Leading people is difficult enough, but when you factor in generational differences it becomes downright complex. The challenge for any leader is to get the most from their team members. In order to do this the leader must constantly flex their style to meet the needs of each individual. It is not the responsibility of the team member to meet the needs of the leader, but rather the other way around.
This topic can be discussed from the viewpoint of leadership style and personality, but one of the increasingly popular questions is “How do I lead people from different generations?”
The three basic generation groups I will discuss in this blog are the Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1961-1980) and Gen Y (1976-2001).
When leading Boomers they want to know that their role and opinion counts. They want to feel that they are an important part of the organization. They want structure and conformity. Change is often a challenge for Boomers. They are willing to work hard and put work first.
Gen X team members have a greater need for balance between work and personal life. They need flexibility and a less rigid structure. They still value structure, vision and policy, but need to have the ability to adapt it when necessary. They do not always need the flexibility, but need to know they have it if they want it.
Gen Y wants to be a part of something big. They will work hard if they see a big return on their investment. This applies to organizational results, but there needs to be a personal reward as well. Gen Y will often place their personal life first and are not always willing to work the same long hours as the Boomers. Gen Y are risk takers and are not worried about failure.
When leading these three groups, keep the following strategies in mind:
Ask for their opinion when making a decision
Get them involved in brainstorming
Ask them to put ideas into action and trust them to follow through
Give them responsibility to make sure things get done
Provide your vision, but allow them to discover their own strategies within communicated parameters
Give them time to discuss and make a thorough plan
Link performance to reward
Provide opportunities for personal time
Break tasks down into small chunks and set goals for each chunk
When involved in decision making leave room for flexibility, but set guidelines so that possibilities are limited
Provide them with the latest technology
Track their performance and meet with them on a regular basis