Generation Why: How Boomers Can Lead and Learn from Millennials and Gen Z
mUCH writes about how the Millennial and Z generations differ, their likes and dislikes, and idiosyncrasies. on Generation Why: How Boomers Can Lead and Learn from Millennials and Gen Z, McGill University professor Karl Moore asks why. He goes behind the visible behavior and looks at the events that shape their worldview to better understand why they are the way they are.
Each generation experiences significant events and cultural forces that shape their lives and how they react to life. Depression-era children navigated the world differently as they grew up than those who grew up in more prosperous times. They have different worldviews, so they see the world through different values, expectations, and motivations. I’m a Boomer, so my perspective on trust, authority, and truth, for example, is different than the generations that came after me.
The Millennial and Z generations have a Postmodern worldview Moore said. Our education has a huge impact on how we believe the world works and should work. Moore wrote:
What university students are taught during the crucial years of their schooling greatly influences their work ethic and how they view how they want to lead. However, because of their worldview, In Tumana may be too strong a word – though management can be very strong. Perhaps it would be better to say, working with.
To better understand the Millennial and Z generations, I believe it is helpful to look at their education and the underlying ideas taught to them in the education system – that is, their Postmodern worldview. Rather than covering the entirety of Postmodern thought, this book focuses on aspects of their worldview that affect their approach to leadership and work.
The world has changed, and what most of us were taught is no longer relevant to today’s world. The chart below illustrates some of this change.
The Millennial and Z perspective includes contemporary perspectives on four key leadership issues, which Moore explores in this book:
- knowledge and truth – who has them and who controls them
- hierarchy and its great decline
- the way people interact with each other
- the role of emotions in the workplace
Moore interestingly observes, “The knowledge of the younger generation, for them, feels (often, deservedly) more relevant and valuable than the “dated” understanding of the older generation. In a sufficiently measure, we old people are not as valuable as the old people thirty years ago when we started.”
After an interesting look at where the new generation’s worldviews come from, Moore then offers tips on how to work more effectively with Postmoderns, such as:
All voices are privileged. Slow down and listen. “Millennials/Zers firmly believe that their story, or their personal and subjective truth, is as good as anyone else’s, regardless of their lack of experience, age, or educational achievement. However, I argue that, contrary to popular belief, Millennials do not have the right to act, they are misunderstood. This is part of a larger trend of the Millennial / Z generations, which can be described as the death of meta-narratives and the rise of micro-narratives.
Be true. This is a complex area that Moore explains well, incorporating both perspectives constructive authenticity and existential reality. “It appears that “being comfortable with oneself” and “knowing who one is” are the most important characteristics of Postmodern authenticity.
In the age of social media, authenticity for Millennials/Zers is characterized by consistency and continuity between their online persona and their lives. The more compatible the two are, the more authentic a person is seen by their peers.
Create purposeful organizations and align personal and professional goals. Almost everyone wants to find meaning in their work. What’s unique about Millennials and Gen Zers is that they “have been found to be searching for purpose and meaning early in their careers.” Millennials and Gen Zers tend to be loyal to roles or identities rather than specific companies or organizations and therefore want to feel in control of their careers.
Mentor (and reverse mentoring). Millennials and Zers often crave one-on-one relationships in the form of mentors. “They are hungry for great mentors who are willing to put in the time, take on multiple mentees, and be flexible teachers.” Because of the mentoring and feedback received during their formative years, Millennials/Zers tend to view their teachers as parent figures or mentors, rather than in the traditional role of boss or employer. Millennials/Zers surround themselves with a network of coaches; many Millennials/Zers have multiple advisors they turn to throughout their careers, for issues major and minor. Be open to reverse mentoring as well. “Reverse mentoring, done well, can result in better aligned strategies in a chaotic world and more actionable strategies for the entire organization.”
Give feedback. Millennials and Zers need feedback. They depend on it. Moore explains why. Managers can use the SKS framework both to give effective feedback: What should I do pause doing? What should I do? continue doing? What should I do? GETTING doing?
Generation Why will help you understand not only the Millennial and Z generations but yourself as well. These understandings help any leader form the basis of mutual respect and a productive and healthy work environment.
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