Optimizing inter-generational differences

August 3rd, 2013

Great post, Randy – well thought out and written!  From the Boomer-side, I couldn’t agree more with your first point about listening, and would like to add ‘learning’.  The challenge for most adults as they grow is that they have so much invested in the beliefs and opinions they have formed that it can be difficult for them to change (for more information on this, see also Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow).

Speaking from personal experience, when I worked at Google five years ago many of my colleagues were 10 to 20 or so years younger than me.  I approached them with an open attitude and a desire to learn, and it was one of the most powerful and enjoyable employment experiences of my career.  I recognized that there is a wealth of wisdom (and folly) in youth, from which I could learn and parts of myself that I could rediscover…and I did.

The other point that also resonates with me, that is a general principle, and especially true with those less experienced than me is to be a role model to the best of my abilities – in intent, word, and deed; people are perceptive and will perceive when one’s words and actions are not aligned with their thoughts and feelings.  As Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I would take it one step further and go out of your way to be a mentor to those who seek one, and seek mentors who are younger or less experienced than yourself…it’s a sure way to stay fresh and flexible.  This advice applies to members of all generations: mentoring is a two-way relationship, and is almost always a win-win!  For an excellent blog on mentoring see Alan Saporta’s “OnMentoring”.

The key take-aways for all who are interested in dealing with inter-generational differences or diversity of any kind are: be patient, tolerant, authentic and self-aware, listen, mentor and learn.

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