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Work Life Lead: Cross-Generational Respect

Much has been made about the differences between the generations. You can find all sorts of information online about how to work cross generationally. Jumping People

Recently, I was sitting in the office of a 26 year old business owner. He started his business when he was 18, and was in the process of selling it. The thought occurred to me that when I was 26 in the 1970’s, I didn’t know a single person my age who had started a business. Most of my generational cohort finished college and then went onto grad school, law school, med school, seminary or he or she taught school, worked for their father or took a job in a corporation.

I didn’t know any entrepreneurs when I was 26 years old. Today, I know a lot of small business owners who are in their 20’s and 30’s. I have the highest respect for these men and women who venture off on their own to create their own businesses. As my work with Millennials increases, I’ve come to see how important it is for cross-generational collaboration to take place. Here are four keys to making our relationships work.

1. Connect, participate and contribute. In other words, seek out people who are either older or younger, and do things with them. Build your relationships through activities that have a purpose to them. Build a cross-generational legacy.

2. Listen to Learn. Everyone of these people that I know in their 20’s and 30’s has insight and perspective that is valuable. We need to listen to learn from them, not listen just waiting to speak. How do we do this? Ask follow up questions about Why? and How? and what works and doesn’t.

3. Forget about Generational Differences. Yes, they are differences between the generations. It is important to recognize those differences. But deny any relevance to the notion that our differences make it impossible to work together. Every difference is a potential strength that can be beneficial.

4. Respect one another. The fundamental basis for cross-generational collaboration is respect.  Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they are out-of-touch. In same way, just because a person is in their 20’s doesn’t mean that they lack experience and knowledge. The basis for cross-generational relationship is simply the respect and recognition that the other person has talent and potential that is worth developing. Yes, even Baby Boomers have unrealized potential that is worth developing.

Frankly, I love working with people half my age. Their perspective is fresh and enough different for me to see my own situation in a clearer light. If you don’t have these relationships, regardless of your age, establish them. Identify someone either older or younger whom you respect and begin the conversation that builds a relationship that is personally meaningful, socially fulfilling and makes a difference that matters.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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Posted in General Leadership, Leadership Laughs, Work Life Lead.

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