Adapted from a post by Laura Bernero for SE2 Communications.
There are so many opportunities in cross-generational collaboration.
Today, more Millennials are in the workforce than any other generation. Whatever your age, you are just as likely to work with a Baby Boomer as you are a Generation Z up-and-comer.
Older people are working longer, and retiring later. Gen Z tech-natives are entering internships and entry-level positions. And many at younger ages than their older counterparts.
These trends portend a broadening spectrum of ages — and perspectives — in the workplace. Effective, empathic cross-generational communication and collaboration are no longer optional, they’re vital, to productive work.
The Opportunities in Cross-Generation Collaboration: Cross-Mentoring
My friend Carol Willis, a proud baby boomer and founder of her own communications firm, The Clapping Oak, first introduced me to a key idea. One that has shaped my view of the importance of cross-generational communication: cross-mentoring.
“When we work and communicate with those of different generations, the older ones are not simply teaching the younger ones. Cross-mentoring is a posture that assumes everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner,” she shared.
To her point, effective cross-generational communication is more of a posture than a prescription. It provides the means for positive relationships to form, and productivity to increase. But it also means working — and living — with the posture of a learner, which often exposes us to discomfort.
The same mindset can be applied to cross-cultural communication or any social setting where we are asked to see the perspective of another. It can be challenging, frustrating or uncomfortable. But with a posture of openness, we can begin to see the benefit and opportunity in our differences with others, rather than arguments to be made or ideologies to defend. There really are are so many beautiful opportunities in cross-generational collaboration.
Here are a few suggestions to help you build connection and positive communication with your colleagues, clients and contacts of all ages and generations.
- Embrace opportunities to learn from each other.
- Remember that challenges are natural — but that we can move past them. Staying stuck in the difficulties costs efficiency and rapport.
- ·Set aside time to learn and relearn. Communicate more in the beginning until you know how best to work together.
- Make time outside of your most urgent projects to interact with those of different generations. It may be helpful to go through a communications training or activity as a team.
- Focus on shared values.
Note: Carol and Laura are co-creators and facilitators of a workshop on Cross-Generational Communication. Click the link for details.