Seats for the presentation were divided into Rising Generation tables and the Leading Generation tables. Rising is what we would call the “next generation,” and Leading is the current generation in leadership. The tables held periodic conversations stemming from the presentation they just heard. People switched seats to mix the tables between Leading and Rising generation for certain topics to talk about personal experiences with the generation gap and hear perspectives from people of all ages.
Where are the expectation gaps?
Understanding where disagreements occur and how the other generations feel helps create areas of focus for a strategy. While many statements are generalizations that have exceptions, this is a basic framework of where the biggest generational gaps exist.
1. Life Priority
Rising Leaders prioritize life. They would rather make less money if it means they have a fulfilling work/life balance. Current Leaders put work first, seeing money as a way to create opportunities in their lives and for their families.
Rising Leaders value having many relationships with groups of friends and feeling part of a community. Current Leaders find more value in stronger connections on an individual level and don't focus on quantity.
Rising Leaders get most of their information online, going to places like Google for answers. Current Leaders will speak to experts or other references.
Rising Leaders will tell you that a year is a long time. Current leaders will say a decade is a long time. Haviland says that in the past, one idea could last over three generations. Now, it takes three ideas to last one generation. Today, decisions need to be made much more frequently.
Rising leaders would like rewards for their hard work more immediately than Current Leaders. They see the Zuckerbergs of the world all over the media which affects their expectations. Current Leaders think that success takes much more time.
Rising Leaders want to be promoted first and then show that they can handle the added amounts of responsibility. Current Leaders expect the work to be done first to prove they can move a step up. To manage this gap, set a trajectory that matches the amount of work the employee is looking to do. Make the expectations clear and follow through.
Now that we know where gaps appear the most, let’s look at what the generations expect of each other and what to do to accommodate the expectation.
The 5 (often hidden) expectations of Rising Leaders
Perfect—Rising Leaders tend see their work as perfect, even if it needs a bit of improvement. To help, Current Leaders must be specific in their directions and expectations so that the Rising Leader knows what to deliver.
Direct—Rising Leaders must hold responsibility for their actions, both good and bad. Current Leaders must allow for mistakes here and there, and use mistakes as opportunities to teach lessons to the Rising Leaders.
Connect—Rising Leaders are expected to bond and create relationships with their coworkers. Current Leaders can help facilitate these relationships by introducing people and telling the Rising Leaders who they ought to know.
Project—Rising Leaders should be ahead of the game, anticipating what will be needed from them in the future. The best method to accomplish this is to use past experiences to predict issues and situations that could show up. Current Leaders can help extract what lessons were learned from prior experiences by practicing feedback, debriefing, or post-project meetings.
Respect—Rising Leaders must appreciate the work that’s already been done. It takes a lot of skill to build a business, and Current Leaders can help them understand by teaching what is needed to have a successful day, week or year.
The 5 (often hidden) expectations of Current Leaders
Demonstrate—Current leaders must teach what they want to be done. If the goals are not communicated clearly, the Rising Leader may fall short of expectations. Rising Leaders should be active learners and refer to their previous experiences.
Elevate—Current leaders may think that Rising Leaders have unrealistic expectations, but high performers respond to opportunity. Give them more than what you think they’ve earned. You can communicate that it’s not quite yet deserved but that you are trusting them to exceed expectations, motivating the Rising Leader to hit the ground running with this new responsibility.
Narrate—Current Leaders need to communicate constantly and clearly. The Rising Leader can help accomplish this by being an active listener and helping the Current Leader communicate in a way they understand.
Appreciate—Rising Leaders want the Current Leader to recognize their progress. Motivate the Rising Leaders by affirming their value, while Rising Leaders can learn how their work creates value for the organization.
Acclimate—Adapt with the times. Change is scary, but new ideas are what make life better, more efficient and more organized. If skeptical, have the Rising Leader explain the value and provide proof as often as needed.
Bridging the Gap
Communication and clarity are key. The process of bridging this gap, ironing out a succession plan and getting everyone on the same page takes more time than we want to spend. A good first step is to have both sides understand and acknowledge that these gaps exist. Don’t hide the expectations—openly discuss confusions and discrepancies while also appreciating the differences in perspective. Think about the company in a way both sides can understand—set goals and timelines, and have a mutual understanding of what brings value to the organization.
If you learn what the other person wants, you can begin to speak a language that resonates with them. The rewards will be much more impactful. Keep lines of communication open, ask questions, and learn from each other. Review and reflect often, always keeping in mind that the process will be slow and steady.
Check back to our website for more announcements and information. CFBC members can visit the Resources Page for presentation slides, documents and more from the event.
This post is a recap of the CFBC program Bridging the Expectations Gap: Making Young Professionals More Successful and Helpful on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017.
About the Speaker
Dave Haviland is the Founder and CEO of Phimation Strategy Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He consults businesses of all sizes on topics like leadership, profitability and performance improvement. Dave also moderates the Next Generation Peer Group at the Stevens Center for Family Business at Saginaw Valley State University.
Dave didn’t used to consult much on HR issues, until he heard problems with succession come up again and again with his clients. It became clear that many professionals didn’t have a strategy for communicating with people from other generations.
"There were a few moments when I thought David was part of our company. He nailed what is happening in our workplace and helped me realize the differing expectations of the varying generations."