The Multigenerational Team…Is It Really That Different?
Multi generational teams and workplaces have become a hot topic. You might wonder why. After all, organizations have always been made up of more than one generation.
The Difference Today Is Two Fold:
First the number of possible generations working together in one team has increased with the reluctance of the older generation to hang up their hats, some for financial reasons, others because they simply prefer to work. As a result it is possible today to have four generations working together: Traditionalists (born 1922 to 1945), Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964), Generation X (1965 to 1980) and Milennials 1981 to 2000 ( or early 2000’s depending on the research group you agree with). And soon we will be adding Generation Z.
Secondly, the issue that is usually put forward is the challenge presented by the divergent styles of each generation and the fact that the differences in generational strengths, needs and values is widening with each generation.
Effective leaders of yesterday, today and tomorrow all meet one common requirement: they understand the importance of recognizing the individual differences between team members, their values, needs, strengths and weaknesses and ultimately how each is best motivated to tap the best of themselves.
The Dominant Characteristics Of The Generations
So in leading a multigenerational team it may be useful for the leader to be aware of the dominant characteristics that have been identified for each generational cohort in order to better understand members’ behaviors and needs but at the same time they cannot assume these characteristics apply consistently to every individual in a cohort.
The following is an overview of the traits commonly identified in descriptions of each generation.
Traditionalists believe in conformity and are used to and comfortable in structured hierarchical workplaces.
Baby Boomers want to feel fulfilled by their work and often “live to work”, value individuality and creativity and as leaders are decisive, persuasive and motivational.
Gen Xers look at work differently from the Baby Boomers. They “work to live” but at the same time are ambitious; they are people oriented but like to work autonomously. As leaders they are persuasive and strategic.
Milennials, originally labeled Generation Y, are the generation most frequently examined and written about as their values and expectations appear to present the greatest challenges to the people who lead them. They demand a work-life balance and are not impressed by authority. This generation is most frequently characterized as being entitled and impatient to move ahead. The data from a Hudson study, however, suggests that Milennials are also ambitious and willing to work toward difficult objectives. (us.hudson.com) It is worthwhile to consider that the Milennial cohort is still young, whereas the data collected on older cohorts was, of course, from an older population. Perhaps the data from Milennials reflects their youthfulness and they may present differently as they mature. In the meantime, anyone who leads Milennials needs to perhaps be even more cognisant that we often see what we look for, so take care not to jump to conclusions.
But what about pulling the members of a multigenerational team with the various strengths, values and priorities together to achieve the exceptional performance that every team must achieve today?
Accomplishing the ideal may take a little more diligence because of the generational differences often being greater in number and degree but the processes required are little different from those used by exceptional leaders to support any group of individuals turning themselves into a cohesive team with a laser focus on results.
In order the recognize the need for adjusted behaviors and accept ownership for achieving them the team requires a mirror in which they see the whole team’s effectiveness and become aware of their own behaviors that contribute to it’s strengths and weaknesses. A team assessment identifies a team’s strengths and GOs (growth opportunities) and the data collected forms the framework for productive discussion and provides a baseline for ongoing team development.
Through the facilitated discussion, which allows members to opening and comfortable identify what they as individuals and the team as a whole need to change in order to perform at their best, the team creates the foundation of a high performance culture in which individual values and needs are recognized and strengths appreciated and tapped.
This is NOT a team building event!
Team building events do little that creates true and lasting change. This is a development process and multigene teams that will thrive will embrace team development as an ongoing and rewarding process.
So multigen teams may look a little different and leadership may require a little more diligence and vigilance but the tools that ensure the multigene team performs as a cohesive team rather than a motley crew are not different.
Leaders who aim to tap the best of their multigene team must keep two things in particular in mind that highly effective leaders have always known:
• Leaders can’t improve their teams, they can only be the catalyst that sparks the team’s desire and commitment to improving themselves.
• If a team is to be effective, ensuring that the team process is humming at its best must become part of the leader’s and team’s everyday responsibility.
If you are curious about the team development process check out www.teamfitnesstool.com for more info.
About The Author:
Leslie Bendaly is recognized as a leading thinker and practitioner in the areas of organizational leadership, teamwork and change. She is the founding partner of Kinect Inc. and author of several books on leadership including onStrength in Numbers, Winner Instinct, Organization 2005, Games Teams Play and Leadership on the Run. Leslie co-authored her latest book, Improving Healthcare Team Performance: The 7 Requirements for Excellence in Patient Care with Nicole Bendaly.
Her models, tools and books are used in organizations worldwide and her books have been selected as mandatory reading for MBA and other postgraduate programs in both the U.S.A. and Canada.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.