In this Episode
In part 2 of our interview with generational expert Tim Dean, we discuss the impact that Gen X is having, Gen Z's entrance into the workforce, and the one word leaders should stop using.
Listen to learn specifically how Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z are similar in their career goals while also being vastly different. (And find out the answer to last episode’s cliffhanger: What is the name of the generation after Gen Z?)
In this episode of the Leadership 480 podcast. We'll share the conclusion of my interview with Tim Dean, a professional coach, keynote speaker, and teacher of a class at St. Louis University on generations in the workplace. We think you'll enjoy the conclusion of our conversation.
Tim, you and I are both Gen Xers. And earlier, you talked about how our generation is somewhat viewed as the forgotten generation. We did some really terrific research here at DDI on the contributions and really the value that Gen X leaders can bring to their organizations.
From your perspective and the research you've done, and your experience out there talking to people about generations, think about Generation X.
I have a whole topic that is the risk of forgetting Gen X.
Yeah, so what would be a sales plug you would make for our generation?
One industry that works really well in is the financial industry, because Gen Xers are literally on the verge of inheriting 30 some trillion dollars from their Baby Boomer parents or grandparents. And it's certainly not skipping over Gen X to get to millennials yet. So, yes we're the smallest.
Yes, sometimes we can jokingly be the forgotten. Gen Xers are literally in the C-suite, they're inheriting wealth. They will drive the markets. Yes, we're the smallest, but we're going to have a very powerful albeit short term punch. So there is a risk of bookending everything boomers versus millennials, boomers versus millennials. We matter still.
Well, that's encouraging to hear Tim. I appreciate that you've figured that out there.
For all you Gen Xers, we matter dammit.
So with all the coverage around millennials, part of that narrative has been that finding meaning in work is really important to them.
But it's not just millennials that sort of crave meaning in their work? That sort of runs across generations, or?
I would argue, yes. As a Gen Xer, I always wanted that. I just, it took me decades to finally act on it. The difference being again is as a Gen Xer, we were raised to get the degree, get the good job, get the promotion, follow the path, stay with a company, etc., and only move very non frequently, sparingly. Millennials to their credit, because they've witnessed how their parents were treated, their Gen X and boomer parents, the days of mutual loyalty are not coming back. They get it.
Therefore their loyalty to a company is completely redefined. And if you're curious what your millennial employees mean by loyalty, you better ask them, because it's not going to be what you think. Simple question. What does loyalty mean to working here? And be ready for any answer.
But because of that, they're much more adamant at a younger age to demand, if you will, or certainly choose a job that fits something they really care about passionately. And let me give you an example. In my practice, I'm a coach, I coach individuals one on one.
And a lawyer client, he had just finished law school and he came up to me and if you could imagine, I'm motioning just kind of to my hands are open of comparing my left offer and to the right offer. And he said, I have two offers from these two different law firms, this offer here in this hand and this offer in this hand. And he said, I just don't agree with what this law firm does.
And he was moving his right hand. In other words, he was purposefully deciding a career job based on how a law firm does its work. And again, you tell that to a room of boomers and again, your heads are exploding again. That was never a consideration we even allowed ourselves to consider, nor did we know all the warts of the good, the bad, the ugly.
If we were lucky, we had an annual report and we might know someone inside the company that we get some secret intel. That was it. Now millennials, they have everything at their disposal, all the information, all the lawsuits, all the pending anything. So they're deciding literally on do I agree with what this company does?
So more experienced leaders who might be listening to this, they hear the talk of it’s a multi-generational workforce, there are challenges that are associated with that.
But you know, really, we've always had multi-generational workforces. Correct? So what makes this point in time different than it's been in the past?
We never had four until 16 years ago.
Because the generations primarily were defined with 20-year increments, in general, we only typically had three at any given time. But because the X generation was the first to go 15 years, millennials then were in there before the traditionalists retired. Now, Gen Z is in there before all traditionalists are gone.
So now we have five. That is a first.
