The workplace has always been a multi-generational affair. But for decades, this affair followed a familiar pattern – the older generation lead, managed and mentored the younger generation of employees.
These days the story often follows a different script. More bright, young entrepreneurs than ever before are starting their own businesses and these new owners often end up being younger than the workforce they lead and manage.
For young leaders, taking a traditional approach to leadership (the I’m-older-and-wiser-than-you approach) will likely result in a troubled and fractured workplace. Instead, lead and inspire your team by making an effort to bridge the generational gap and bring out the best in your employees.
Every generation views the world differently and these views are reflected in how they approach their job. It’s important for a young leader to understand those differences and to learn from them. By making the efforts, you’ll know what your employees need from you so that they can perform what you need from them.
Don’t make assumptions
There’s a familiar tune that aggravates younger employees – the one where older leaders assume that an entire generation is lazy and doesn’t understand the value of hard work. Turn the tables and there’s a similar rhetoric about older employees – the one where younger employees (or leaders) assume that an entire generation is set in their ways and too old to change. Both are prejudicial ways of thinking and both work against any leader hoping to motivate their workforce. As a young leader, consider the wealth of experience older employees brings to the business and focus on their ability and willingness to learn new things.
Communicate in as many different ways as possible
A good leader is a good communicator. Just because texting or instant messaging may be your preferred method of communication, doesn’t mean that it’s everyone’s. Be a good leader and use them all – email, phone calls, instant messaging, staff meetings and the simple method of walking around to check-in.
Don’t pretend to know it all
A young leader who gives off a ‘know-it-all’ vibe will likely be resented. (Actually, that’s the case with any leader of any age.) Even the boss can learn new tricks. Be both approachable and coachable and take advantage of the perspectives, experiences and knowledge of veteran employees.
A multi-generational workplace is not without challenges – especially when the generational gap is inversed – but a successful business owner brings together different generations, personalities and talent to succeed toward a common goal.