Keeping a multi-generational team in step has only become more challenging in the Facebook era.
“I’m just people watching.
The other people watching me.
And we’re all people watching.
The other people watching we.”
The music of Jack Johnson, raised in Hawaii and son of a surfer, probably appeals more to the bonfire-on-the-beach crowd than buttoned-down club managers. But after watching Tom Wallace as he takes on his latest challenge at The Club of Mediterra (“Back on Solid Ground,”)—and having heard Tom’s presentation on Staff Mentoring and Training at our Chef to Chef Conference in March—I think Johnson’s lyrics speak to an activity all of us might want to try to spend more time on.
In his Chef to Chef presentation, Wallace stressed the importance of not only understanding the values and expectations held by each generational segment within your workforce, but also of altering your management approaches accordingly. Much of this understanding can come from developing good people-watching skills—along with sharp observation of how people are watching, and reacting, to you.
Wallace, for example, says he makes it a point to try to solicit feedback on what might be bothering people about him and therefore possibly getting in the way of their peak performance. As a result of what he’s heard, he keeps working to try to minimize the perception that he appears to be thinking about other matters and not providing someone with his full attention, even when he is. (Spend 10 minutes with him in his office or a dining room and you’ll see 1) why he gives off this impression, but also realize 2) he’s not missing a thing.)
Bemoaning the problems that grow out of generational differences is usually a no-win proposition for a manager, especially when you’re at my end of the timeline; inevitably, you’ll get written off as an old crank.
At the same time, there’s no denying that the gaps do widen during periods of more rapid or dramatic cultural change, and that keeping a mulitgenerational team in step has only become more challenging in the Facebook era—especially for us old cranks who don’t get why someone might need to stop what they’re doing to update their status (not to mention have no idea what a status is).
So more people watching, from all sides, may help provide everyone with a better chance to get along and pull together for the common good—especially if what’s observed is followed up with sincere discussions and responses.
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always a bonfire on the beach.