“Many ideas grow better when transplanted with another mind than the one where they sprang up.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
During the last decade, I’ve coached a diverse group of people. While my targeted client base most often finds me working with the “chronologically gifted” (a.k.a. Baby Boomers), I’ve enjoyed engaging with a cross-generational mix, all of whom have benefitted from coaching collaborations.
As time passes, my understanding of and appreciation for generational differences has become increasingly important and pronounced. Quite often, I need to listen for what is not being said, as well as what is being verbalized. Listening is an essential coaching skill, as what is being expressed differs between generations.
This post scratches the surface of a fascinating area of study (at least to me). And I suspect I’ll write more about it in due course. Yet even a most cursory glance at the topic yields obvious spheres in which differences lie, including:
- Technological adaptation
- Social consciousness
- Personal values
- Willingness to change
- Defining events (specific to each generation)
- Meaningful experiences
- and Wellness
In an ongoing quest to learn more about this subject, I recently found a 2009 University of Iowa (U.S.) School of Social Work research piece on Generational Diversity. Of course, there are hundreds of similar studies, so I glean from this with a grain of salt. Still, it presented some defining (and clarifying) characteristics of generational cohorts. One of the characteristics I found interesting was the core values associated with each of the four groupings.
The Silent Generation (born 1922-1946) has common among them a respect for authority, loyalty, hard work, and sacrifice for the common good; “Live to work versus work to live” was a generalized motto.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) grew up with a sense that security was taken care of – left room for exploration and protest; place high value on youth, personal gratification, health, and material wealth. They were/are generally optimistic, value hope and peace, and believe their generation changed the world.
Generation X (born 1965-1980) desire balance in their lives. Diversity is viewed as norm, they’re motivated by money, self-reliant, value free time and having fun. They shifted the mantra to “Work to live, not live to work”; assumed gender equality in the workplace and are the first generation to embrace the computer and Internet (you know, the tubes). 🙂
Millennial Generation (born 1981-2000) has become the most globally oriented. They have a combined work ethic of Baby Boomers with the can-do attitude of the Silent Generation/Veterans and the technological savvy of Gen Xers. They value health, exercise and body adornment.
There are a plethora of qualities, attributes and tell tales aligned with each generation. And it’s not uncommon to see some of them bleed across one or more of the four. Ever shifting, this makes what I do to earn a living exciting and challenging. Just because I’m a Boomer doesn’t mean I always know how people from other generations are feeling, thinking and acting.
In addition to ongoing change in attitudes and beliefs, our conscious deference to the uniqueness of generational differences helps to keep communication channels open. It also fosters heightened awareness of what and why different ‘things’ are valued across generations.
We are all in this together, aren’t we?