Future leadership and the case for facilitated dialogues within work teams

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot
This is part of a series of regular columns by generational expert and internationally known consultant, coach, writer, and speaker Phyllis Weiss Haserot on intergenerational relations and navigating the challenges of the multi-generational workplace for better productivity, retention, succession planning, and business development results.

I believe facilitated dialogues within work teams are the key solution to achieving change and harmony among the different generations. That is where close and effective bonds can be established and nurtured to eliminate generational disconnects and change debilitating business models. Here are some of the reasons dialogues carried out in a non-threatening environment are necessary.
 
While Generation Y/Millennials appear confident and sure of their “quick study” abilities and diligence, they want a precise guidebook for their activities so they won’t fail to be “right,” a status they have been brought up to think they will always achieve. They don’t deal well with ambiguity; they are used to being given help from parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, tutors, and the fact that they most often work in teams, they are less adept at figuring things out on their own than Gen Xers, who were often left to their own resources, and the Boomers.
 
In an April Webinar, W. Stanton Smith, the National Director of Next Generation Initiatives at Deloitte LLP, gave his observations on how Gen Y will lead when their time comes and how they want to be led:
 
  • Transparency, which includes distributing information so everyone is in the loop and part of the conversation, is the most valued attribute to a Gen Y leader.
  • They want opportunity to have impact, encouraging social entrepreneurship and Web 2.0 sense of community.
  • Gen Yers have high expectations for meaningful work and want to feel passionate about what they do.
  • They favor a team approach to goal setting and achieving that must be reinforced by recognition and rewards to everyone who contributes.                                    
  • Navigation through career challenges, pace and progress, and work/life flexibility need to be facilitated through honest conversations.
 
The above perception is far different from command-and-control style leadership and authority based on longevity, neither of which Gen Y believes in. Practice group and work teams need to shift their operational models to adjust to today’s multi-generational teams.
 
Generational Definitions
Here are some quick definitions. Generations are defined by the similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, economic – that existed as the individuals of particular birth cohorts were growing up. Given that premise, the age breakdowns for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are approximately:

Traditionalists born 1925-1942
Baby Boomers born 1943-1962
Generation X born 1963-1978
Generation Y/Millennials born 1979-1998 (under age 30 today)
 

How facilitated dialogue in work teams can foster stronger multi-generational teamwork and increase productivity:
 
  • All generations and levels are part of the conversation and are heard.
  • Leaders must be clear about quality of work and deadlines and discuss alternative ways to get desired results.
  • Understanding of differences and benefits of diversity of styles mitigates resentments and fosters sympathy.
  • Using assessment tools for identifying personal behavioral style, group culture, work expectations, and learning style enables better understanding of self and teammates and reduces stereotypical thinking.
  • Through dialogue, roles can be customized with working arrangements that are perceived as fair to work for each team member.
  • Meeting of the minds requires some compromise on all sides.
  • “What’s in it for me” from the individuals standpoint? To be associated with a team that demonstrates better results, reinforced by recognition.
 
Using a combination of behavioral style and business development expertise as well as mediation skills and generational differences and similarities knowledge, we are optimistic about the positive results we are seeing with our work facilitating dialogues. It is the most effective way to bring inclusiveness and change to increasingly obsolete business models.
 

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2009. All rights reserved.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over 20 years ago. A special focus is on the profitability of improving inter-generational relations and transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners. Haserot is the author of "The Rainmaking Machine" and "The Marketer's Handbook of Tips & Checklists" (both Thomson/West 2008).


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