Not long ago I met a dynamic Gen Xer. She is a VP in a C-Suite dominated by Boomers.
As a skeptical Xer, she looked at things from a new perspective, consistently asking the hard questions and pushing back against time-worn assumptions. To her, that was part of doing her job. But Boomers in the group saw her as negative. “They used to cringe when I walked in the room,” she told me. “I saw them do it.” Isolated and discounted, she got nowhere with her initiatives. Her career stalled.
Fortunately, she sought out a couple of Boomer mentors from outside her company and took her problem to them. They role-played with her, showing her how to reshape her questions and pace her objections so that Boomers could hear her more easily. In other words, they helped her develop Generational Intelligence.
It didn’t happen overnight, but she began winning over her colleagues. Now nobody cringes when she walks into a meeting. She has allies on the leadership team. Her career is back on track. She is no longer isolated.
Generational isolation happens naturally. Growing up as part of a generation is like living in a house. There’s nothing wrong with your house. It’s a great house. But if you stay inside and never go out, you’ll miss the fact that there are other houses—terrific houses with terrific people living inside them—on your street. More to the point, you’ll never influence, lead or learn from those other people.
That’s OK, unless you want to appeal to clients of other generations, perform at a higher level, build a business or punch a hole in whatever ceiling you’re under.
If you can’t speak the language of other generations, you can’t sell to them, work with them, influence them or convince them to support your cause.
You grow isolated. Your WOrk becomes irrelevant.
Make Things Happen in a Multi-Generational World.
On a personal level, you can begin developing Generational Intelligence today. Look for the next conversation you have that uncovers a generational difference or generational tension.
It works like this.
1. Listen. First you listen. Really listen.
2. Ask a Question with genuine curiosity. This isn’t easy. It requires looking beyond stereotypes.
3. Listen without comment, except to say “That’s interesting.” (Say it like you mean it.)
4. Ask the next interesting question. And listen again.
5. Speak of your own generational behavior. Claim it as generational with something like, “Maybe that’s because I’m a Millennial.” Or Gen X, or Boomer. “So when I first came to work . . . “
6. Say, “How can we meet halfway on this?”
7. The light bulb goes on for you. You’re more Generationally Intelligent than before. The next time this issue comes up, you say what needs to be said in a way that other generations can hear more easily.
8. You mess up. You try again.
9. Over time you achieve more, you succeed more. You make things happen in a multi-generational world.
Amy Lynch is a keynote speaker, consultant and author. She works with companies that want to Harness the Power of Generational Intelligence to lead, market and innovate. Contact her about your next event. Lynch@GenerationalEdge.com