Following some of our earlier articles, it is clear that cross-generational working is essential in the times ahead. If you think that baby boomers should be leaving the scene, think again, they bring wisdom and real experience of surviving a recession and managing change. Gen Y can bring collaborative spirit and a fresh perspective. But it is predominantly our Generation X middle managers and leaders who have the challenge of bringing all this together.
As managers, it is time to be prepared and open minded about what each of the generations brings. Those seniors may have worked in a different era but the experiences are no less valid and they’re amongst the users of the internet and web 2.0 tools just like everyone else.
Our Gen Y need an encouraging hand, genuine interest in what they have to say and what they want to achieve; it’s not about their managers making assumptions or judgements, or ensuring these newcomers have to go through the same paces they did.
In the article “I’m way more Generation Y than I thought, you too?” by 23 year old Victoria Gutierrez, she looks at the fundamental differences in her Y world and that of her boyfriend’s father who is busy conforming to the traditional hard working career guy image just like many of the others that she perceives follow in similar footsteps. Victoria remains frustrated, trying to bring her unique contribution, finding something exciting and creative that allows her to be herself at work.
So what are these Gen X senior and middle managers going to do to bring these groups together? How are they going to cope with the pressures of change? How are our new Gen Y middle managers going to embrace these strange times? And how are we going to support them?
Of course there are plenty of leadership development programmes and workshops out there, change management guide books and all the rest. In fact we urge you to keep investing in your leadership and think carefully about how you can do that in an imaginative way. The top companies distinguish themselves by the way they develop their leaders and think about the young leaders of tomorrow.
However, we need to think about what is different and not just fall back into our old ways. First, what is similar: Recognition, Leadership, Meaning and Authenticity:
Recognition: For one thing, it is time to be human and to find ways to maintain that community spirit and allow people to share their contributions.
Leadership: Do you have enough of the right mix of talents and generations in your team? How diverse is your team really? It is not just about legal compliance or making up numbers, it is real, without the right balance how can you leverage the best ideas? The more you put into these teams, the stronger the results. Ask them to take ownership of identifying what they need as a group and individuals to improve their activities and how they can work together in new and better ways.
Meaning: Leaders and middle managers need to use their position wisely. It is not just about leading from the front, it is about leading from the centre, being a facilitator, spiritual guide, coach, master companion and humamanagement!
Authenticity is key – make it real! Don’t live by the text book. In fact, leave the rule books on the floor; it is more than ‘look, listen and learn’ as previous generations would say; get in there and be part of something adaptive and evolving. Regardless of budget cuts, making fun part of the agenda will reap rewards. Encourage laughter, it is still one nature’s best medicines, even if the tasks at hand are serious ones.
Recognise and support those who try hard and don’t succeed, the lessons learned are always valuable ones. Don’t preach at them, ask them for solutions, they enjoy participant led activity.
Gen Y will “sink or swim”. It’s time to let Y’ers show you what they’ve got! Let them take on challenges that others may guffaw at, just allow them your encouragement and support. It is time to allow them to literally feel and sense what they believe. It is not time to ‘coach and facilitate’ into GenX trusted beliefs – genuine open minds are required and above all a positive mental attitude. Let our Gen Y show us their energy and stop putting them in boxes!
Remember, as we have said before Gen Y is not just an age group but a behaviour, it is not just a fashion or a fad, it is a new way of thinking, a lifestyle, a way of being in the new world. Leaders need to embrace it and make it work for all.