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Do you find yourself thinking you are not speaking the same language as the younger generation?

By Emile Studham, 8th of July 2019

A common response from today’s leaders when they speak of their younger generation is “I just don’t seem to speak their language”. That’s because they are not. The reality is, it is a leaders job to speak their language.

Performance is measured by the behaviours we display and reward. What affects our behaviours is our belief system. Our belief systems start to build the minute we are born through the things we observe and the experiences we encounter.

What separates us from every other mammal on earth is that we have a prefrontal cortex that wraps language around the facts we experience. This language forms our belief system. The more days we live, the more we gather stories that often reinforces our belief system. As mentioned above, it is our belief system that has a direct effect on the behaviours we display. Unfortunately, some of our beliefs can be detrimental to performance.

In a high performing culture, it all starts with the conversations the team is enjoying (and not enjoying). How well a team stays in dialogue through adversity is a huge determinant of the team’s success. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand that the PBD definition of a high performing culture or team is one “where all team members can engage in open, honest and constructive conversations about performance, irrespective of their position on the team”.

What many teams do not have however, is a foundation for these conversations. They have not defined what performance looks like. Inside of the best teams we work with, you’ll see new team members walk up to leaders and praise them using common language like “thank you for showing me the way, that was (*insert team value*), we now know how to behave moving forward”. Conversely, you will also see new team members challenge their leaders with language like “I saw what you did there and I think there’s an opportunity to do it even better. Can we have a conversation about that? I think we can make it more (*insert team value*)”. Within high performing cultures, what proceeds this interaction is a conversation about performance.

What is completely foolish is for leaders in corporations today, to not tap into the new knowledge of the younger generation. The Millennials see and operate in our world in a completely different way than any other generation and the differences are enormous. They can be and often are very efficient workers as they are proficient at using all of the shortcuts we now have at our finger tips.

What has to be created in order to successfully communicate across generations are 2 things:

  1. The right framework by which to have these conversations, this comes in the form of a mutual purpose, set of core values and an understanding of the team’s best behaviours aligned to the values
  2. Trust. This comes in the way of showing competency, the ability to do the job and under pressure and character, delivering on your word and doing what is best for the team.
    Trust is generated from the strength of your relationships. The strength of your relationships is determined by the depth of your conversations

For you to truly engage your younger generation, you must commit the time to build these ever-important relationships. An aligned framework by which you have deep conversations is essential. Otherwise you’ll find yourself speaking different languages.

We believe building the framework with them creates alignment and gathers buy-in when you’re having conversations about performance.

To assess how engaged you are with your team, we ask the following questions:

If you are struggling with engagement across your team, do not hesitate to reach out to us for more advice.