Leading Diverse Generations

with Dr. Megan Gerhardt

Megan Gerhardt, PhD is a Professor of Management, Director of Leadership Development, and the Robert C. Johnson Co-Director of the Isaac and Oxley Center for Business Leadership at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University. She is also the creator of Gentelligence and the founder of The Gerhardt Group, LLC, a leadership consulting practice.

Megan has published widely on individual differences, motivation, leadership, and generational differences in the workplace and her work on Gentelligence has been featured on Forbes.com, NBCNews.com, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Inc. Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, MarketWatch, Business Insider and The Houston Chronicle among others. In 2017, her TEDx talk “Why I Love Millennials...and You Should, Too” was released, kicking off the Gentelligence movement. As the creator of the Gentelligence movement, Megan’s work focuses on leveraging individual differences to achieve leadership impact and extraordinary levels of performance.

Inside This Episode

  • Where Does The Conflict Between Generations Come From?
  • What Are Some Of The Unique Challenges When Leading A Generationally Diverse Workforce?
  • What Do Leaders Tend To Get Wrong When Managing A Generationally Diverse Workforce?
  • A Framework For Understanding Different Generations
  • Giving Feedback To Different Generations
  • How To Use The Right Lens To Avoid Misunderstandings
  • Encouraging Respectful Communication Between Generationally Diverse Employees
  • Best Practices For Leading Teams With Older And Younger Generations


Website: www.profgerhardt.com

Website: www.poweroftheages.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/megangerhardt

Twitter: www.twitter.com/profgerhardt

Books: www.amazon.com/Gentelligence-Revolutionary-Approach-Intergenerational-Workforce/dp/1538142147

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John Ryan
You're listening to key conversations for leaders. This is episode number 53.

John Ryan 0:04
Hey everyone, and welcome to key conversations for leaders. I'm your host John Ryan. And today we have a very special guest, Dr. Megan Gerhardt. Megan is a Professor of Management Director of leadership development in the Robert C. Johnson, co director of the Isaac and Oxley Center for Business Leadership at the former School of Business at Miami University. She's also the creator of gentle elegance, and the founder of the Gerhardt Group, LLC, a leadership consulting practice. She has published widely on individual differences, motivation, leadership and generational differences in the workplace. And her work on intelligence has been featured on forbes.com, NBC news.com, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, ink magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, marketwatch, business, Water Watch, and many, many more in 2017, her TEDx talk, why I love millennials, and you should, too, was released, kicking off the gen intelligence movement. And we are fortunate to have you here today. Welcome to the show. Dr. Megan, thank you so much.

Megan Gerhardt 1:02
Thanks for having me, John.

John Ryan 1:04
You're very welcome. You know, obviously, your work revolves around leaving generational differences in the workforce, can you tell us what drew you to this topic.

Megan Gerhardt 1:13
Absolutely. So my passion is always about unlocking human potential and in a lot of different forms. And for the last dozen years or so, I focus primarily on the way that looks in our multi generational workforce. And my interest in this really came probably, just over 10 years ago, I was asked to speak to a group, a company that was really struggling with what a lot of organizations have been struggling with, which was how to understand and better lead the millennial generation, as they were really taking over as a force. They're now the largest generation in our, our workplace. And, as you probably know, and remember, they certainly threw a lot of organizations for a loop in terms of their expectations, and the way that they showed up at work being very different. And I'm always careful to say it's not right or wrong, but different. And so, I was leading a discussion just about, you know, your general generations 101, a lot of us have sat through those kinds of workshops before, just helping people understand the different generations where they're sort of shared identity might come from, and I realized in the midst of that workshop, that the narrative around generational differences in the workplace was very negative.

Megan Gerhardt 2:37
And we know that very clearly. Now, you know, the age of clickbait headlines and generational shaming, and, OK, Boomer, we all are very conscious of that. But I hadn't realized how pervasive that was in the mindset of organizations, and that the millennials, it's not a new problem. But that millennial, you know, frustrations had really brought it to a head. And my passion for pursuing this work was, I realized, you know, twofold. First of all, that our best practices in diversity and inclusion, and even cross cultural management, if you think about a generation being its own kind of culture, so to speak, we're not being applied to our multi generational workforce not being applied to age diversity, which was really surprising, you know, I, this is what I teach, this is what I researched. This is what I do. We know how to value diversity and how to leverage it for business benefit, and every other reason that we care about diversity. But none of that seemed to be relevant or being applied to this generational struggle that organizations were having. And I found that really fascinating. It was almost this, this missing piece that that we had left to do. And then my other interest in it was I started as a leadership professor here at Miami when I had just turned 26. So I'm a Gen X, sir. And that was 17 years ago. So it's been I'm not one of the youngest here anymore, by far, but at the time I was. And so really a big part of my career. And my everyday work, was reaching across different generational gaps, you know, of course, with my students who at the time were millennials, and then now Gen Z, but also my colleagues. So a lot of my colleagues were older Gen Xers, or or many of them, baby boomers. And of course, to learn, I would reach across both sides. And I also felt like being kind of sandwiched in between gave me this great ability to relate to both generations older and younger. And so I think, the more work I did, speaking to different companies, the more I realized that that wasn't a very common mindset to have and that's where gentle elegance was really born. That you know, to define intelligence, it's really being smarter about the way that we look at generational Diversity and changing our mindset to view our multi generational workforce as an opportunity rather than a threat.

