences. Sometimes, researchers or academics study others and generalize that certain behaviors are true for everyone in a specific classification. Good managers are authentic and talk to their employees, get to know them, establish clear expectations, provide appropriate resources, have some fun and achieve their goals. Furthermore, they know individual people are different and have a genuine care for each of them.
The good leaders I have worked with do not make leadership more complicated than it needs to be. They stay focused, clear the obstacles, help employees become successful and treat them even better than customers. Guess what, generational differences meld into the background. Therefore, the concept becomes a non-event.
In conclusion, these good leaders I speak of are remarkably successful, and just may be great leaders. I found they believe that their success depends on the success of their team. This quote by Eleanor Roosevelt describes them, “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”
Resources for Your Development
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