Corporate Path Leadership is hearing more stories about challenges between generations in the workplace. Whether it is a younger manager struggling to understand and see the value of an older worker, or a middle-aged manager struggling with the work ethic of a younger worker — the net result of frustration is the same.
So is today any different than the past, or has this problem always existed?
Author Chip Conley sat down for a recent interview with Wharton to discuss this interesting trend and how workers at both ends of the age gap can overcome the challenges to create a collaborative team environment.
“Power is moving to younger [people] in the business world and in organizations because of our increasing reliance on DQ or digital intelligence. In fact, some studies show that power is 10 years younger today than it was 20 years ago. But we’re all living 10 years older. So, if power is moving 10 years younger and we’re living 10 years older, society has created a new 20-year irrelevancy gap for people in mid-life and beyond.”-- Chip Conley
The author goes on to address the importance of having all generations represented to make an organization successful. We couldn’t agree more, and yet we still see the challenges that are created in organizations with different age groups. So how do you overcome these gaps in approaches at work?
Here are four ways CPL recommends tackling the issue:
#1 – HAVE CLEAR TEAM OR DEPARTMENT GOALS AND INDIVIDUAL CONVERSATIONS WITH TEAM MEMBERS ON HOW THEY CAN HELP REACH THEM
This might seem tangential to the topic of this post — but it is not! If a team has lofty goals for the year, it is going to take a wide variety of skills and approaches to reach them. That may include young savvy digital and nimble skills and voices of experience who have seen pitfalls and trap doors surprise teams. By aligning all team members with these goals and encouraging their input on how to address them, the best ideas will have a much better chance of surfacing.
#2 – DEVELOP A TALENT SHARE TEACHING METHODOLOGY FOR YOUR TEAM
Call it a best practices session. Call it a lunch and learn. But don’t ignore the opportunity to share valuable insights with other team members. It can be as simple as finding topics of value/need for the team and matching to team members who can provide insights. This doesn’t have to apply to every team member, but you’ll be surprised how many might volunteer to share given the opportunity.
“I started to realize that there are some things they [younger leaders] could teach me, like digital intelligence, and there are things that I could teach them, which is emotional intelligence, leadership skills, strategic thinking, etc. That is the opportunity.”-- Chip Conley
#3 – SHOWCASE WINS FOR THE TEAM FROM A VARIETY OF PERSPECTIVES
One way for team members to appreciate others’ contributions is to hear about them from a leader. You’d be surprised how often that DOESN’T happen! Why? Because leaders might be reluctant to showcase individual contributors to feel like they are playing favorites. Or some leaders might think that everyone knows the contributions that team members are demonstrating. Having a leader regularly showcase different types of stories of value — and how they are helping to contribute to a team’s success can help the entire team see how value is contributed in different ways and through different types (and ages) of team members.
#4 – CREATE A PSYCHOLOGICALLY SAFE ENVIRONMENT
You’ve set your goals, developed a great team and are sharing wins. It’s just as important to ensure you create (and maintain) an environment that encourages not just collaboration, but collaboration without retribution. New idea generation, mentorship, and partnering on wins will all come about when employees feel safe to share their insight and leverage their varied experience.
“Google did a famous study two or three years ago called Project Aristotle and found that the No. 1 common factor among successful and effective teams was psychological safety — people feeling like they could collaborate well without any kind of retribution.”-- Chip Conley
We challenge you to put these ideas to the test this year. And let us know other ideas you have implemented to make your team generation-balanced and successful.
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