Carolyn Fore, PhD

Aug 112021
 

Millennials are considered continuous learners. Keeping in mind that looking at generational trends is not intended to be stereotyping, Millennials are likely to agree with this statement. Some reasons Millennials see themselves as continuous learners are that they recognize they don’t know it all, they are always looking for ways to learn new things, and they view learning as an opportunity or reward, not as a task or punishment. Millennials are often looking for ways to improve at whatever they are doing.

That doesn’t, however, mean that people in other generational groups don’t like to learn new things. As a Baby Boomer, I can’t help remembering that my generation started the self-improvement fad. Baby Boomers were responsible for both writing and purchasing all those self-help books of the Seventies. Those how-to books and many more of those old improve yourself books are still around. Self-help has moved into the areas of leadership development and more business-focused topics but is still in demand. Training was something Baby Boomers usually did on their own time unless the job required additional training that was provided by the company.

Generation X is known to respect knowledge and learning, perhaps in a more formal way. This generation is usually looking for the expert on a topic. Training is viewed as more of a necessity than a reward by this group, something that must be completed as a way to gain the knowledge required to get ahead at work.

The newest group to join the workforce, Generation Z, is known as the digital generation and they are most likely learning something all the time in their digital world. Like all generations, Gen Z enters the work force not knowing what it doesn’t know. But like their predecessors, the Millennials, they prefer experiential learning and realize learning is an evolutionary process. Members of this generation are more likely to want informal training in the workplace and expect to have real-time access to the information they need to know, since they have grown up in a world where they have instantaneous access to information.

When we look across all the generations in the workforce, they all have a desire to learn new things but may have very different approaches to how and when they want to learn or expect to have access to the information they need to know.

Read more in Millennials Taking the Lead: The Leadership Style That’s Changing the Workplace https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631831526

Jul 072021
 

Leadership discussions often point out that being a leader isn’t about your job title or who appointed you to a position of leadership. It is more about how you act as a leader and how others view you as a leader. Depending on your age, your generational group, this can mean different things.

Most Millennials believe that leadership is about guidance and that a great leader coaches and directs their team. This will likely include helping them find learning and mentoring opportunities along the way, or at least finding ways for them to grow and develop their own skills.

For a member of Generation X, leadership is more about competence. This age group is going to respect and follow the person they feel is knowledgeable and capable of leading them toward success.

For a Baby Boomer leadership is based on consensus which means that a great leader is the one who can rally the team toward a common goal and get everyone working together. A great leader is capable of getting everyone to agree on the best way to achieve the objectives.

To a Traditionalist, leadership is based on hierarchy, meaning the person in charge is the leader and should call the shots. Those below should follow.

These differing views of leadership can result in confusion and conflict. If a Baby Boomer, who is all about consensus, is leading a team made up of Gen Xers who are looking for competence and Millennials who are looking for guidance, this leader may find they are often playing the wrong role. By not showing the expected leadership competency at the right time, the team members may decide this person isn’t a great leader. It can be a balancing act to understand what your team needs in a leader and provide that in your leadership.

If you have a leader who isn’t your same generational cohort and you question their leadership style, you may want to try to understand why that leader looks at leadership differently and why that doesn’t mean they can’t still be an effective leader.

Jun 152021
 

There are so many areas in the workplace where individuals from different generations just plain have different views and expectations. Two that don’t get talked about a lot are rewards and career goals.

First, what is a reward? Most people like to have some type of recognition for a job well done. But depending on the person’s age, what is meaningful could look quite different. For a Traditionalist, rewards are usually thought of as job security, recognition, or retirement benefits. For a Baby Boomer, money, trophies, or acknowledgement of earned respect are good rewards. Generation X is likely to want a reward they can put into use to improve their work environment such as work from home privileges or more job flexibility. Millennials see opportunities to learn and grow as rewards, so they are likely to look for training classes, mentoring, or more individualized attention as rewards. Workers in Generation Z are loyal and will work hard when they are rewarded in a way that caters toward a balanced lifestyle, including enhanced healthcare benefits or additional holidays.

Our ways of defining career goals have changed over the years. A Traditionalist considered career goals to be advancement with one company for their entire work life, getting the gold watch for years worked, and having a great retirement plan. For a Baby Boomer, the goal was a challenging career path which may have initially been with one company but later could involve multiple companies, and having accomplishments recognized such as their name on the plaque in the cafeteria. Generation X have an expectation of multiple employers as they attempt to climb the lattice rather than the corporate ladder looking for experience and building a portable career. Millennials want varied, multi-faceted careers as they are learning and moving about, searching for steady, yet fast, progression. Generation Z career expectations are to have positions where they have an opportunity to learn multiple skills and aspects of other jobs in addition to their own. They are looking for customized careers.

