We have looked at sibling partnerships under stress, my perspective on the impact gender has on leadership and teamwork, and my thoughts on gender bias in the workplace. In this installment, I have mixed it up just a little, thanks to my buddy Loyd, who felt it would be a good idea to bring the “generation” conversation to the table. His question to me was, “How do privately held businesses overcome the generational issues that have a direct impact on teamwork and business performance?”

Knowing that I could not answer this in one sit-down and one glass of wine, this four-part series will focus on:

  • Boomer perspective about Millennial’s
  • Millennial perspective about Boomers
  • Advice to Both

Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennial’s have varying views of what concepts like work ethic, technology and personal time means to them. Baby Boomers started their careers in an environment where dark thirty too dark thirty was the standard work time. On the other hand, Generation X and even more so, Millennial’s strive for more work life balance – fluid work hours focused on performance versus face time and place high value on time-off to explore the world. As we work with client’s terms like “Old School” and “New School” frequently find their way into conversation about overcoming issues impacting teamwork. As a result, Loyd asked for me to offer up advice on how to be open to learning, coaching, and working as a team. Before we tackle that head on, let’s look at where we have been. 

The succession planning profession actually got a bit stale in the mid too late 90’s. Public consolidators had emerged so the conversations were leaning towards sell-out. “Dot Com” was the speak but no one really knew what that meant. The Baby Boomers were not experiencing depressing age related medical issues. “Wino” was a derogatory term and Dr. Merlot was given no quarter in his profession of the medicinal benefits of wine. Being overweight was a vanity issue not a health issue. No one was attempting to justify the social sins of the late sixties and early seventies. An insecure “control freak” was commonly referred to as a business genius. The Baby Boomer kids were moving through their late teens, progressing towards being conversant, no longer complaining about their dad working too much and tolerable for an hour or so before they hit up their parents for more money and exited stage left to hang out with their friends.

Here we sit in 2016 and succession planning is by no means boring. Being “in the grip of the grape” has become both fashionable and healthy. Cross training refers to the pathway to fitness and long life, not professional development. Management and leadership discussions focus on bench strength, competition for talent, workplace wellness, paid medical leave and tolerance. And in the center of this culture shift we also have culture conflict. The Baby-Boomers, known for their specific work style, which they view as “work ethic” and the constant fear of failure, versus the millennials known for their extraordinary use of technology, in their view working smarter, not harder and insatiable “want” for more time off. Add to this the distinct variations of how the two generations communicate. Boomer grew up with land line telephones and fax machines – if it was urgent, you called someone. Millennial’s do not answer phone calls, they text, snapchat and facetime, so what has developed is a veritable social acid splash as Baby-Boomers and Millennials try to communicate their feelings and priorities; and when optimism abounds, attempt to collaborate. In recognition to the day to day excitement between 60/70-somethings and 20/30-somethings who are trying to deploy a succession plan, I offer the following advice to abate some of the friction that has become a formidable liability to succession planning.

Check in next month as I address the generational perspectives, specifically, what the Boomers think of the Millennials, and be prepared to learn that it is not all the Millennial’s fault!

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