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Engage the Age

I am a late BOOMER, born in 1960. My parents were and are ELDERS, with my mother now being 91. I teach business to Gen X and Gen Y students and work alongside BOOMERS and Gen X as colleagues. I was trained and educated by ELDERS. I have watched and observed the on-the-ground manifestation of the age cultures, almost like a river flowing past me within the classroom these past 20 years. In addition, having taught Organizational Behavior and Business Ethics over these last 20 years, I have had plenty of opportunity to become acquainted with traditional research and develop real conversations in the crucible of the classroom to explore these assumptions.  My work includes exploring what I call the generational mosaic. These days, we have no less than 4 generations in the workplace. In a quick capsule, here are some key elements for each generation.

The ELDERS… 70+ in age…. born before 1945
•    Separation of family and work
•    EXPERIENCE is VALUED
•    Value Authority and Discipline
•    Traditional Families
•    View Education as a Dream
•    Formal, First Person Communications
•    Thrift and Cash
•    Conformity
•    Hard work for its own sake, to pay the bills
•    Individual responsibility

Based on my work with The Virtues Project™ and my experience as an educator and entrepreneur, and human being, here are some of the core driving virtues of the ELDERS as an age culture:

Orderliness, respect and honor

The BOOMERS… 50-69 in age… born 1945-1965
•    No real balance
•    PEOPLE are VALUED
•    Value Optimism
•    Disintegrating families
•    View Education as a Right
•    In Person Communications and THE PHONE (rotary and push button)
•    Buy now, pay later
•    Involvement
•    Hard work in order to build the dream
•    Team player

Now, based on my work with The Virtues Project™ and my experience as an educator and entrepreneur, and human being, here are some of the core driving virtues of the BOOMERS as an age culture:

Idealism, honor, cooperation

Generation X… 35 to 49 in age… born 1965-1980
•    Entrepreneur
•    Fun and Excitement
•    Informality
•    Save, Save, Save
•    Direct and Immediate Communications… cell phones @ work
•    View Education as a Means to an End
•    Latchkey Kids
•    Value Skepticism (not Cynicism)
•    Do it YOUR Way is VALUED
•    Balance is Crucial

Again, based on my work with The Virtues Project™ and my experience as an educator and entrepreneur, and human being, here are some of the core driving virtues of GEN X as an age culture:

Initiative, independence, zeal

Generation Y… 15-34 in age… born 1980-2000
•    Collaborative, participative
•    FUN and SOCIAL Work
•    Confidence
•    Earn to spend
•    Internet, smart phones, text, voicemail to augment communications
•    View traditional Education as Expensive
•    Merged families
•    VALUE Realism
•    Work with other creatives is VALUED
•    Balance is crucial

Finally and, yes, based on my work with The Virtues Project™ and my experience as an educator and entrepreneur, and human being, here are some of the core driving virtues of GEN Y as an age culture:

Cooperation, confidence, honesty

As part of a brainstorming session this week, we generated a list in support of this discussion.  Still… ultimately, while we can identify the ETA Boardcultures of age, there are 7.2 billion personalities on the planet and not every ELDER sees the world according to the profile. This is true of all generations. There are gradients and outright anomalies. No two people are exactly alike.  This is the bad news for leadership. There are no monolithic groups. In classrooms and workplaces, we have to recognize that everyone is unique. In fact, in all classrooms and workplaces and communities:

•    Everyone is different
•    Everyone is the same
•    Everyone has something in common with another person

This ensures there are no pat answers… no magic bullets; there are 5 Strategies one can employ in engaging the generational mosaic and other forms of diversity.  First, we need to apply what I call the Marco Polo Virtue…. curiosity. As Dale Carnegie would have said… become genuinely interested in other people. Nothing will truly work until we adopt this virtue and make it our own. Second, apply the 5 Strategies of the Virtues Project™.

•    Speak the Language
•    Recognize Teachable Moments
•    Set Clear Boundaries
•    Honor the Individual
•    Be Present

… as they relate to the virtues and character of those we engage.  Think and speak in terms of the virtues strongest within the person, the group, the age. Speak their language. Appeal to their own nobler motives. In so doing, approach learning from the standpoint of identifying what virtues reach and connect. Find that bridge, and learn as you go. With that in mind, set very clear boundaries on what your and their lines in the sand are… what virtues are deal makers and breakers, to build common understanding and culture. As you do, be cognizant of the importance of seeing people for who they are and being ourselves at our best in doing so, and be present.  In doing this, feel free to consider this list of 100 Virtues.

This is the starting point of understanding the generational mosaic.  It is true that we have a body of work and knowledge that establishes commonalities amidst the different age groups.  It is also true that the groups are not monolithic.  It is also true that there are commonalities amongst and between the groups.  So, in fact, it comes down to developing an approach that sees people for who they are and builds bridges identifying common language.  The 5 Strategies can be likened to the foundation for that bridge building.

Consider this.  Give it a try.  Check out www.virtuesproject.com or our own site here at www.epicengage.com…. see where it takes you.  Engage the age and explore the strategic advantage that comes from doing so.

Peace, passion and prosperity.

Barry Lewis Green, aka The Unity Guy™

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