John Ryan 5:08
So, so many things there, thank you so much for sharing that. And the progression from your own career ended up becoming awareness that not everyone views, the generations like you do. And imagine many of them the right or wrong, does it come from that idea that my generation is the right generation that my values, my work behaviors, and my communication strategies are the right and then everyone else is wrong? Is that kind of where some of the conflict come from comes from?

Megan Gerhardt 5:34
I think so. I mean, we all have a, you know, a fairly ethnocentric mindset that some of us are able to overcome, right. But it's similar to, you know, our belief about our culture that we are used to the way we do things, and that when we encounter people who view things in a different way, it's very hard to not view that as right or wrong. And when it comes to generations, when we were researching the book, so our book came out yesterday. And so we're kind of riding the wave of excitement around that. And I was sharing yesterday on one of our launch events that one of my favorite stories we found in researching the book was about a guy named Jim Fowles who was a professor, he was a researcher. And back in the 70s, he wrote this article about a term called crono centrism, which I had never heard before in anything I'd ever read. But it made basically means what you just said, a belief that our time is the best time and that no time before after is ever going to be as good is our time right now. I love that term. And I was trying to, you know, revive it and bring it back. So I think it is I think it's this tendency that we have developed strategies generationally to help us meet the challenges of our time. And so of course, they seem right, and they seem useful to us. And it it's difficult to think about the fact that those strategies aren't ones that other generations embrace or need or agree with.

John Ryan 7:03
So that krono centrism. And I agree, that sounds like a fantastic word. It sounds like we all have that, maybe the tendency for that, but looking at it, like they're different cultures, instead of just different generations, as you said, it sounds like that shifts the mindset. If you go to another country, you're going to try to understand the other culture is that is that something that we need to incorporate? In our generation? Enter, we're getting a diverse workforce, to look at the people maybe older and younger as being different cultures, and how does that help us?

Megan Gerhardt 7:35
Absolutely. So in the book, we develop these four practices of intelligence, which we call the intelligence method, and they are based on the best practices and diversity as well as cross cultural, you know, cultural intelligence. And one of them is to really adjust your lens. The first one is to resist assumptions. So let's stop assuming we understand or correctly interpreting the behavior of people that have grown up in a different period of time, because we're using our own lens and our own perspective to to judge what they're doing. And adjusting the lens. It is exactly that right? If we went to Italy, and you and I sat down for dinner, john, and we, you know, we're waiting for someone to bring us our check. I'm sure you know, if you've traveled abroad, they won't bring it to you until you ask and Italy specifically, because that's perceived as being rude. That's your table, that's your time. Whereas the opposite norm is true here in the US. And so you use your own lens, you are going to be completely misinterpreting the behavior of someone from another culture.

Megan Gerhardt 8:39
So this practice of adjusting your lens that we discussed, and we give some tools and practical strategies for that on the book is about pausing a minute and thinking about how am I interpreting and judging this behavior? Is there a possible other explanation for it? So my favorite story, I'm a storyteller. So my favorite story on this is I did a workshop for some healthcare professionals A few years ago, and a nursing manager who was a baby boomer, stood up and she said, the most pressing question I need your help resolving today is we have these millennials and that phrase is everywhere, these millennials coming into the exam room with the nurse and the doctor and pulling out their phones and not paying attention. This needs to stop. So she'd sort of through this gauntlet down right that this taking out the phone was a deal breaker. And so I thought this was so interesting, and such a great job intelligence opportunity. So I said, Alright, so I agree. They've got the phone now. Why did you immediately jump to the assumption that they weren't paying attention, right, that was automatic for her phone, not paying attention? And she just sort of looked at me and was thinking about it. So I asked her younger colleagues, so millennials, some Gen Z, some Gen X I said, Can we help come up with another interpretation? Can you give me another reason that somebody might have their phone out in an exam room with a doctor or nurse that that would be relevant to what's going on there and something that's helpful. And so many suggestions, right, you could probably think of a few taking notes on their Notes app, or googling what time the pharmacy close near their house, you know, just a long list of things. And, and as we shared those, you could see this realization on her face that she associated a screen with clay, right with distraction.

