MINDING THE GAP
Thank you for the great question on how we can reach out to younger generations. I will start answering the question by saying that we raised them. Yes, we generated the younger generations known as the generation X, and Generation Y or the “Millenials.” We, the “Veterans” or the “Matures” and the Baby Boomers are the ones who need to take the lead to mind and close the generation gap.
Who are we? We are the ones that need personal, one-on-one dialogue to feel engaged and connected. We are competitive and often direct and at the same time reluctant to open up to discuss our goals, dreams, and plans. We place a higher premium on formality and the top-down chain of command. We are generally willing to sacrifice for success. We are competitive and take time to build rapport.
Who are they? They are independent and value flexibility and freedom to do their work as they choose. They also desire more balance in their lives than we do. They value the opinions of their peers. They invented the social networks yet we think they lack personal skills. Why have we not taught them these skills? Their expectations are immediate and instantaneous. The generation X is independent and competitive and the generation Y or the Millenials are highly collaborative and optimistic. They put emphasis on work/life balance and the use of technology.
What makes for the complexity in dealing with communications amongst different generations is the speed and complexity of change in the last few decades. Think different work ethic, moral values, and respect for others, political views, attitudes toward different races and groups, and religious beliefs and imagine the complexity we all deal with.
Also, for the first time in history we have four distinct generations in jobs performing task where they need each other. Some folks have been working for over 40 or 50 years. And a word to the younger generations is that you may end up working for 60 years. However, there are principles we can use to solve our communication dilemma. There are timeless principles to make human connections and build relationships that have endures the test of time and that is why they are called timeless principles. Information comes and goes, the principles endure. These principles work for anyone willing to work them.
The bottom line is that we created the generation gap by miscommunications, misunderstandings, and insecurities and now we must take responsibility to close the gap. As leaders, it is our responsibility despite busyness and distractions; by improving our people skills, and valuing other generations’ experiences.
Here are the 7 timeless principles:
1. Make them your friends. Be a friend first. Ask great questions and listen. Understand and empathize with them. Let’s serve them and have them tell us how we can serve them instead of us telling them how they can serve us.
2. Find their needs. Ask great questions and listen. Find out what is really important to them. What are the desires of their hearts?
3. Care about them. They don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. Care about their struggles. Give them the gift of time with undivided attention. Love them. Love the unlovable since it is easy to love the lovable.
4. Show them grace. When we go to our past we can easily see how we messed things up, can’t we? Let’s be generous forgivers. Accept, approve, and appreciate them. Learn from them how to communicate with them.
5. Learn to speak their language. Take time to learn their communication languages, their love languages. Treat them as you would treat foreign royals.
6. Refrain from judging them. Don’t criticize, accuse or complain. We don’t know what they are dealing with. God alone can judge the heart of man. Who are we to do His job?
7. Build trust with them. Love spells time. Take the time to build relationships based on trust. Respect everyone, earn their trust. Define clear expectations and lead by duty.
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships together.” – Stephen R. Covey
Be blessed and be a blessing to others.
Carlos Fontana, President of Phalanx
Co-author of the book Follow to Lead (The 7 Principles to Being a Great Follower)
Author of the book PRICELESS (Sixty-Six Simple Stories of Reflection, Love, and Legacy)