These differences make it challenging for organizations to build reward systems and career paths for all generations but that’s exactly what has to be done to satisfy our generationally diverse workforce.

Read more in Millennials Taking the Lead: The Leadership Style That’s Changing the Workplace https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631831526

May 302021
 

In the United States, the generations born beginning with the 20th century have labels, and research suggests that generational cohorts differ from each other. Different generational groups recall different events and changes, primarily from adolescence through early adulthood. Labels and the exact years represented by those labels may differ because generational analysis is not an exact science.

The interactions of generational groups in society became a predominant theme in the literature in the past 3 decades as researchers described the characteristics of each generational group and the background events that influenced them as they were growing up. Interest in understanding generational differences first increased with Coupland’s novel Generation X, which described Generation Xers as jaded young adults exiting the rat race established by the previous Baby Boomer generation.

Generational differences became a popular topic in organizations as the age span of workers increased in the 2000s and leaders began to notice how different the behaviors and expectations of their older workers, those approaching retirement age, were from their young, just-out-of-college new hires, belonging the to the much talked about Millennial cohort.

Besides having different ideas about work in general, these groups have different ideas about leadership, communications, work/life balance, trust, transparency, and so many other fundamentals of daily work life. I like to look at leadership because that’s my focus but underlying all of our daily work interactions is an important factor – how we communicate.

The disconnect in communication styles often leads to generational misunderstandings, discord, and even conflict. The Traditionalists or Silent Generation is accustomed to face-to-face communications and understands distributing information through the office memo. Their style in these communications tends to be directive. Baby Boomers were in the workforce when email was introduced and became big fans. This is a generation that prefers to get consensus on ideas so in-person discussions are still popular and may happen as a follow-up to an email or prior to the email communication which is then used to confirm the conversation. Generation X has always known email in the workplace and often uses it instead of meetings. This generation prefers collective decisions which may be done through those emails or social media. Millennials are the experts on the use of social media for communicating in their collaborative world, and brought this to the workplace with them. Making group decisions by text messaging is not unusual with this generation. Generation Z is the instantaneous generation and the faster the better for their communication method. That could mean any electronic method available to them at the time.

Looking across this array of preferred methods of communicating can explain why different generations feel that individuals belonging to a different generation are not hearing them, are not speaking their language, or don’t care about them. It’s frequently their inability to communicate using the same methods and terms, almost as if they are speaking different languages. This is one of the many reasons generational differences should be a diversity consideration.

Millennials Taking the Lead: The Leadership Style That’s Changing the Workplace https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631831526

May 132021
 

One of the things I’ve been doing during the year of the pandemic is reading – a lot more than ever before in my life. Considering my interest in generational differences, the BookBaby article that appeared in my email about the reading trends by different generations grabbed my attention.

I guess it’s not surprising that the Silent Generation, also called Traditionalists (ages 76 and older), spends the most time reading each day. Traditionalists prefer mystery or suspense fiction and biography or memoir non-fiction.

As a Baby Boomer, I also wasn’t surprised to learn that other Baby Boomers (ages 56 to 75) rely on best seller lists to find their books. I’ve been perusing best seller lists and book club selections all year when determining what to read. Baby Boomers are most likely to read a thriller or for non-fiction they will read about cooking.

Generation X (ages 41 to 55) reads more online news than other generations. Again, that doesn’t surprise me. They are the first generation to embrace the Internet. They read across all genres and don’t show a preference for a particular fiction category. In non-fiction they prefer crafts and hobbies.

The fact that Millennials (ages 25 to 40) read more books than other generations did surprise me when I first read it, although we know this generation values learning and perhaps that’s the reason they are reading so much. Millennials are also most likely to visit a library. Their reading preferences are general adult fiction or the health/fitness/wellness category in non-fiction.

Generation Z (those under 25) prefers fantasy to other genres. While we are still learning the trends for this younger generation, the fact that they have been growing up in a totally digital world and have spent their days in video game fantasyland could be part of the reason for this interest. For non-fiction they prefer humor. I personally find that quite interesting. Is it because they don’t take life too seriously or because they don’t want to face reality? Or maybe there is no real serious implication in this.

All generations prefer physical books which may seem surprising when you see how many people are reading on tablets and listening to audio books. Gen X is more likely to be reading on a tablet than any other generation and Traditionalists are least likely to be reading an ebook. The older generation also doesn’t care for audio books as only 9% have listened to one in the past year.

While there are some things we all have in common such as all generations like to read, some things are very different, like what we read and how we read it. It is always good to try to understand those in different generations and what is important to them.

For the details behind these numbers and many other interesting facts about generations and reading habits, click on this link: https://blog.bookbaby.com/2020/08/the-reading-habits-of-five-generations-infographic/

 

Apr 292021
 

Millennials look for leadership that connects and collaborates.

