Franklin D. Roosevelt

How to lead a multi-generation workplace

405_GenerationalWorkforceEach generation wants to change the world. The world they live in and the specific issues they are faced with may be different, but in general they revolve around three areas: economic, social, and international. There are three larger generational age groups that are most frequently talked about today. The Great Generation, The Boomer Generation, and The Millennial Generation.

The great generation and the boomers grew up changing the world from the top down – political and civic leaders were the driving force. The Millennials have only known a world with instant communication and movements that can start online. For them change comes from within the individual, and across communities.

The Great Generation was born between 1901 and 1924. Their world saw The Great Depression, the formation of social safety nets, and World War II. For this generation the National Government intervened. The military protected the nation from aggression and government programs like Social Security, The GI Bill, and The Federal Housing Administration were formed.

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Boomer Generation was born between 1946 and 1964. They experienced economic growth, a focus on equal rights, The Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Charismatic leaders of the day encouraged this generation to make their voices heard so that change would come.

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.” – John F. Kennedy

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”­ – Martin Luther King Jr.

The Millennial Generation was born between 1982 and 2003. We live in this world today. The Great Recession, the explosion of Social Media, and The War on Terror are in the forefront of every national discussion. The individual’s voice can be heard around the world in an instant. Not confined to turning the large ship around slowly, the Millennial seeks to be the change themselves.

“A few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinion efficiently to a lot of people. Bu now they do. Right now, with social networks on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voices be heard.” – Mark Zuckerberg

The workplace today is largely made up of Boomers in leadership positions and some nearing retirement age, and Millennials entering the workplace and looking to begin their career.

The key to leading in this multi-generational workplace is to recognize that each generation wants to make a difference in their own way. Don’t sacrifice one method for another, but allow both to thrive together.

If you are a Boomer, talk about the past but listen to the present. You know where the company has been and how it got where it is today. You know the markets, the products, the regulations. Don’t just teach the Millennials what you know, give them the opportunity to learn and ask questions and dig deeper. This knowledge adds great value to the conversation. Equally important is to listen to the Millennial’s view on what is happening today. How to market to the new generation, how to reach a global economy. Invite the Millenials to be part of the solution.

If you are a Millennial, listen to the past, but talk about the present. Invest time learning the history of the company and the industry. Ground yourself in the experiences that brought your coworkers to this place. Equally important is to share your views. Ask to be on projects and teams where you can talk about the needs and desires of your generation.

A final thought to guide these and future generations:

Each generation, like each person, has a unique set of strengths that can be leveraged for success. Seek to understand and develop these strengths.

Why? Understanding leads to success.

understanding

There are always rules to be followed in life. Most rules were put in place by well-meaning people who felt that the rules were needed to right a wrong, protect from injury, or create agreement between two or more parties.

Over time, we can forget the wise words of Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.”

I call the principles the “Why’s” behind the rules.

Without the wisdom of why the rules were made – understanding of the intent of the rules, and knowledge of when to apply the rules – we rely on the strict wording of the rules instead of the spirit of the rules.

Now, I am all for rules in the right circumstances. I like being confident that the car coming down the road isn’t going to keep driving right through the red light and hit my car broadside just as much as the next guy. But, many rules are not that simple.

No one can possibly think of every nuance when writing rules and we can be fooled into letting the rules rule our lives and stop using good judgment to make good decisions.

Without understanding the “Why’s” behind the rules, the individual settles on “Because I…”
Because I always follow the rules
Because I was taught to do it this way
Because I was told to do it this way
Because I don’t want to change the way I have always done it
Because I am not responsible for the outcome, just for following the rules
Because I am not the expert, someone else is

What can we do when we understand the “Why’s” behind the rules?
We can see the vision – It’s easier to be motivated to accomplish a grand vision then a task
We can support the vision – It’s easier to encourage others toward a common vision
We can successfully achieve the vision – It’s easier to get back on track when you see the big picture

Maybe a more apropos title for this article would have been – Do you follow the principles? The answer to that question would be: Not unless I know what they are.

Do you follow the rules?

There are always rules to be followed in life.  Most rules were put in place by well-meaning people who felt they were needed to right a wrong, protect from injury, or create agreement between two or more parties.

Over time, we can forget the wise words of Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.”

I call the principles the “Why’s” behind the rules.

But we need more than just the rules. Without the wisdom of why the rules were made – understanding of their intent, and knowledge of when to apply them – we rely on their strict wording instead of the spirit of the rules.

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