Thursday, May 25, 2006

Leading the generations

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, May 25, 2006

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Leading the generations

LAST column we discussed different global business paradigms throughout the ages. This time, we’ll explore how to manage and lead the generations according to Amy Glass of Brody Communications, Ltd.

In her presentation at ASTD 2006, Amy differentiated the various generations, their traits, key motivators and defining events. I added my own.

First, do answer these questions with your learning buddy: What is your generation? With what person do you struggle to maintain a healthy relationship? What generation is he or she a part of, to the best of your knowledge? What advantages might this person’s experience and/or perspective bring to the relationship? What challenges have you face because of the differences between your experiences and perspectives?

The different generations are: Patriarch (born 1940 or earlier, 65 years old or older). Baby Boomers (1941-60, 45-64 years old). Generation X (1961-76, 29-44 years old). Millennials (1977-1992, 13-28 years old).

Let us skip the Patriarch because by now they are already retired or retiring from the world of work, most likely content to live the significant and useful role of mentor, coach and counselor. Let us give them space to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Who are the Baby Boomers? Amy described them as willing to go the extra mile, optimistic, positive, have love/hate relationship with authority, idealistic and want to have it all. Their leadership strengths are participative style, leadership with a heart and politically savvy. However, they need to master soft leadership skills, deal directly with conflict and practice what they preach. Their bosses could get the best of them by recognizing their experience and contribution, providing them opportunities to give back and giving them cash, rather than stock options.

The defining events in their life are: Post-WWII, prosperity, television, suburbia, civil rights and women’s lib.

Most people in top leadership roles today are baby boomers. They were coached and mentored by the Patriarch. That is why there is emphasis on the organization being a family. On their own, they are driven and competitive.

Those who belong to Generation X could be depicted as fiercely independent, results oriented, skeptical, concerned with work-life balance, self-reliant and pragmatic. As leaders, they thrive on change, are competent and straightforward and are not intimidated by authority. They need to handle tact v. brutal honesty and corporate politics well. They give their best when given flexible work involvement and learning and development opportunities.

The events that shaped their worldview are: Watergate/Iran-Contra, latchkey kids, MTV, corporate layoffs, the events that led to and the eventual declaration of Martial Law.

Generation X comprises most of middle leadership positions today. They bridge the gap between the Baby Boomer and the Millennials, being the middle child. They are outspoken and are set to get ahead in their chosen career. In the chaotic times they were born and grew up, they have learned to value their freedom and fiercely protect it.

Millennials are idealistic, confident, collective, socially minded and active, achievement oriented and structured. They are very dedicated at work and are optimistic in the face of overwhelming odds. They need supervision and structure and are intimidated by conflict. To keep them motivated, their boss could help them see the meaning in their work and to provide them opportunities to contribute and to move up the corporate ladder.

Computers, Internet, martial rule, EDSA Revolution, Diversity, extracurricular activities and the early 1990’s economic boom defined the world for them.

Millennials seem to be everywhere as groups, not individuals. They congregate at and populate malls, vacation places, entertainment events, the night scene and almost every nook and cranny of the world. The call center industry is their domain. They learn and master the computer and the Internet even without the instructional manual.

The final questions in leading these various generations are: What do they value at work? How can you be flexible in your interactions with them? What could these persons do to be flexible toward you? How would you ask them to do this flexing?

Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, could be reached at

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