Multigenerational – it’s a dog’s life?

by | Jun 28, 2019

Recently we acquired a puppy…..and this got me thinking about multigenerational issues.

You see, we already had two dogs, Rambo a 12-year-old Shiatzu and Alfie an 8 -year -old Springer Spaniel. These two dogs were settled; they slumbered their days away, eating regularly. They were occasionally playful, but mostly they slumbered… and they were happy.

Then along came Terry to disrupt their world and ours. He’s a Lurcher X and we rescued him, because we are soft hearted, because we had the room and because he needed a home!

Multigenerational Teams

Multigenerational teams are a fact of working life. Introducing a new member into a team can produce its own set of challenges. If that team is a very established one, with a multi-generational composition, then the challenges can be even greater.

There’s been a lot written about how we now employ a range of generations, from baby boomers to millennials and onto gen Z. The stereotypes about how people from these different generations think, act and do, abound.

Me, I have lived through the times when we didn’t have colour TV’s, PC’s, emails and mobile phones. At each stage of my life I have adapted and engaged, to refresh and renew and to learn new skills. I’ve led teams which included people who were older than me, the same age as me, through to apprentices, straight from college.

It takes all the conscious skills of leadership to keep everyone motivated, engaged and enjoying their work life. It also takes a huge amount of self-awareness of our own unconscious bias, to avoid falling into the trap of making assumptions about what people can and can’t do /will or won’t do!

For me, there must be trust. Trust that you can leave your team to self -manage; and that you can promote a sense of belonging so that they will support each other, work together, correct each other, and laugh together 😊

If you build in a culture of mentoring and peer support within your teams, set by your example, they will nurture and teach each other, as required.

6 Takeaways

So, back to Terry the Lurcher X puppy and the lessons I have learned over the last few weeks, which can be related to the whole topic of multigenerational teams …

  1. Get your team involved in the selection process for a new team member. We took Rambo and Alfie and all the other humans that live in our house, to the rescue centre to vet, and be vetted. There was a lot of noise, and some barking and sniffing, but in the end we all got along just fine.
  2. Training. We established some early training routines with Terry, and we watched in awe as the other two dogs trained him too.
  3. Equal praise and recognition. We have tried not to favour Terry and single him out for praise, even though he’s making rapid progress. Praise is shared out equally and rewards are too.
  4. Let your team be generational and play to their strengths. Terry loves to play hard, run fast, crash and burn, and then sleep. His routines are much more erratic than the other two who, as I’ve mentioned, like to slumber. But guess what? The other two have sped up (especially when food is involved) and they have remembered tricks they thought they had forgotten or learnt new ones. Sit, stay, paw and fetch – they’re all at it now!
  5. Establish the culture and values. Routines, rituals and ‘the way we do things round here’ should be revisited and recalled. Don’t let bad habits settle and make sure your values are clear from the outset. A great induction helps – onboarding is vital.
  6. Steady the ship. That’s your job. Be a brave, good and kind leader with nerves of steel and an abundance of patience. Trust me, it will be worth it in the end.

Vanessa Rhodes

Vanessa is a very experienced HR Professional with a career spanning over 30 years. Prior to setting up Imago HR she worked for many years as a senior HR leader, providing a compassionate and pragmatic approach to people management. Click on her website to find out more about the Imago HR service www.imagohr.com