What Generation Gap? 3 Strategies to Make It a Non-Issue

What Generation Gap? 3 Strategies to Make It a Non-Issue

It was day one of our 3-day Intensive class, and I looked out at the 30 participants as they took their seats for the first time. There were 19 Millennials under the age of 30, nine Gen Xers between 31-53 and two Baby Boomers 54 and over. While this class was more heavily weighted towards Millennials than some, there is almost always a wide range. For this particular class, they ranged from age 18 – 60. Three different generations were embarking on three of the most transformational days of their lives. I was excited to watch it unfold!

I was born right on the Baby Boomer/Gen X cusp. Early on in my career, I was a stereotypical Boomer. During my years climbing the corporate ladder, I stepped more into the Gen X role, and today I bounce between all of them including Millennial. Upon reflection of my own past judgments of different generations, older and younger, I see that’s often the way we size people up. We put them in their proper generational box so we know how to deal with them. That first day of class was no different.

Most of the attendees had already started making their own judgments and chose to sit next to others that they felt were the most like them. It made perfect sense to find a feeling of safety and belonging when they had no clue what was going to happen during the next three days.

Judgments were also being made about me before I even opened my mouth. While not excited to be there, those closer to my age were glad that they wouldn’t have to listen to a 20-year-old who couldn’t possibly know much. On the other hand, the Millennials looked at me thinking “Oh great. I get my mom lecturing to me for three days.” And virtually all of them were looking at each other wondering if there was a way to get out of this, and screaming inside “THESE ARE NOT MY PEOPLE!” meaning they have no idea who I am or what I am dealing with. Isn’t that often exactly what most of us think when we meet someone who is different from us?


We level the playing field – the human playing field. I ask if any of them have ever been affected by an addiction, maybe drugs or alcohol, whether it’s their own struggle or someone else in their life. Every hand goes up. I ask them who has been touched by suicide, whether it involved them or someone they know contemplating or attempting it, or as in my case, someone actually doing it successfully. Every hand goes up. Finally, I ask if anyone in the group doesn’t have sh*t they are dealing with in their life. Not a single hand goes up. Welcome to team human.

While I am the self-proclaimed Queen of Joy, I know that we’ve got to start in a place where people can connect and get real. It’s from that place we can do the work to build a high-performing team that isn’t focused on their differences. They are focused on their team outcome and will have each others’ backs.

I believe, and I see it in every class, that the key to breaking down the generation gap is to help people expand their individual perspectives to that of the team. The key isn’t in talking about it. The key is in experiencing what’s possible when the focus shifts to a shared outcome. Here are three strategies to apply this learning to every team you are on, both at work and at home.

If all we do is look for the differences, that’s all we will see. Instead, when we decide to see what we have in common, it opens a new realm of connection. What are you willing to share about yourself to find a connection with someone else? I’ve learned that there are 18-year-olds that have experienced more crap in their lives than I have at my age. When we get real, first with ourselves, and then with others, we find so much we can connect to. So, let them see you sweat. Let them see you don’t have all of the answers. Let them see that you care about them. Let them in. Stop the stories about what you think you know about that person, dive in and really get to know them. When the walls we all hide behind come down, we can see the value each person brings. There is Wisdom in the Ages … All Ages!

For those of you that are Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, think back to all of the judgments you made about the Traditionalists. They are no different than the judgments that the Millennials are making about you, and vise versa, your judgments about the Millennials are exactly what the Traditionalists/Baby Boomers thought about the Gen Xers. Interestingly, everyone having such a challenge with the Millennials is ironic because the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers raised them. Also, regardless of the generation group you are in, the only reason you see a separation is because you have outdated, unconscious programming that says you are right and they are wrong. It’s time for a programming update that allows all points of view to be right. Only then can we benefit from what everyone brings to the table. Stop waiting for someone else to change, and find out what’s possible when you change your point of view.

If we have competing priorities, we are likely to rebuild the walls and search for our stories that make us right and the other person wrong. However, when we have a shared outcome, that everyone has agreed to, we leave the stories behind, and we put our energy towards something that will benefit all of us. When we focus on the outcome, we can let go of all the things that cause the separation because they suddenly lose their importance. Things like titles, how someone dresses, different ways we communicate, or where people work no longer matter. It’s those things that take away the focus from the amazing work that can be done if we allow everyone to bring their best to the situation.

Think about how this ties to the generations. The Baby Boomers are driven and competitive. They want to win and get to the outcome. The Gen Xers, while independent and skeptical, see how they can contribute to the win. They trust themselves to show up for the team. The Millennials want to collaborate and be able to make a significant contribution. What an amazing combination of attributes! Again, when the walls come down, the focus shifts to how everyone can win. However, unless the work is done to drop the walls, the concept of a shared outcome is an illusion.

Getting back to the class, it’s now day three, and we are almost to graduation. The team just finished a final process, and the noise level in the room is deafening as each team member is cheered on by the rest of the team. There is no separation, only connection, purpose, focus, joy, and love. The walls are shattered. The trust is immense. The environment is secure and safe for everyone in the class because they know every other person has their back. Age is irrelevant. Gender is irrelevant. Skin color is irrelevant. This is a team.

This is why High5 Leadership exists. It’s time to stop talking about generational challenges and allow teams to experience what else is possible when we do the work to build trusting, transparent and outcome-focused teams. I would love to explore how we can help your teams (at work and at home) create the ultimate culture. To schedule an appointment, email us at info@high5leadership.com.

Visit our website at www.high5leadership.com!