Thursday, 8 September 2016

‘…plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…’

Much has been written to try to define the differences between generations in the workforce.  Specifically, commentators look to make value distinctions.   Baby boomers want this; Gen X wants that; Millenials yet again something different.  The suggestion is that each successive generation is looking for something unique in their experience and thus the need for different leadership/management styles in order to maximize productivity and job satisfaction.

I beg to differ. 

As a Baby Boomer, I wanted to have essentially the same things I hear Millenials seeking.  Millenials want to be recognized for their work; they want their ideas to be thoughtfully considered; they want to make the world a better place for everyone.  As they look for employment, sense of purpose, professional development, mentoring and aligned values are all top of mind criteria.

Frankly, these are all Apple Pie aspirations.  Except for the most cynical amongst us, most people of any generation hold these views.  They are shared human desires.  Who does not want recognition for work well done…who does not want to have their ideas and input seriously considered…don`t we all instinctively want to leave the world better than the place we entered.

I submit that what have really changed are the attitudes and capabilities of those in positions of authority and responsibility.  While there is much yet that needs to be done in terms of professionalism, transparency, gender equality and integrity, the fact of the matter is that the needle has moved significantly over the past century.  Workplaces are now far more inclusive and responsive.  Managers and leaders are better educated, better trained and better supported than ever before.  This breeds self-confidence and thus the ability to consider others’ opinions without feeling attacked or threatened.

To be certain, communication techniques have changed and younger generations must be motivated in ways which are meaningful to them.  But really, hasn’t that always been the case.  The ‘next’ generation always feels that they have been blessed with insight and wisdom that is lacking in their superiors.

To them let me simply quote from that sage of yesteryear, Mark Twain.

“…When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years…”

Your leadership style and messaging techniques may be different - must be different - depending upon your audience.  But again, that has always been the case as no two individuals respond similarly regardless of their generation.  What is most important though is that you stay 'on message' because the team must be unified in their understanding of both the purpose and the process.  Make that your priority and generations become much less meaningful.

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