The leadership style of Millennials fits with the emerging need of organizations to have leadership that connects, collaborates, and is driven by passion and purpose to provide the organization with a common cause.

Some of the leadership characteristics of Millennials that are having an influence on organizations are their desire to connect, collaborate, and find their passion in their work. As a group, Millennials are more connected than previous generations in the workplace. Part of this is a result of the technology advances that make it easier for them to connect more frequently, faster, and with more people than their predecessors. Another part of it is their high comfort level with working with others which leads to more collaborative decision-making and leadership.

Connecting and collaborating are important concepts in organizations today as much of the work is expected to be accomplished by teams. For teams to be in sync and develop goal-focused results, they must find ways to connect that are comfortable for the team members. With multi-generational teams, this may be challenging. The older members of the team often want to have meetings and discussions in person, while younger members are more likely to turn to technology for communicating. This could be email, texting, social media, or as we’ve all become accustomed to during the pandemic, meetings over Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams.

Collaborating is something Millennials do very well since they excel at getting together and discussing what they need to accomplish, then developing a plan together. Generation X has their own way of collaborating, based more on exchanging information as they develop a plan while looking to the team experts to take the lead. Baby Boomers are consensus builders and more likely to look for consensus than collaboration. Once someone has a good idea, the team refines it to develop a plan everyone on the team supports.

A desire to find their passion and have work that has purpose are also continuing themes from Millennials that are strong enough to influence organizations and their future paths. Millennials are going to work for the companies where they feel they have a purpose and the goals of the company align with their passions, or at least where the work they are given is something they feel good about doing. More than older generations, if they don’t feel their work is meeting their personal goals, they will go somewhere else, even if it means starting their own business. As these younger leaders move into leadership roles in organizations, their influence will be felt in the overall organizational objectives.

To learn more about how Millennial leaders collaborate, read Millennials Taking the Lead: The Leadership Style That’s Changing the Workplace https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631831526

 

Apr 092021
 

Generational Differences are another form of Diversity

Millennials entered the workforce during a time of increased worker diversity, a trend influenced by globalization and the presence of more women and minorities, yet generational differences are often overlooked as a diversity factor.

Diversity and inclusion are topics getting extra attention in corporations today and there are many ways to consider what diversity means to an organization and how to be inclusive. One area that is often overlooked is generational diversity and how the mix of different generations in the workplace affects organizational behavior. This becomes even more important when we consider the leadership of the organization and how the different generational characteristics of these leaders can influence their leadership style.

Leaders from each generational group have certain preferences for how they want to be led by their organizational leaders and they have a leadership style characteristic of their generation that affects how they lead others.

What The Different Generations are Looking For

For example, when asked how they want to be treated by their leaders, each group has shown a preference for how they want to be led:

Traditionalists prefer leaders who are direct, take charge, and make unilateral decisions,

Baby Boomers prefer leaders who are participatory, collegial, and consensual,

Generation Xers prefer leaders who challenge authority and demonstrate competence,

Millennials look for leaders to provide guidance and develop strong interpersonal relationships,

Generation Z prefers leaders who are instantaneous, loyal, and realistic.

What Leadership Traits the Different Generations Exhibit

When we look at the leadership styles of each of these generations, they exhibit some of the same traits:

Traditionalists – Traditional; autocratic; hierarchical; directive; command and control

Baby Boomers – Democratic, participative, consensus building; collegial

Generation X – Challenging; competence; informed decision-making; laissez-faire

Millennials – Collaborative; inclusive; innovative; rely on networking and information sharing

Generation Z – Entrepreneurial; lack boundaries.

By considering how these groups differ in what they look for in a leader and how they behave as leaders, it’s possible to see why there are often misunderstandings and even conflict over what is expected when these individuals from different generational groups work together. By understanding what others prefer and expect, it can be easier to bridge the gaps in leadership expectations.

 

Jan 192021
 

I was recently introduced to the book Nine Lies about Work1 by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall and have become a follower of Marcus Buckingham. One of the things in this book that I’ve been thinking about is the importance of building on your strength (see Lie #4 The best people are well-rounded). Instead of trying to fix what we don’t do well, we can be more effective by concentrating on what we do well. If we focus on our strengths and do what we do well even better, we are more likely to make a difference. I decided to apply this to leadership, more specifically to generational leadership characteristics. So, once again, what are those primary characteristics of leadership for each generational cohort?

