Some months ago, I shared a post on LinkedIn regarding the continued emphasis on targeting the needs of different generations, with a particular emphasis on the rising millennial generation. This discussion concerned me then and continues to do so now.
Long before the focus on generational differences, there was a lot of energy and resources used to erase boundaries created by stereotyping and labeling. Yet, here we go doing it all over again, but now with generations. This leads me to ponder why we feel such a need to put people in boxes. In turn, this leads me to ask the question, “Which is more important, knowing an individual’s generation or knowing the individual as a person?”
While I do acknowledge that there can be benefits to recognizing and responding to generation trends and patterns as they appear, I have come to believe that the key to engaging and retaining quality team members is to value the individual person for what they bring to the team and the organization.
Interestingly I have found this to not only be true in the workplace, but also in the community, neighborhood and within my family. For example, my children do reflect some similar traits to others of their same generations and other traits that may reflect growing up in the same household. However, for the most part, there is not a repeater among them when you take the time to get to know them. As a parent, it quickly became clear that I needed to know, work with and lead my children on an individual, personal basis. It has become painfully clear that this is supremely true in the workplace as well. One of the greatest errors I have made as a leader was to repeatedly treat my team as a team rather than recognizing the need to first know them and engage them as individuals, who I then help bring together as a team. When we know and interact with individuals at this level, we increase our ability to tap into their capabilities, both individually and collectively, and release their full potential.
One of the dangers of treating people based upon an assumed generational or other stereotype(s) is that the assumption may be 100% inaccurate. As a result, the wrong approach is taken and the individual is not engaged in an effective way, and may even be pushed away by the sense that his/her leader doesn’t care enough to get know or treat him/her as a valued individual.
Generational or other stereotyping is the exact opposite of what effective leadership demands.
As discovered and developed by Paul Hersey, Ph.D. and Ken Blanchard, Ph.D. in their theory of situational leadership, effective situational leadership requires that we get to know our people and lead them in their performance and development at the individual task or activity level. So, if effective leadership requires that we don’t even generalize or label the individual person, how can treating them as part of a generalized group of millions get us very far?
It is through engaging our employees, peers, customers and other stakeholders as independent individuals that we can form high-performing interdependent teams that achieve true synergy and high impact results. At England Logistics, we strive to know our people and communicate with them about their needs, aspirations, potential, current status and development opportunities. In doing so, we don’t need to focus on labels or stereotypes between groups or generations. We communicate as individuals and teams. We believe it works! What is your experience?
As a Talent Management/HR executive with over 20 years of talent and human resource management experience, I strive to deliver value generating services to internal and external clients. This has provided me with the ability to lead or influence people in developing solutions to achieve higher levels of measurable success. My professional interests are targeted toward helping clients achieve their optimum performance through people solutions.