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What's in a number?

I'm fascinated by the generalizations and boxes that people are put into because of their age. Everything from "the terrible two's" to the "you know teenagers" to "millennial's all wanting the corner office the day they start work" (who's kidding who, those corner offices are going the way of the dodo bird) to "they are too old to learn anything to do with technology" and I have both heard it all. 

This topic is high on my mind this month as I hit a milestone age myself. It's kind of weird and scary and exciting all at the same time. I'm of the mindset that the older you get, and the more wisdom you have learned over the years, the more of a responsibility you have to the world around you to share and mentor others.

There is never any excuse for becoming a moss-covered piece of rock if you want my opinion. Back in the day, we used to send our leaders to courses to better learn how to integrate the different generations at work. While there were a few nuggets of wisdom in those courses, and yes, I agree that different generations think differently about certain things, those courses may have only furthered the great divide around putting people into categories or boxes. 

Each and every age group is needed in the workplace. Let's face it, today we are sending kids off to University sometimes as young as 16. By the time they are 21 they are either well into the career search or somewhere in the middle of their Masters - which again is very common today and different from previous generations where the number of University or College educated in the workforce was much less. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we have a healthier aging process. People are more active, living longer and working longer. Statistics tell us that many Canadians cannot retire financially, as they may have thought they would (whatever happened to Freedom 55?) and in other cases, they just don't feel ready to hang up their work suit just yet.  There is bound to be a wide spectrum of ages and stages in the workplace today and it shouldn't be difficult to integrate. Every generation and age is needed, and together, you get the whole package. 

I would much rather see leaders look at their teams in terms of where the strengths lie and how to draw the best from each individual than to make judgments about them based on their age. 

No one gets a by based on their age category. "You are too young or too old to understand" just doesn't cut it. Everyone counts, everyone should be expected to be productive and contribute. 

The "seek first to understand" is so important and if you are of a younger generation, and you are as smart as that MBA you have tucked under your arm, you will lean in and learn from the wisdom of the people who have walked many miles in the moccasins you are about to try on. 

If you are a veteran in the workforce, you need not fear the youth that is coming in the front door but know that they have so much to teach you about thinking outside the box, being creative and having tech skills you have not even fathomed. 

No one at work is a "Mother figure" or a "Father figure" at least I hope never to hear that. There are people who you can learn from but they sure as heck not there to parent you. On the opposite extreme, you are also not there to "Mother or Father" anyone. Save that for your kids and Grandkids. 

I'd like to think that we could all openly and honestly leverage one another's strengths and attributes without putting the label of a generation or age on anyone. Maybe we aren't there yet, but I do have positive hope that this is possible.  

What strengths are you trying to draw from your teams? What kind of culture are you working at building? Where do you see the current challenges in your store/office/plant/school? Have you had an open dialogue about this with your teams? Is there an elephant in the room that needs to be called out? 

I'm of the mindset that authenticity and transparency are the best way forward, full stop. If you see some of the behaviour that limits anyone, it's time for a chat. 

Just as damaging as putting people in a box, is the person that puts them self in a box. "I can't do that, I'm too old, too young or whatever". That behaviour requires a chat too because everyone is expected to carry their weight and to do anything less is heading down the path of a performance conversation. 

Oh, for the perfect place of business where everyone "gets" everyone else and things chug merrily along. 

That doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it is certainly magic! Having had the amazing experience of more than one team that did, I can tell you it is achievable. 

Another pitch for coaching, coaching works, and the achievable outcome is that well-oiled machine of a team that produces beyond your expectations. 

Where are your teams on respect, understanding, strength leveraging and leaning in to get the best possible results? 

Would love to hear how it's going! 

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