Megan Gerhardt 10:39
And that makes sense, that's not wrong. Because when you grew up, you know, baby boomers, and then to some extent, Gen X. Certainly the older Gen Xers that's what a screen was for it was for fun, it was for play. It wasn't for work until much later in their career. And so the automatic assumption there isn't Oh, a screens out, somebody must be getting some work done. And I found this, even in my career, as a professor, you know, it took me a long time to realize that showing a really great video clip didn't mean I was slacking. And, you know, because when I grew up, if they got out the projector, the TV, it was because somebody didn't feel good, or we had a substitute. It wasn't a intentional tool for learning and work the way that it is now. And so it was a great exercise. And I talked to my younger clients and students about this as well. Same thing, when you pull out a laptop in a meeting, you have it's not that you shouldn't do it. But realize not everybody around the table is going to understand that you're taking notes and you're creating a Google Doc, they might think, you know, your shopping or your instant messaging or you're on Instagram. So it's worth kind of a conversation saying, Hey, does anybody Mind if I have my laptop out? I'm going to just take some notes, I can clear up a lot of sort of silent resentment and steaming about why that young person has a device out when we're having a meeting, right. So So yeah, just this idea of being curious rather than judgmental around what we're doing generationally, and if there might be some interesting differences there.

John Ryan 12:20
fantastic story. Thanks so much for sharing that it really illustrates it. And I had some feelings come up as well about what the phone meant in such an important situation. So that comes to an a Gen X as well. And so at that point, the responsibility for bridging the gap between those cultures, the generational cultures, it sounds like it has to be both right about you. And the other person, just like any other communication, miscommunication that could occur is that if you're doing something that could be perceived from the wrong lens, you need to let them know. And if you're concerned about it, you need to check in is that is that kind of part of the solution? Perhaps?

Megan Gerhardt 12:54
Yeah, I love that. And I think, you know, it leads to one of our other practices, you know, which we just really, we simply call it strengthening trust, that everybody has permission to ask and try to understand and everybody has permission to sort of try a behavior and check in with other people. And it's, again, the way we step away from right and wrong, is instead we have a discussion what norms make sense for us, you know, it's entirely possible the laptop shouldn't be out. Right? But instead of someone assuming that everyone understands that, or someone assuming it's fine, and no one's gonna care, you know, we resist those assumptions and on both ends, you know, saying, Hey, I would love it. If we could have a device free meeting. I know they have utility, I get it like love that people are taking notes. But I think for this, it would be great to just have everybody fully present for the discussion. Is everybody okay with that? Right? Who would say no to that, but you're not imposing your sort of way of doing it as the only way you're giving some context.

Megan Gerhardt 14:00
And, you know, I love talking to people about where these disconnects start from. So I had a great conversation with my dad who's an older baby boomer a couple weeks ago, he was a partner in a law firm. And he was saying, you know, the way I was brought up in my career is you put your head down, and you work hard and you wait for somebody to tap you on your shoulder that it's time for a promotion, it's time for a raise, if that was the norm, right? When you grow up in a period of time. There's norms around everything norms around work, and people want to be respected. So they follow those norms. And then when he had younger hires, who would come in and set up a meeting and ask, When is it going to be my time or am I ready for that raise? He found that to be so presumptuous, right, that there was this element of Of course, we hear that word entitlement looming in the background. With this great discussion, I said, well, they just want respect and they're asking you Do they have it is that their time? They were not raised that asking for what they wanted was wrong. And so it was this great conversation where he thought he said, Even I wish I would have understood that it just seemed rude to me. Right. So even a conversation, when you're hit with a behavior that strikes you as is wrong, or it doesn't align with how you would have done it helped me understand what your concerns are, is a really great, useful practical tool in every direction, you know, help me understand where you're coming from, because, you know, the Center for Creative Leadership found four values that all generations care about, right? All of us have, and I won't give you the laundry list or in the book, but for example, respect, we all want respect. But where the generational breakdown might come in, is, the way I go about gaining that respect as a Gen X er might look very different than how a Gen Z or or a millennial or a baby boomer might go about pursuing it. And if I don't understand that, I might misinterpret their actions as meaning something different than they really do.

