It seems the more educated we are, the more we try to rely on rational argument and extrinsic motivation to convince people to change their attitudes and actions about such things as diversity, generational differences, client service and client acquisition, succession planning, and flexibility – just to name a few emotionally-charged issues in the workplace. But the crux of the matter is emotional, behavioral, and sometimes instinctive. A good business case is only half the story. If we don’t identify people’s fears and emotional needs and address them in providing solutions, we will miss the mark and keep circling around the target.
My riff on Tony Bennett and his new memoir.
Almost everyone who enjoys their work wants to leave some sort of a “legacy,” that is, be remembered for something meaningful to themselves and others. In my work on succession planning and knowledge transfer within organizations that have employees looking ahead to retirement or encore careers, I’ve been hearing from Boomers and some older Gen Xers about the desire to leave a legacy at work. It’s not a charitable legacy, though that could be part of it.
People have to learn to create “brave spaces” to have the skills and courage to engage in uncomfortable crucial conversations and emerge with understanding and resolutions that unite. Intergroup Dialogue is a specific form of communication especially designed for people to communicate across differences, in a critical and meaningful way.
To achieve long-term success, it is extremely important to align succession planning with the strategic focus of the organization. Too often firms are not clear on their strategic focus, succession planning or both. Further, when these are undertaken, many important stakeholders are left out of the process. Organizations need to think in terms of both generational and other diversity challenges.
Orientation is a crucial step in achieving engagement and productivity and is often given short shrift. Even if it is more robust, it’s worthwhile every year or two to evaluate the success factors and gaps toward fulfilling goals, welcoming new generations and integrating the older and the newer.
It’s not surprising if managing people of any age or generation significantly older than you is uncomfortable on both sides. Nevertheless all ages need to find ways to thrive within this context as it becomes more prevalent with three to five generations in the workplace.
During two Cross-Generational Conversation Day workshops I conducted recently, I posed the question: Which generation do you think can be the best bridge among the generations at work, and why? The small discussion groups, which were comprised of members of three generations, had lively discussions with input from each member of the group. On this question, the groups came to differing conclusions.