What’s Different? Timeless Principles for Any Generation

By May 18, 2013Generations, Millennial

Guest Post by Kyle Willkom

Timeless Leadership PrinciplesWhy do we always focus on the differences? While understanding generational differences is important, there are certain principals that must be timeless; these principles should help managers and employees say, “What’s the same?” and I believe these principals can set the stage for great intergenerational relationships within any organization.

Three Timeless Principles

The list could go on, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on three principals that can set a foundation for intergenerational relationships:

Principle 1: Respect.

Everyone wants it, few do a great job giving it. I have heard from numerous baby boomers and Generation X individuals that young people nowadays don’t give enough respect to superiors. Interestingly enough, members of Generation Y often feel the same lack of respect from these superiors! This culture of disrespect can move in a circle and can be detrimental to intergenerational relationships.

What’s the solution? Easy. Start giving respect. It doesn’t matter if you feel disrespected, there is a reason the saying “The more you give, the more you get” came about! Respect starts with you, and you may realize that others reflect your respectful nature in future conversations. This culture of respect can set a great foundation for better organizational communication and intergenerational effectiveness.

Principle 2: Understanding.

Styles of communication do not only differ based on generation but also on an individual level! Understanding why those around you communicate the way they do will help you create great relationships. Many will tell you, “Treat others the way you want to be treated;” it is, after all, the golden rule. However, I think there is a better rule (we’ll call it the platinum rule), which is, “Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.”

Understanding the communication styles of those around you is essential to generating lasting relationships.

Principle 3: Action.

How many times do individuals get in trouble for going above and beyond or communicating TOO well? Hopefully, the answer to that question is: rarely. Productivity is an inherent positive that is recognized by those in any generation.

Allowing your actions to speak for themselves will help establish a positive personal brand which will set a lasting impression with members of any generation.

Ask: “What’s the Same?”

The next time you find yourself thinking, “What’s different?” backtrack a few steps and ask, “What’s the same?” If the foundational principles listed above are not present, there may be changes you can make to establish a better foundation for your intergenerational communication.

Guest Author

Kyle Willkom Kyle Willkom is an energetic and insightful author and keynote speaker that keeps audiences laughing while they learn. He excels in his ability to engage youth audiences with his accents, music, and entertaining stories. Kyle empowers audiences and readers to become strong leaders and practice the five lessons in his book, Wake Up Call-5 Essential Lessons They Won’t Teach You in School.

To learn more about Kyle, visit his website: kylewillkom.com and follow him @FOCUS_Kyle.

Join the Conversation

What do you think about these three principles? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!



From time to time, guest writers contribute to Thin Difference. Topics include leadership, career development, creativity, and mindfulness. Our mission is to "Cross the gap and lead with a new story line," inspiring Millennial leaders.

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • […] What’s Different? Timeless Principles for Any Generation […]

  • Wonderful!!! Especially #1. I’ve always said that Respect is EARNED, never given due to class or position. You don’t get it if you don’t give it.

    • Jon M says:

      Thank you, Amy. Agreed! Kyle did a great job in providing leadership perspective across generations. Thanks! Jon

    • Kyle Willkom says:

      Thanks, Amy! I definitely agree; it takes a high level of maturity to give respect at all times, but those who do get much more respect in return. I appreciate your insight! -Kyle

  • Jon, thank you for featuring Kyle’s advice here. Kyle, very much appreciate the over-arching point you made in this piece about looking for what’s similar instead of what’s different. Also, I think one key that seems to underlie your 3 points of similarities is that however way we want to be seen and treated, we need to start doing it first ourselves, regardless of which generation we’re talking about. We need to be be who we want to be treated. We need to behave how we wish others to respond. Thank you.

    • Kyle Willkom says:

      Great point, Alice! It reminds me of the Law of Correspondence that tells us that our inner worlds are strongly correlated to our outer worlds. I am with you in thinking that if we’d like to see exterior things change, many times it just takes a change in ourselves. Thank you for your feedback!


  • Hiten Vyas says:

    Hi Kyle,

    This was a wonderful guest post, indeed and Jon, thanks for introducing us to Kyle!

    Kyle, what you wrote about asking “what’s the same?” as opposed to what’s different?” when developing intergenerational relationships is so powerful. It was reminded me of something similar in a spiritual context. Our problems in general come when we create differences between ourselves and others. When we create differences we suffer. Unfortunately, when we’re kids and then grow up, I think a certain level of conditioning takes place, where we tend to look for differences. So much more peace and harmony is achievable when we look for the same, as you’ve explained in your excellent post.

    Thank you.

    • Kyle Willkom says:

      Thank you Hiten!

      You make a great point about becoming conditioned to look for differences. Overcoming that conditioning can be difficult, but is so important to do so when looking to develop meaningful and healthy relationships.


  • Terri Klass says:

    Love the post, Kyle and Jon! Kyle, you have captured the importance of collaboration across all the generations. You are so right that instead of focusing on the differences, it is far more helpful to see the similarities for everyone. If all 4 generations in the workplace could show respect for their different points of view, we would create high performing teams. I really like your “platinum rule” too!

    • Jon M says:

      Thanks, Terri. It is great to have Kyle’s insights, not only with the platinum rule but also just the focus on what we have in common rather than what is different. Thanks for your feedback! Jon

    • Kyle Willkom says:

      Thanks, Terri. Fostering that culture of respect is so important in creating high performing teams. I appreciate the feedback! -Kyle

  • Alli Polin says:

    Kyle & Jon – Great lessons here regardless of generation! Love the platinum rule. Great way to put it! When I teach DiSC we always discuss that the way I want to be sold, or rewarded, or engaged may have little to do with what you need or want. Flexing our styles to create bridges of understanding is key. Good stuff! Thanks!

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