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Amy Lynch

Generations Expert + Idea Warrior + Entrepreneur

Seeing "Shoulds." Step One in Gen IQ

Anytime we think some other generation should behave differently, work differently or think differently, we are probably identifying a knee-jerk generational assumption.

Most shoulds are reflexive, simply the way our generation tends to think because of the times and the technology we grew up with.

Do these sound familiar?

  • Another generation shows up late to meetings. You think they should show up on time. And by 'on time' you mean 10 minutes before the meeting starts.
  • Or, you expect to use the first few minutes of a meeting to talk with colleagues and catch up. You think other generations should relax a little. After all, work should be fun.
  • You sell insurance or financial services. Potential clients text you. They don’t return your phone calls. You think they should talk with you personally before buying.
  • You work with your dog beneath your desk. Other generations should just get used to it.
  • A guy on your team never knows what’s going on because he doesn’t look at Slack. He should use the platform.
  • You’re onboarding Gen Zs. One of them asks you to amend his job description to include coding because he likes to code.  You think he should just do the job he was hired to do.
  • You assigned a project to one team member. Another member with more experience comes to you complaining that they wanted the project. You think they should have asked for it if they wanted it.
  • Millennials keep leaving your department. You think they should stay at least a year. All those moves look bad on a resume.
  • A talented Gen Xer just turned down a big promotion in order to be home with family. They should have jumped at the opportunity.
  • A manager makes decisions without getting everybody’s input. She should ask your opinion.

In every case above, you just identified a generational perspective. From now on, each time you run across a should in your own thinking or in someone else’s, notice it. Don’t try to assign value to the should. Don’t decide who is right or who is wrong. Just notice. This is the beginning of Generational Intelligence, or Gen IQ.

Careful. You’re Contagious.

When you recognize a should, your response in that moment is more powerful than you know.

  • One, you are at a crossroads of choosing your response, perhaps challenging the very structure of your brain and of your workplace.
  • Two, your behavior is contagious.

Simply stopping to reflect on the situation, sorting through all the shoulds in play, is contagious to people around you. Your self-control makes others in the room more likely to examine their reactions too. Likewise, if you react with anger, others on your team can catch that emotion like a virus. If just one person in your group is disdainful of another generation, others in the group are likely to become infected.

Psychologist call this connection limbic resonance, which simply means that our brains send emotional signals to each other whenever we’re together. We actually sense each other’s emotional states and are drawn to mimic them. You’ve probably experienced this in your family. If your partner, your spouse, your kid or your mom is feeling angry or elated. You tend to “know” that at some level as soon as you walk into the room. We spend so much time with people on our teams that we develop that same limbic resonance with them, too.

So, when you run up against a should and you simply stop and observe it rather than reacting to it, you help other people do the same. You open the door to curiosity. You're on the way to Gen IQ.


Amy Lynch poineered Gen IQ, the practical application of generational studies to leadership, marketing and innovation. Contact her about your next event or your biggest generational challenge.


Look for all the steps in developing Gen IQ for your team and your organization in Amy's coming book: Gen IQ, Grow you Generational Intelligence and Thrive Through Change. 


Posted by Amy Lynch at 5:04 PM
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