There is a lot of talk about age these days. People talk about the X and Y Generation, the Baby Boomers and recently I have heard the expression, iGeneration! Then there is the ageism debate and Governments bringing in legislation to make employers employ people of all ages.
I hear X generation do this, Y generation do the other and so it goes on. The truth is we are too caught up in classifications and miss the person standing in front of us. I have seen Baby Boomers acting like X and Y generation people and I have also seen what are referred to as X and Y generation, being more like Baby Boomers than people in their 20’s or 30’s.
Now I am not saying that there is not some significant differences between the way people were brought up in the 80’s, and those brought up in the 40’s or 50s. There are obviously some significant differences between the experiences of those generations in their ‘growing-up’ years. But to lump them all together and brand them as having a mindset, attitude, aspirations or anything else purely because they were born in a certain decade, I think is too prescriptive.
It is the same as the Personality Profiles that put you in one box. They generally find core elements of personality but fail to outline learnt behaviours or coping strategies. So some core elements are right but the edges remain blurred because of the factors that influence a persons personality with experience. The same applies with age.
There is an expression, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” and I think that is what we need to be aware of in these situations. Personality Profiles are very useful (in fact there are some outstanding ones in the marketplace) but they should not be used in isolation. They are a mechanism to help narrow down but not prove a conclusive answer.
Knowing the generation differences helps to narrow down and understand a person, but it is not definitive by any means. We need to be able to look beyond the initial information (whilst noting it) and seek to find the real person.
I fly a lot, and travel on Air Canada because I use the Star Alliance network where I can. Air Canada has some older women working on their planes and I love it because they are really great people in most cases. In fact they are often great despite the company and not because if it. I can honestly say that I have seen X, Y, Millenniums, Baby Boomers and dinosaurs in people who would typically be classified as being Baby Boomers. It would be wrong to typecast them all and treat them accordingly.
So this month I am asking you to do two things. Your first thoughts will be that I am asking you two opposite things, but in reality I am asking you to open your vision wider than you have done in the past. Look at the generations you have working for you and ask yourself:
Are you providing them with the leadership style they need for their generation? The different generations want and respond to different things from a leader.
Do you understand what they need and expect?
What do you need to learn about being able to effectively lead them?
Now look at your people and whilst understanding their generation, look at them in terms of who they are as individuals.
Are you being the leader that people need of you?
Are you being the leader that understands the whole person and not just the age they are or what preconceived ideas you have about that age?
Finally, I want to ask you if you are the person that all ages can relate to, can work with, can respond to and want to be led by?
Are you the leader that can adapt their view of age and personality to be an effective leader?
All the best, Paul