[Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Mike Myatt. Mike is America’s Top CEO Coach, recognized by Thinkers50 as a global authority on the topic of leadership, a Forbes leadership columnist, author of Leadership Matters, and CEO at N2growth. His new book, Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly, is available on Amazon.]
In my latest book Hacking Leadership I write on hacking the talent gap. Here, I’d like to bring up an often overlooked portion of our population when it comes to recruiting talent. A leader’s biggest struggle is not the routine of the familiar, but the journey of the unknown. It’s getting from where they are to where they want to be strategically, tactically, organizationally, developmentally, and most importantly relationally. It’s been said that the best way to impact your future is to change your present circumstances. And quite frankly, I can’t think of a better place to ignite that change than by helping you to gain a better understanding of how to connect with what IS the future – the younger generation – the next generation of leaders. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts on how to reap the benefits of cross generational leadership.
Let me be as clear as I can – there are still far too many leaders who believe in having someone earn their stripes and pay their dues – please don’t do this, don’t be this person. It’s not productive – IT DOESNT WORK. Don’t focus on restricting someone’s development, Focus on unlocking their passion and their potential. Don’t seek to be affirmed by the tenured– seek to be challenged by those who offer something new. Don’t cater to the past, focus on the future. I’m going to encourage you to draw a line in the sand and ask you to absolutely refuse to allow your organization to reek of the stale scent of status quo.
Here’s the thing – cross generational corporate experiments aren’t working too well. Put another way, most leaders haven’t figured out how to deal with the challenges of integrating different generations and their respective belief systems. We’re all experiencing the same collision of generations within the workforce, and while some are reaping the benefits of turning friction into opportunity, most are not. This is because many leaders have generations competing with one another rather than learning from each other.
As a leader you must learn to build bridges leading from old habits and comfort zones to the more fertile grounds of disruptive innovation. The best way to accomplish that is to align the creative energy of the younger generation, and the experience of your more seasoned workers with your organizational values and vision. What I want to communicate is that you can run, but you cannot hide – sooner or later, knowingly or unknowingly, directly or indirectly, willingly or unwillingly, EVERY leader must deal with the changing demographic shifts in the workforce. It impacts culture, performance, brand, innovation, leadership development, succession and even the sustainability of your enterprise. As a leader you must get this right or fail.
Bottom line: if you don’t have youth represented in your senior management and leadership teams – get some. Once they have a seat at the table you also need to give them a voice. Now comes the really hard part…you have to then be willing to listen. You won’t ever engage Gen Y, you won’t unlock their creativity, passion, intelligence and commitment if you don’t respect them. Dismiss them, patronize them, or otherwise marginalize them and they’ll walk out the door. Show them you care about them, that you care about the right things – you know the small things like values, ethics, transparency and they’ll be the fuel that runs your engine into the future. Failing to embrace this is the same thing as choosing to restrict your access to opportunity.