November 22, 2022

Leaders Connect with all Generations


Have you ever wondered why younger team members seem to focus only on themselves? Or why older people do not want to change? Frequently, I hear these comments.

When I ask leaders over 50 how things are going, I eventually hear ”those millennials,” followed by a deep sigh. Interestingly, I get a similar answer when I ask millennials the same question. Millennials respond, “I struggle to communicate with my older team members, who are resistant to trying new things.”

Recently, my husband and I were in Alaska for vacation. We had dinner with a couple on vacation during our train ride through the Alaskan interior. After several minutes of small talk, the conversation turned to work.

After they found out I was in education, they asked me a question I hear frequently. What question? “How do you deal with millennials?” I smiled and said, “I love working with young people, including millennials.”

Well, the wife just shook her head. But then, she explained her latest interaction with an emerging leader. As I listened to her story, I realized the problem was both individuals were not valuing each other’s gifts and talents.

Instead of leveraging their different perspectives, they were stuck in their perceptions of each other. Based on the information, I could tell both individuals felt disrespected by each other.

After offering several leadership strategies, we finished our dinner and parted ways. As my husband and I sat down, I wondered what resource I could recommend to assist her.

If I met the couple today, I would share Dr. Tim Elmore’s new book, A New Kind of Diversity, with them.

I recently heard Dr. Elmore speak at Live2Lead, where he shared his research on the five generations currently in the workplace. As I listened to Dr. Elmore, I immediately reflected on my conversation with the couple on the train. Instead of collaborating, the wife and her team member collided due to generational differences.

Dr. Elmore reminds us there are five generations in the workplace, and each generation “represents a different paradigm as a vendor, colleague, supervisor, family member or client. They also often bring different expectations.”

So how can leaders work with the different generations in the workplace? Well, first, you have to know what are the five generations. According to Dr. Elmore, the generations are:

  • Builders (Silent Generation)
  • Boomers (Pig in Python Generation)
  • Busters (Generation X)
  • Millennials (Generation Y)
  • Homelanders (Generation Z)

Now that we understand who is in the workplace, the next step is to step out of our comfort zone and work to build bridges between the generations. Dr. Elmore offers six strategies to help leaders build generational bridges.

  1. Clarify your decision-making
  2. Ask questions to start conversations
  3. Distinguish between preferences, expectations, and demands
  4. Include different generations on task teams
  5. Invite all generations to meetings to broaden the pool of ideas and solutions
  6. Launch “reverse mentoring” groups on your staff

Generational bridges help leaders leverage everyone’s unique gifts and talents to move the organization forward.

“Replace comfort with curiosity. Choose to leave the comfortable to pursue the compelling. Hunt for new horizons to conquer.”

-Dr. Tim Elmore

As leaders build generational bridges, the organizational culture and productivity will improve. Why? Because the culture will be based on mutual respect.

Are you connecting with all generations on your team?


Want more expert educational leadership guidance? View the Moore Leadership Moment on YouTube.

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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.