Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and now Generation Z, there are four generations present in many workplaces. It is driving some leaders to ask, “How do I ensure we consider what is important when leading the multi-generational workforce?”
Take the Good with the Bad
There are numerous advantages to the multi-generational workforce:
- Diversity of ideas,
- Range of problem-solving strategies,
- Mentorship opportunities, and
- Greater flexibility for clients
Difficulties inevitably arise:
- Boomers and Gen Xers think that Millennials and Gen Z don’t want to work.
- Millennials and Gen Z don’t think Boomers or Gen Xers have any new ideas, especially when it comes to technology.
- They have varied and conflicting communication styles and backgrounds that can bring teamwork to a halt.
The Key to Teamwork
The good news is that there is one skill that can help the leader tie these generations together into a cohesive team: Listening.
Listening is the part of communication that is rarely taught but is critically important to leaders and teams. It goes much further than just hearing the words that the person is saying. As Stephen Covey teaches us, we need to listen to understand, or practice what he calls Empathic Listening. This involves noticing not just the speaker’s words, but also their tonality, body language, and facial expressions. It’s also critical to ask clarifying questions in order to really appreciate what is being communicated.
Listen to Individuals
By listening, a leader acknowledges the person and their ideas. It can help to identify the varied needs of the individual, which can then enable the leader to keep them engaged and motivated. The best way to do this is to set up one-on-one coaching sessions with your team members. These sessions give the individual an opportunity to speak about their struggles, as well as giving the leader an opportune time to follow-up and set goals with the employee. It’s a vital part of building a relationship and trust.
Encourage Listening in Teams
Leaders need to encourage empathic listening between team members. Most misunderstandings arise because someone hasn’t listened well. It’s important to help teams develop this skill, especially during their team meetings. Encourage the team to look past the generational differences and really hear what the other person is saying. This may include making them more aware of an unconscious bias or facilitating a conversation between two or more individuals.
Take full advantage of all the generations present on your team. Happy listening!