Last week, I had the privilege to spend the day with Tammy Erickson. Tammy has been recognized as one of the Top 50 business thinkers in the world. It was a real treat to be with her! Although her expertise is deep and wide, we spent the day talking about the generations. I know this topic is of interest to many of you – How to Lead Millennials is among the most popular posts I’ve written since starting this site.

Spending a full day with someone of Tammy’s expertise created a learning frenzy. I took pages and pages of notes! I’ll  recap here a few of the characteristics of each generational cohort…

Traditionalist (1928 – 1945)

  • Respect authority
  • Loyal to institutions
  • Joiners – join the church, organization or the club
  • Money as a metric of success

“If you can find a good company to join, you’ll be set for life.”

Boomers (1946 – 1960)

  • Idealists
  • Grew up with a scarcity mentality
  • Hard-working
  • Competitive
  • Anti-authoritarian

“I’ll get mine even if you don’t get yours.”

Gen X (1961 – 1979)

  • Mistrust institutions
  • Self-reliant
  • Tribal
  • Extremely loyal to friends
  • Less identification with organizations/institutions

 “I’ll take care of myself.”

Gen Y – Millennials (1980 – 1995)

  • Tolerant
  • Digital Natives
  • Live in the moment
  • Family-centric
  • Optimistic and upbeat
  • Coordinators not planners

“Text me… I don’t use email.”

So, the question for us as leaders is, how do we lead in the face of these differences? It will require our best effort! Here’s an example of the challenge:

When a Boomer hears the term feedback, it most often generates a negative connotation.

When a member of Gen X hears the word feedback, they assume this will provide a clue to what the organization expects of them.

When Gen Y hears the term feedback, they are encouraged by the opportunity to get coaching and tips on how to improve. This cohort generally wants all the feedback they can get – it’s not negative at all, they expect it… DAILY!

Yes, it’s complicated when even simple language carries such diverse connotations! It is truly a cross-cultural challenge.

Here’s Tammy’s recommendation for leading multiple generations:

Appreciate the differences between the generations.

Acknowledge diverse perspectives on issues.

Arbitrate when you find yourself working across generational lines.

Adapt your style as needed to accomplish the goals of the organizations.

The bottom line:

Generational differences are logical and legitimate.

Understand them, embrace them and leverage them for the good of your team and your organization.[GLS_Shield]

You can learn more about Tammy and her work at TammyErickson.com

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.