Managing Across Generations

Tamara Erickson is speaking at the World Business Forum 2011 and has this thought provoking management topic.

The CEO blog summarizes her contribution as follows:

The 11-15 year old time period tends to influence the lifetime. We are influenced by the news, our parents, our national context, our religion etc. Because we share the same national/news context then people of the same age share a lot of commonality.

EG – people born from 1928-1945 saw the birthing of suburbs, increased availability of consumer goods, new technology. Exciting times (except for the start of the cold war) Their common characteristics is they are joiners, loyal to institutions and respect hierarchy and rules. They respect positional authority.

Next – the boomers. 1946-1960. They saw Vietnam, civil rights, womans lib, assassinations of Kennedy and King, protests. Watergate and Nixons’ resignation. They want to make a difference, they do not want to join. They worry that they will lose their spot if they slow down. Hard working/driven – staying on top of their game. Idealistic.

Gen X – 1961-1979 Troubled economy, layoffs, rising divorce rates, CNN and electronic games. The first Gulf war. Challenger blew up – a symbol of an institution that let people down. Less loyalty by companies – you are fired, not just laid off to be the first called back. Many women entering the workforce so latch key kids. Their conclusion was “look after yourself”. They like to feel that they have options “I am doing this today but…”. Parenting has everything to do with helping “my child”.

Gen Y – 1980-1995. Terrorism, Columbine. They see the world as unpredictable. This has not scared them – they want to live in the now. Shaped by digital technology – unconsciously competent. More spiritual. Family centric – they love their parents. They trust authority.

Understanding generational difference can help to understand other peoples’ view.

Talk less, Listen more

You have probably all heard that saying; if you talk, you cannot listen. Well this story by smartblog on leadership explains again what the right communication strategy is here.

Better leaders and managers Talk less and Listen more. This goes well with our 10 points on management where we emphasize in the communications part that you need to be concise, and in the Resources part we make the point that you need to listen to those who are close to the action.

The smartblog on Leadership puts it like this:


  1. Get it all out. Like Jake, you might have a certain level of frustration. Don’t take this for granted. If you have a lot to say, write it out or vent to an appropriate partner. Do this before you get in front of the employee.
  2. Keep your part brief. Practice and plan to only say two sentences and one question at any one time. The longer you talk, the more they build up their defenses. The more airtime you use, the less likely you’ll uncover what is going on in the employee’s head that you need to address.
  3. Get them talking as quickly as possible. After appropriate greetings and getting comfortable, a manager in Jake’s position could start with: “Sophie, you and I have talked about an aspect of your performance a few times now. I want to make sure you understand the impact it’s having on both your co-workers and your own performance. What have you been thinking about this?”
  4. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Don’t just plunge forward as if with a script. Ask questions building on their responses. Be curious. If you offer two statements, use them to summarize what you heard. An opinion or fact may be appropriate at some points. But remember, you are to lead them through a discussion to where they can examine their own thinking and behavior that is causing them problems.
  5. Inspire hope and action. Keep going with the good questions and assertions, using their responses until you have a plan of action you both can go forward with. It should not all end up on your to-do list. The person in front of you should leave the room encouraged and realize one action they can take immediately to improve.
All great points about communication.
You can read this interesting post in full HERE