Over the past month, the Thin Difference team has been discussing the most significant issues and differences between generations. We all know the differences between Baby Boomers and Millennials. But there’s one thing we have in common – even though we might not realize it.

We All Desire Connection

Every Millennial I know desires a mentor — someone other than our parents who can help us navigate important decisions and grow. It’s something I’ve written about dozens of time before. Though it’s something we desire, very few Millennials have someone who currently fits that description. Why is that?

On the other hand, many of the older leaders I know are beginning to think about their legacy. They want to leave an impact (personally or professionally) that is greater than their individual contribution. They want to live in a way that has influence. Influence begins (and ends) with a relationship.

So if Millennials want a mentor — and older generations want greater influence and impact — why aren’t we doing a better job of connecting and building relationships between generations?

Our Shared Flaws Prevent Connection

Although we have our differences, I think it’s our shared flaws that prevent us from building relationships and connections between generations.

1. We Take Too Much Pride in Our Accomplishments

Millennials are a hardworking and passionate generation. But that can often lead us to believe that we’re solely responsible for the things we accomplished. We’ve got a degree, a great skill set, and ambition. This skewed mindset can get us into trouble sometimes when it comes to creating a connection with the people we look to for advice.

At the same time, older generations can be guilty of the same mindset. When you write off Millennials as entitled and think they don’t understand the concept of hard work, you can quickly start to think that all your success was solely dependent on you.

Creating connection starts when both generations realize there’s no such thing as a self-made man. When we are humble enough to admit we don’t have it all figured out, we’ll be a lot closer to building relationships with one another.

2. We Don’t Think We Have Anything to Offer

If this seems like a direct contradiction to the first flaw — it is. But while some people from each generation are overly confident, others don’t recognize their value.

When it comes to finding a mentor, Millennials will often say things like, “Why would they want to meet with me? I’m sure they’re incredibly busy already.” We immediately opt ourselves out of making connections that could be incredibly meaningful.

At the same time, I know some older leaders don’t think they have anything to offer. They wonder, “Why would someone want to learn from me?” or “I haven’t accomplished anything incredible… I’ve failed more than succeeded… there’s not much someone could learn from me.” The reality is nothing could be further from the truth.

3. We Mask Laziness with “Lack of Time”

Building relationships take work. They require time and a certain amount of intuition.

For Millennials, finding a mentor is a lot more work than just sitting in a corner with all your great ideas and vision – waiting for someone to notice you. We say there’s no one to mentor us — and yet, we haven’t put in the time, energy, and effort to create connections.

Older generations can hide behind the excuse of “I’m too busy” as well. For task-oriented leaders, it’s easy for every interaction with younger leaders to be about the work at hand. But if you do that, you forego the opportunity to influence.

Whether you want a mentor or a way to increase your influence by investing in a younger leader, stop using the excuse of time as an issue. You will make time for what’s important to you.

Using Our Flaws to Help Create Connection

Has one of these flaws prevented you from creating connections with a different generation in the past? If so, you’re not alone.

Meeting our desire for connection and influence can only happen through relationship. Creating meaningful relationships starts by recognizing the excuses that have held us back for too long. When we begin to do this, we might realize that the very flaws that were holding us back are the things that we can work on together.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Why aren’t we doing a better job of building relationships between generations? Perhaps it is our shared flaws that are keeping us apart.