Diversity, when capitalized on, gives teams a big leg up. It provides a mix of perspectives and experience that generates energy and better ways of doing things—most simply put, a higher level of performance.
Fortunately, it is not uncommon to find diversity within teams these days, as more and more people are working alongside team members who represent two, if not three, generations different from their own. But this enriching ingredient can also present challenges. Differences in values and points of view can make for a challenging work environment, certainly toughening a team’s ability to reach a consensus but also potentially creating tension between team members over expectations of behavior and work practices.
The trick to thriving as a leader of a multi-generational team is to know where to focus your energy so your team is energized by their differences and members can work in sync. The following two leadership practices will launch the habits a multi-generational team needs to be at their best.
Practice 1: Build respect and trust for diversity of thought and approach.
Team members take their cues from their leader. If the leader isn’t demonstrating that they value, trust and welcome new ideas and different ways of working, the team itself will not follow suit. A multi-generational team brings with it a unique competitive advantage that can reap greater innovation, enhanced creativity, richer decisions and, ultimately, superior performance. The catch is the leader must tap such a team’s diverse wealth of knowledge, experiences and approaches. This requires going beyond simply asking for input; members need to see the leader thoughtfully considering team members’ input and providing an opportunity for the open expression of differing takes on issues. Respect and trust are built when people see evidence that their team members, as well as their leader, value their perspectives.
Practice 2: Build cohesion.
Cohesiveness is one of the seven traits of a high performance team and requires two things: agreement and commitment to what the team is working toward and how the team will achieve it. The how refers to the team’s priorities, values and processes for achieving the goal. In multi-generational teams, it is common for members to have differing expectations and values regarding how work is done. Essential to building cohesion is creating the opportunity for team members to share how they prefer to work and why their method makes sense to them. When done well, this process lays a foundation of understanding that’s required for the cohesion necessary to form a strong team. Once there is greater understanding, the team is able to go on to add increased respect and take the next step of agreeing to the behaviors and practices most important to achieving the team’s goals.
Each practice you adopt will push forward the process of moving the people you lead from a group of people to a vital team. Once members begin to capitalize on their differences, they will not only be able reach a higher level of performance but also find their workplace a more enjoyable and enriching place to be.
By Nicole Bendaly
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