Wow. So it's just more complexity.
You have so much diverse thinking. How individuals communicate, how individuals motivate, how individuals handle conflict, how individuals interact. All of those are relevant in a workplace, whether you’re virtual or not. Yet, you now have five different perspectives coming. That’s where the awareness is so critical.
We're talking to Tim Dean, a certified global coach who also teaches a class at St. Louis University as part of their MBA program. The class is called “How to Leverage Generational Diversity.”
Tim, let's talk just a little bit about generation Z. A few weeks ago, some of our listeners may have seen this, the New York Times had a special section all about the voices of Generation Z and that generation, that's going to be larger than the millennials, correct?
It will eventually surpass. And people wonder, how is that possible if they're age seven and older already, how do you retrofit more population? And it's immigration and migration. In fact, millennials continue to grow. Their generation is also growing in real-time. But you are correct.
The fascinating thing about Generation Z to date and you are right, it's still early per se, because they're only one year in the workplace. The thing that's fascinating though, is go back to listeners that are Gen Xers for example.
Boomer parents where dad worked, and mom was at home. However, women's rights and women started going to work. Then the dad and mom either both worked or sometimes divorced, the rates started going up.
So, Gen Xers, hence the latchkey moniker, we were the generation that grew up maybe with neither parent at home after school. So hence the key around our neck that we had to let ourselves in and be independent and take care of ourselves till 6:00 or 7:00 PM.
So now imagine as a Gen Xer, when we grew up, our mindset was, oh wait, neither parent was home. Oh no, we're both going to be home. So imagine then the pendulum swung all the way the other way. So therefore, millennials were raised now with both parents home.
Hence if you've heard, the listeners have heard, the helicopter parenting where they hover and telemarketing and commuting or working from home further supported that. So now the millennials are 38, the oldest. They're having kids and their kids are Gen Zers per se. Now imagine that pendulum is swinging back the other way. So therefore, Gen Zers as children, seven to 22, especially teenagers, they're now being raised with parents who were just helicoptered.
So now that is easing off and now we're witnessing just the effects of that. So some of the early research is showing us that Gen Zers are more pragmatic and more realistic than their millennial elders. And they're also a little more willing to stay at a company longer, but there's an asterisk.
And what that means is where millennials job hopped without any thought, fine, I'm jumping. Because remember pensions don't exist per se, 401s transfer anywhere. There's no financial risk. The gap as I mentioned, the jumping, is no longer a negative. Gen Zers though, they've witnessed what their millennials have done.
They're willing to stay with a company longer. Again, a little more realistic, a little more pragmatic, however, they want to role hop. So to prevent them job-hopping like their millennial elders, you better be ramping up early on and regularly role hopping for them from day one. Because they will stay longer as long as they know the ramp is set and around the corner is multiple future role opportunities.
And this is not just a six-month onboarding that some companies do or to get, this is continuous, regular, intentional years long. So that's the little caveat that the good news is they'll stay longer. The catch is the role hop.
Interesting. And Tim we're about out of time. So I want to ask you just a couple more questions.
So we've had a great conversation here about generations in the workplace. So what pointers would you offer to leaders who have to lead multi-generational teams?
Great question. And it is something that we go through over literally in the classroom. I would ask your listeners, if they're not driving, to write down the three following words. Get a piece of paper and get a pencil and write down the following three words. What, how, and why?
And after you write those three words down, what, how, and why, take your pencil still in your hand and draw a big X through the why, because that is a word you are now no longer allowed to use as a leader beginning any question from this day forward.
It tends to be accusatory. It tends to create defensive reactions and answers. So you could imagine a leader of any generation asking a direct report, why has this happened? Why is this late? Why did you do it this way? Immediately defensive. Force yourself to rephrase every question with only the word what or how.
So what were you thinking here? How did you come to this conclusion? What do you think we should do next? How do you want to proceed? What is the best thing we can do next? How would you like to be involved? How do you want to be rewarded? How can we make that happen? What involvement do you want or not?
