When I was a generational leadership speaker for a health care facility, I found that 45% of the leadership was Generation X and Y. That meant that over 50% of their subordinates were older than them. Many young, savvy career oriented professionals today find themselves leading older generations. Age dictates a lot about who we are and the decisions we make. Real differences exist across generations in our values and work preferences.
Four considerations when leading employees older than you:
- Honor their Wisdom. What usually comes with age is experience and wisdom. Younger generations are quick to gather and digest information while more senior generations may take longer because they take the extra step to translate information to knowledge. Don't get frustrated. Wisdom is what prevents mistakes, launches innovation, and honors the past. Accommodate their pace. The older generation has been places the younger generations have yet to experience.
- Know They Respect Authority. Be one. Veterans, baby boomers and even generation X tend to have more respect for authority (for leadership and the organization). They won't respect your authority if you cower to them or downplay your influence. They may be testing you.
- Honor Their Loyalty. Younger generations tend to have a more entrepreneurial mindset about their career. They do not see themselves with a company for long time periods, planning to stay long enough to get the skills and resume experience they need to jump ship for better opportunities. Older generations have more traditional values of long term employment and job security. Honor this. Recognize it.
- Handle Conflict Head On. Tell the Truth. Influence baby boomers by being straight up. Leadership generational speaker Ron Edmondson suggests younger leadership may have a tendency to play games. Older generations can be intimidating and sometimes younger leadership will avoid issues and neglect to deal with conflict as a result. The surest way to have older generations lose faith in their younger leaders is to try to pull the wool over their eyes. Be straight up or your leadership skills will get the thumbs down.
The afternoon generational leadership speaker for the healthcare facility was one of their senior leaders. He hit the nail on the head when he suggested each person should be treated as an individual. Age is only one dimension of what any individual has to offer.
Remember every generation thrives on appreciation and respect. If you honor your older peers, give them the limelight from time to time and recognize their strengths, they will honor your authority.