Some driving forces for the leadership style of each generation are the following:

Traditionalists – Traditional; autocratic; hierarchical; directive; command and control

Baby Boomers – Democratic, participative, consensus building; collegial

Generation X – Challenging; competence; informed decision-making; laissez-faire

Millennials – Collaborative; inclusive; innovative; rely on networking and information sharing

Generation Z – Instantaneous; lack of boundaries

 

Obviously, there are some differences. If each generation focuses on what they know how to do best and are comfortable with, then does it well, they can be good leaders. This doesn’t mean they should forget that the people they are leading may prefer to be led a different way. First thinking of how you can be a good leader and then how that will be received by those you lead can be effective. Deciding your strength then adapting it to the needs of your team can lead to great results. Not all leaders should lead the same way so don’t try to mold your leadership style to what is best for someone else but not for you.

 

1Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall, Nine Lies About Work (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2019)

Nov 052020
 

It’s questionable whether a younger age has been set for Gen Z yet but it’s likely around 2016 which means Gen Z is currently 4 to 24. Most of them are still in those value-defining years with a good many years to go so there may be more defining moments on the horizon. However, there’s no denying that Gen Z will be influenced by polarizing politics and the pandemic. And it’s interesting to note that Gen Z doesn’t remember some of the recent defining moments in our recent history, 9/11 or the 2008 recession.

The reason I mention these things is that the shared experiences of generational cohorts shape feelings that become shared values. Different generations often express their values in different ways which can lead to conflict between age groups.

At work:

Baby Boomers tend to work hard, have patience, and value soft skills.

Generation X looks for openness, respect for diversity, curiosity, and practicality.

Millennials expect flexibility, mobility, creativity and have a broader more superficial knowledge than previous generations. They are success orientated and expect freedom of information.

Generation Z is known to live for the present and react rapidly. They are initiators and they have immediate information access and content search.

In some cases values themselves may not have changed but the way of exhibiting these values may have changed. For example, family can be important to workers of all ages. Older workers care about their families and the way they show this is to work hard to provide for them. Younger workers prefer to work fewer hours, spending more time with them to show how much their family means to them. These different ways of viewing the same value, family, can cause conflict at work.

Although there are some identifiable differences in leadership styles across different generations in the workplace today, there are some common themes across leaders of all these generations. It is well documented that leaders are expected to be honest, trustworthy, and have integrity, however, even these concepts may have different interpretations by different generations.

When we look at honesty, research shows that all leaders think honesty is important and rank it in the top five leadership traits but not all list it in the same position in the top five.

And closely related to honesty is trust. Leaders want to be trusted and individuals want to trust their leaders but depending on where they are in the generational cohorts, they may place a different emphasis on trust. For example, to traditionalists trust means allegiance to the organization or trust in the company to do the right thing. Baby Boomers trust others to accomplish the goals together. They believe in teamwork. Gen X is always questioning, deciding who to trust, and challenging the status quo. Millennials put their trust in relationships. They are looking for transparency and working together for the greater good. As for Gen Z, there isn’t as much data on this group, but it appears their trust is knowledge-based. They trust in the people and organizations they have the most information about and familiarity with.

And then when thinking of why people see leadership differently, it ties back to all the different perspectives but in a simple word, it helps to remember what is the key to each generation in leadership. A driving force for each generation and their leadership style is the following:

Traditionalists – hierarchy

Baby Boomers – consensus

Generation X – competence

Millennials – guidance

Generation Z – lack of boundaries, instantaneous

Understanding how each group views leadership differently can help us understand why we have different perspectives on how to lead which can lead to misunderstandings, and even conflict.

Oct 072020
 

One of the most important things to consider when trying to understand differences in views held by different groups of people, such as cultures, is the common values held by the groups. This certainly applies to understanding differences in generational groups and can be helpful in providing insight into some of the reasons their views in the workplace are not only different but often conflicting.

Baby Boomers are known for their respect for tradition, hard work, and use of soft skills. They typically have patience and are the group that started looking at emotional quotient (EQ) as an important factor in evaluating performance.

Generation X is known for their practicality, openness, and respect for diversity. They are also very curious and like change along with respecting hard work and knowledge.

Millennials look for freedom of information and more general or superficial (i.e. larger breadth of) knowledge rather than detailed expertise in a single area. They are success oriented and creative.

Generation Z has grown up with rapid information access and content search. They live for the present with immediate reactions to everything. They also tend to be initiators.

We see a constant increase in diversity with each generation which adds to the variety in ideas and creativity. We also see an accelerating speed of access to information with each generation which allows each successive group to have more information available faster but decreases their requirement to learn and comprehend details. This has led to quicker decision making with less problem solving associated with it. This leads to more trial and error approaches.

When you put these things and many other differences together, you can begin to see some of the sources of misunderstandings between generations. For example, why older generations believe younger workers don’t think through solutions before reacting. And on the other side, why younger generations accuse older workers of taking too much time to analyze before making decisions. When each individual takes time to understand the values and the approach of the person who has a different perspective, they are more likely to reach a point where they can agree on an approach that considers all views.

Buy your copy of the book Millennials Taking the Lead on Amazon