It's so common sense. It's just so not common practice that it takes conscious awareness to force yourself to stop and rephrase in mid thought. And yes, that is relevant for all generations, to Craig's question. The differences though come when you're dealing with multi-generations, back to the awareness.
So when you have more awareness of each generation's thinking and motivation and communication style, again, I am the first to agree from many articles out there that generations are just a lark or it's just a marketing ploy. I'm not here to defend everything about generations. Yet, in other words, I completely agree we have much more in common and want more of the same things than that are different.
I totally agree with that. What I am espousing is because of the differing communication styles, we all want the same thing. We just communicate differently. So when you're using those what or how questions, it's what words do you use when asking them depending on what generation you're communicating with that then gets you the better response.
One last question. This podcast is all about making every moment of leadership count and you've certainly helped us today with some great insights, but can you tell us about a moment of leadership that had an impact on your life?
Wow, great question. The first thing that comes to mind is honestly when I was sitting in a coffee shop in St. Louis, Missouri with a gentleman who was a friend who I didn't know at the time was actually a coach himself. And I was lamenting about having left another corporate job that after only four months was physically and mentally toxic. And I knew, okay, that wasn't it.
However, I was kind of just wondering, gosh, what's next for me? And what I really appreciate about him is that he was able as a leader, to listen and help me rediscover if you will, something that I had been striving for all along. Similar, back to that excellent question you asked earlier is don't we all just want to do something that makes a difference or have an impact or that we're passionate about?
He, through that conversation in that coffee shop, he helped me remember all of these workplace examples, regardless of the title I had, regardless of the zip code I was living in, regardless if it was ever even part of my job or not. And then he said, there's your thread.
So in other words, he literally helped me rediscover that I had been doing that thread indirectly through every job I ever had. And it was that aha moment that led me to launch my coaching practice and get certified and formalize it, etc. If that conversation doesn't happen, I honestly don't know what's happening now. And that's now six and a half years ago.
The beautiful part I love about the millennial generation, and I'm just going to circle back to them one last time, is because of their willingness to job hop and yes, they'll get complaints about it and the negative stereotypes of, oh, you're not loyal or you're etc., you want a promotion in six minutes and you should be a manager sooner.
They're actually addressing internal desire for, it's not a job, it's so integrated now. Work-life balance is gone. It's now work-life integration. They want to be doing something that they believe in. And they're allowing themselves to explore it at a much younger age than I ever did. Now that is cool. Because then I think, look at the potential, if even half of that generation and it's in the 70 some millions, takes that path, the potential is off the chart.
And we're not done yet. Cliffhanger.
Ah, the cliffhanger. Yes. Yeah. So the question was, or the cliffhanger rather was, what is the generation
called that comes after Generation Z?
I can't let the cliffhanger go. It's like all those one-year series that we watched that got canceled and we never found out what happened. So Gen Z, I mentioned they're seven years old to 22, 15-year span. So you can imagine for those that are hurricane named fans, when the weather service names hurricanes, those very few and rare times when we've had so many storms named that we finished the alphabet, after W they go Greek.
So that one year I can remember we went Hurricane Alpha. So that's the name of the, if you have a child that is a newborn to age six and for the next nine years per se, and it might be shorter, it’s Generation Alpha.
So now we know. Tim Dean, you're a coach, you're a keynote speaker, you're a teacher, and you're a very smart guy. And thank you for taking some time with us today to talk about generations in the workplace.
My pleasure Craig, thank you.
And thank you to our listeners. We know that your time is valuable, and we thank you for sharing some of your precious minutes with us. This is Craig Irons with Tim Dean, reminding you to make every moment of leadership account.
- Tim Dean’s website
- DDI’s 2018 Global Leadership Forecast research findings on Gen-X and Millennial leaders.
- The New York Times interactive story about Gen Z, told in their own words.
Join the conversation on Twitter! Use #Leadership480 to answer what your most impactful moment as a leader has been and what you’ve learned from it.
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