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Leading Effectively Podcast

10 Principles for Working Across Generations

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Is it possible to work with and manage people from all generations effectively without pulling your hair out? Absolutely, says the Center for Creative Leadership's Jennifer Deal. The following ten truths about generational conflict, gleaned from a seven-year study at CCL, may help you look past the stereotypes and become a more effective leader to people of all ages. Let's look at each finding in depth:

  • Truth #1 - all generations have similar values. Many people think there are enormous differences in values between older and younger people. However, CCL's research has proven that different generations actually have fairly similar values. "Family" is the value chosen most frequently by people of all generations. Other shared values included integrity, achievement, love, competence, happiness, self respect, wisdom, balance and responsibility.

  • Truth # 2 - everyone wants respect. We often hear that younger people are disrespectful of older employees and people in authority. We also hear complaints that older people show no respect for younger talent and ideas. The reality is that everyone wants respect - they just don't define it in the same way.

  • Truth #3 - trust matters. By and large, people of all generations and at all levels trust the people they work with directly, such as bosses, peers and direct reports, more than they trust their organizations. And people trust their organization more than they trust upper management.

  • Truth #4 - everyone wants credible, trustworthy leaders. What do different generations expect from their leaders? People of all generations want their leaders to be credible, to be trusted, to listen well, to be farsighted and to be encouraging.

  • Truth #5 - office politics is an issue - no matter what your age. Everyone is concerned about the effects of organizational politics on their careers. We all want to be recognized for the work we do and have access to the resources we need. Employees know that political skills are a critical component in being able to move up and be effective at higher levels of management.

  • Truth #6 - no one really likes change. The stereotype is that older people hate change and younger generations thrive off of it, but these are inaccurate assumptions. In general, people from all generations are uncomfortable with change. Resistance to change has nothing to do with age; it is all about how much one has to gain or lose with the change.

  • Truth #7 - loyalty depends on the context, not on the generation. The study shows that younger generations are no more likely to job-hop than older generations were at the same age. The perception that older people are more loyal is, in fact, associated with context, not age. For example, people who are closer to retirement are more likely to want to stay with the same organization for the rest of their working life, and people higher in an organization work more hours than do people lower in the organization.

  • Truth #8 - it's as easy to retain a young person as it is to retain an older one - if you do the right things. Just about everyone feels overworked and underpaid. People of all generations have the same ideas about what their organization can do to retain them. Employees want room to advance; respect and recognition; better quality of life; and fair compensation.

  • Truth #9 - everyone wants to learn - more than just about anything else. Learning and development were among the issues most frequently mentioned by study participants of all the generations surveyed. Everyone wants to make sure they have the training necessary to do their current job well. They are also interested in what they need to be learning to get to the next level in their organization.

  • And finally Truth #10 - almost everyone wants a coach. We've heard that younger people are constantly asking for feedback and can't get enough of it. We've also heard that older people don't want any feedback at all. According to our research, everyone wants to know how he or she is doing and wants to learn how to do better. Feedback can come in many forms, and people of all generations seem to like to receive it.

Use these ten principles to help you work with and lead people of all ages.

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