“Two frustrated parties don’t solve the problem.”
Isn’t that the truth? Whenever you’re working with other humans for any length of time, frustration will inevitably creep in. It gets worse if we aren’t intentional about respecting and understanding the ways we are different. The solution? It goes back to communication.
When People Team Up
It’s been well-documented that diverse teams are stronger teams. Yet diverse teams require enhanced communication skills. Take age diversity, for example. Elders and youngsters work best together when they prioritize listening, finding common values, and leveraging complementary strengths.
When Gen-X and Boomers Team Up
Lindsey Runyan is on the younger end of Gen-X. She’s the graphic designer who designed my business cards – gorgeous work! She is also the marketing director for the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, of which I am a member. Lindsey has also volunteered with the Englewood Historical Preservation Society for eight years. I interviewed her because the way she and older board members of the society work together is a great example of generations collaborating.
At the time Lindsey joined the preservation society, she was the next to the youngest person on the board. The more senior board members were wanting to generate more interest from younger community members and therefore were encouraged that she wanted to work with them. Right off, she said, “The question was how we could work together, utilize all our strengths.” She and they recognized that her design and 21st-century marketing expertise would be very helpful in promoting the organization and expanding their audience.
When Gen-X and Boomers Team Up: Thoughts On The Older Generations From A Younger One
The quote I started out with came from Lindsey as she described her choice to provide some informal tutorials to her elders to lessen the intimidation of technology challenges that could frustrate collaboration. In her view, because she herself is constantly learning to stay relevant, she is willing to pass on her knowledge to help older colleagues do the same.
I asked Lindsey what strengths she has seen in her older colleagues at the society. “Attention to details,” she answered, but as I listened to how she described that attention, what I heard went beyond details. It was institutional and civic memory. “They can give context from things they know and remember,” she said, explaining that they see relationships between people, organizations, places, and events that create interest and help her tell stories in marketing materials.
Currently the board president and secretary are also on the younger side and bring newer ideas. Lindsey has noticed that rather than being resistant to change, older board members are grateful for these ideas and welcome discussion of all options. They want to understand new trends and how things work, but they also want to be heard when they explain the reasoning behind their ideas. “We need to listen. They should not get bulldozed,” she said.
When Gen-X and Boomers Team Up: Common Values
The binding force on this age-diverse board is shared values. “I love my city,” Lindsey said. “I enjoy being part of an organization that helps others see why it’s a great place and learn more about its history.” To that end, the elders and the youngsters of the Englewood Historic Preservation Society listen well to each other, appreciate and leverage their strengths, and learn from one another.
Notice that the elders do not guard their power and resist change. Neither do the youngsters come in set on trading all the old ways for new. Instead, they work together to creatively solve problems and educate the community.
Our world needs more of that, wouldn’t you agree?
Learning To Team Up
Is your organization age-diverse, or does it wish to become more so? It’s not just a matter of hiring, although that’s important. Authentic cross-generational team-building and effective communication don’t happen without intention and a culture that values it. My goal is to help organizations experience the benefits of a multi-generational workforce through communications consulting and group training. I would love to hear how that’s working out in your organization.