Kate Nasser stated:
“When the leadership in an organization see and focus on the differences, they widen the gap. When the leadership see the possibilities for success at the intersection of talents, the gap disappears.” Leadership Generations: When Energy Meets Experience, September 2013
I agree. In the intersection, trust builds.
Kate started the #PeopleSkills community and facilitates a weekly chat focusing on how “to connect with others’ talents.” In the last chat, I joined as a co-host to focus on how to foster trust between generations. It was an active chat with many thoughts and ideas exchanged.
In preparing for the chat and digesting the community insights, several thoughts emerged. We need to continue the conversation on how to build trust between generations and, more importantly, we need to take action. It is a call for all generations: GI, Silent, Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, and Generation Z. This is our time to work together and build a better future.
6 Ways to Build Trust Between Generations
1 – Reverse mentoring. Mentoring is valuable and often viewed as an older person offering wisdom and advice to someone younger. There is little doubt about the value of this type of mentoring relationship. Another approach gaining steam is reverse mentoring. Leaders and managers from older generations are receiving advice from Millennials on a variety of topics. This is where trust takes root. Whatever our role or our generation, we need to engage in a mentoring relationship and reverse mentoring will build long-lasting trust. Reverse mentoring is about learning and forming trust between generations.
2 – Imagine a round table. It is unfortunate that many conference tables are rectangular. We choose sides. Someone sits at the head of the table. It sets an implied structure. Instead, we need to imagine a round table. All voices have an equal say, an important insight. Round tables set the mindset of openness and drop our role, organizational, and generational stiffness. Free-flowing exchanges and open mindsets create trust between generations.
3 – Focus on individual uniqueness and talents. Generalizations don’t always apply and can be distracting from what someone’s talents, perspectives, and gifts can bring to the work to be done, the problems to be solved, or the initiatives to be achieved. Take time to know an individual; it is about empathy in action. It is about developing trust between generations.
4 – Ask a question to learn. We are good at talking at another person. How good are we in asking questions to learn more about another? We need to do less talking and more asking of meaningful questions. To learn something about someone, it takes more than one question. Ask ten questions… maybe twenty! Good questions lead to good conversations. Good questions coupled with undistracted listening leads to better trust between generations.
5 – Move beyond the headlines. It may be better to just ignore the headlines. A recent article triumphantly said “Millennials Now Bringing Their Parents Along on Job Interviews.” If you read deeper, the percentage was small and no context was provided. In the Wall Street Journal article on this topic, it went deeper into how family involvement helped in attracting and retaining quality talent. Regardless of the surveys of the moment, we cannot get caught up in the headlines. Digging deeper into the information raises our awareness and understanding. More importantly, skip the surveys and join a group of Millennials in a conversation; it will be much more valuable and build trust in much better ways.
6 – Focus on character and less on characteristics. Character matters most. Many Millennial characteristics are highlighted, and some are really about how previous generations have parented. In other words, the “characteristics” really are a reflection on what Boomers and Generation X did as parents. It’s not about Millennials but the impact of parenting ways. We need to move beyond the intense focus on characteristics and focus more on character. We need to mentor where we can, guide where we must, and develop a fruitful exchange of ideas and principles at all times. This is where trust takes root and grows.
Trust Begins with Us
No matter our generation, trust begins with us. We need to take the necessary actions to build trust between generations. It is the way to learn from the lessons of history while working together for a better future. Let’s do this!
For a few added thoughts on how to build trust between generations, you can read my Moblize.org post entitled “How to Build Trust Between Generations.”