Part Three:

Question: How can leaders from different demographic cohorts flourish in their work together?

The world view can be very different between demographic cohorts, specifically between Millennials and Boomers, but some intrinsic foundational values are the same and you can discover those by active listening. For instance, the Millennial scholar from Oxford University recently said that he was scheduling a reflective walk during the upcoming weekend. When asked what a reflective walk is to him, he replied, “It’s an opportunity to shut myself away from all the noise for an extended period of time and give myself the opportunity to reflect on two or three targeted things.”

Millennial leaders are purposeful, contemplative, meditative. They value examining an issue from multiple perspectives, and that process allows them to avoid hurrying. Hurrying is a Millennial impulse, but it is also the mother of mistakes. As they look through multiple perspectives, it allows much greater insight. What is the political perspective? The social? From a Leadership Coaching standpoint, it allows young leaders to become more holistic, more well-rounded in their decisions.

Going forward in our society today, we need to be collaborative between generations. Everybody needs a home, needs a place to make their contribution, needs a place politically and socially. Millennials don’t want to be spectators – they want input and the power to make a difference. They don’t want yesterday’s world – they want a world that is more fair, that has equity. They look at economic and social models that hold the most promise for happiness, because they plan to balance how they live, work and play. They place a high importance on social responsibility and relationships, and it behooves the rest of us to know this construct.

Not all of this is new. In the mid-1990s when I had the role of supervising faculty at a college, I needed to respond to an instructor who was consistently receiving substandard student evaluations. His idea of engagement was to immediately turn to the blackboard and fill as much of it as possible. I advised him to leave the chalk alone and not turn his back on his students even for a moment, but to spend the first half of the next class telling them about his own journey and what brought him to this moment with them. To talk about his family, his values, and why he chose teaching. And then to spent the second half arranging a private appointment with each one of them to listen to their story. He followed this advice to the letter. Yes, he still needed a lot of chalk. But by sharing and listening, and asking better questions, his evaluations by the students went up to a respectable level because of the relationships that were developed. He enjoyed getting to know them and became a better teacher. He became known in the college community as someone who has a good relationship with students, and he moved into an executive position. He was once on the precipice of being heaved over, and now he was loved.

That is Leadership Coaching. That is working successfully to bridge demographic cohorts and allow everyone to flourish at this precise moment in their career.

What techniques do you utilize in collaborating and communicating with different demographic cohorts? Share your thoughts, ideas and comments below.

Part Two:

Question: How can leaders from different demographic cohorts flourish in their work together?

Focusing on relationships, and more fully understanding the core values that different demographic cohorts bring to the table, is key to allowing people from multiple generations to flourish in the workplace. For instance, as with Millennials, the Baby Boomer generation wanted to make a difference, too, but weren’t quite as impatient. Boomers were prudent on their way to leadership roles, but sometimes to a fault. They struggled through paralysis by analysis, becoming overly cautious and often stalling progress. People all along the demographic continuum need to find the sweet spot between being impatient to see results, and being reticent to make a decision.

Impatience can manifest itself in frustration and anxiety, which is on the rise among young people. It’s not that those things didn’t exist with Boomers, but it presented over a longer period of time and through a very different lens. The young leaders today are living completely in a digital world, and that presents a clear demographic distinction like no other we have ever seen.

If you were born pre-1982, you are a digital immigrant. If you have not been conscientious about staying current and being connected, it can be daunting to try and keep pace. It’s easier to take a step back from even attempting digitization, and just take an observer role while you wait it out till retirement. Your career and leadership path was more often than not built on a tradition of authority, of clear and unwavering structure.

So you have young Millennial leaders who are impatient working side by side with seasoned Boomer leaders who are reticent. Along with all the complexities that come with doing business in our digital age, Boomers are also contending with social and fiscal realities they weren’t anticipating. Their home that they banked on to be the foundation of their retirement may be barely holding its value in the economic times we’re in, which creates its own frustration and anxiety. But the other layer is the trend where their Millennial children are not leaving home. Boomers may have a home that is losing value and an inhabitant who can’t launch. Millennials want to make a difference and they want to make it now, but they can’t leave their childhood home.

All of this creates a world that is unfamiliar to Boomers, discouraging to Millennials, and frustrating to both. The obligation of parenting is stretching longer and longer. At one point, Boomers were also impatient to land a steady job, get married and set up their own homes quite young. In fact, this was an expectation from their parents. Now Millennials are questioning the whole idea of getting married, let alone making the commitment to raise children. It is a fascinating and swift shift in priorities, and understanding this age is important if you’re working with these young people and mentoring them into leadership roles.

The world view can be very different between these demographics, but some intrinsic foundational values are the same and you can discover those by active listening. The relationship you form with them is what will add value to their growth and development, and allow everyone to flourish.

How do being impatient or being reticent impact one’s ability to lead effectively? What is your method for finding the sweet-spot amidst these poles? Share your thoughts, your ideas or your comments.

Question: How can leaders from different demographic cohorts flourish in their work together?

We are at a time when multiple generations are sharing space, both professionally and personally, in a manner not seen before. The concept of diverse ages working together is not new, but what is different is that today’s approach comes from a place of respect and value right from the start. In times past, young professionals had to earn their stripes before receiving an invitation to the board table. Today, young leaders are making a vital contribution even if their careers are fledgling. We have a great deal to gain by exploring one another’s values, by gleaning insight into otherwise untapped insight. How best to reach out, to engage a young Millennial leader, particularly if you are an Apex Baby Boomer leader? As always, it is all about relationships.

It seems simple, but it’s important to engage people in conversation – ask them a provocative question and invite them to reflect and respond from two perspectives: 1) from life and career experience; and 2) from reading and research. This level of exploration encourages them to not be single focused, coming to conclusions from only their own experience. A practitioner has examples that adds to the discussion, showing they have a variety of pertinent information from habitually bringing others into the thread of their information-gathering.

In the university course I teach to students in the Masters of Education program, called ‘Leading in Higher Education’, we spend a whole module on the difference between Beta (highly collaborative) and Alpha (highly authoritative) leadership, which constitutes a big part the shift taking place. It’s important to understand the impact of the different styles, because these people will be spending their careers in an increasingly shifting landscape. They represent a mix of ages and are at various stages in their careers.

One is a very skilled scholar who is under 30 years old and studying Philosophy at Oxford University in Britain. He is studying Millennials and looking at tomorrow’s leaders, and his new book ‘Millennials in the Modern Workforce: Embracing Solitude in a Hyperconnected Society. His focus is the desire of these young people to make a contribution, which he feels is thwarted by impatience. An ‘I want it and I want it now,’ mentality. Millennials, after all, have been told their potential impact is limitless.

It is fascinating to look at careers and leadership through the lens of different demographic cohorts, because each is defined by very distinct approaches and philosophies. And at this very interesting time in the world of work, there are several demographic cohorts working alongside one another. Bringing some insight into the core values each brings to the table, and building a relationship as a priority, can allow each to flourish.

How do you feel when someone is ‘really there’ and actively listening to you? What do you recommend to improve one’s active listening skills? 


Share your thoughts!