John Ryan 16:09
So just to circle back with what you just to summarize that earlier, they said right now the millennials are the largest group in the workforce. And I understand that that trend is increasing. I know some predictions you probably gives the accurate number that it by 2025. That is it we're closer to 50% of the workforce is going to be millennials Am I am I close on that number

Megan Gerhardt 16:31
you are in a lot of it is going to depend on the the trajectory of our baby boomers. So by 2030, every one of the baby boomers in the US will be eligible for retirement, so they will have hit that 65 mark. Now, of course, many baby boomers want to work well beyond 65. In levels we've never seen before. One is out of necessity, of course, recession and now COVID economically changing the game on that. But the other element is of course, increased health increased interest, we see a lot of baby boomers starting second careers, great implications for organizations. Because how do you balance that right? How do you balance the millennial kind of wave that's coming of being very driven and interested in leading and having a very strong career trajectory, with keeping your baby boomers engaged, and also feeling like they are relevant and valued.

Megan Gerhardt 17:35
We're seeing a lot of organizations maybe even unconsciously scaled down their investment in the baby boomer population, because they're assuming they're going to retire in five years, we don't know that it could be 15 years, it could be 20 years for people who are enjoying their work unless we mess it up. Right. So there's kind of these two, two factors or, or many more, but two that come to mind right away. So one is, we want to keep our millennials engaged. They have this interesting reputation for job hopping, which isn't entirely fair. They don't necessarily move more than prior generations. But they're much more intentional about moving if they don't feel like they're being developed or invested in and being really clear that if this isn't a place where I'm going to be developed, I'm going to go find something else. They're very unapologetic about that because they've been invested in in develop their whole lives, right? If we talk about parenting strategies, that's what the parenting strategy for millennials were, that's how they became so proactive and driven and, and clear on what they wanted. And so we do have to keep millennials engaged and moving forward and being developed. And we have to balance that with I don't want to skip us Gen X, or as john because we get skipped, we do we don't really die.

John Ryan 18:53
We're the smallest.

Megan Gerhardt 18:54
We don't mind either. Like I don't know about you, but like we were fine. You know, we were very self self sufficient. So but also less interested in less worried as a general generational identity, about, you know, rapid career trajectory, or titles or things like that. And of course, I'm speaking as a, I would say, you know, a generational personality. We know not everyone in a generation falls into that neat box. And we talk a lot about that in the book that we don't want to pigeonhole generations. But generational identity, I would say it's a layer, right? It's a layer that interacts with other other layers of your identity and who you are. So I think for organizations, of course, keeping an eye on the Gen Xers will represent that you want to really move to the top of companies, and there's many of us that do, but also continuing to upskill and rescale, our baby boomers who have so much organizational experience and knowledge that we don't want to lose, and also engaging our millennials and allowing them their trajectory and then of course, the big sort of worry of the day. is what's going to happen with Gen Z when many of them are starting careers from behind a screen. That's where I think we're gonna see a lot of retention problems. I'm already having students saying, this job I've been waiting, you know, 20 years to get is now going to be remote for the next six months, 12 months, 18 months, I'm going to be doing it from my parents basement. This is not what I had in mind. I think I'm gonna go look for something else. So there's an interesting story unfolding there, I think.

John Ryan 20:31
Yeah, I think we're living it right now. And we'll see how that progresses. For sure. So with that demographic growing, and we don't know how long the baby boomers are going to stay in the workforce, obviously. It seems like are we generationally from a Gen telogen. perspective? Should we be of course, we should be mindful of all generations that are in the workforce. But should we be focusing more on the millennials and Gen Z? And potentially the next one? Or should we really spend an equal amount of time understanding all of them?

Megan Gerhardt 21:01
Interesting question. I think you want all the voices at the table. And one of the things about, for example, this return to the office, right? I think we don't make decisions based only on what we perceive our younger generations want. But I think we also think about how do we balance the needs of our organization with the needs of those different generations broadly defined? So I think it's like anything else you want to keep your pipeline full. But one of the questions we ask in the book is, Who are your workers really going to be? Right? And when we think about pipeline, traditionally, we've thought, Oh, it's the youngest ones right out of high school out of college, like, let's fill that pipeline that's so important, especially because Gen Z isn't taking the same four year college traditional pass, you know, some of them are doing gap years or tech or the Google route of not going to college and just being educated by the company being trained by the company directly. We're seeing apprenticeships coming back into favor and some of these skilled trades for Gen Z, where we had this big talent gap that we're trying to fill. So I think, of course, we're always going to care and want to invest long term in our youngest workers. I think the millennials are an interesting story. Because no matter what you do people think of millennial synonymous with young. And I'm sure you saw this geriatric millennial phrase go viral over the last couple of weeks. And I did a vlog about that on LinkedIn, because that was just clickbait, like putting the word geriatric and the word millennial together like that. I mean, in a way, it was marketing, brilliance and hat tip to the person who wrote the article originally. But you know, it's just meant to be inflammatory.

Megan Gerhardt 22:51
Nobody is thinking of millennials, as as even middle management and our oldest millennials this year are 40. Right. So that do a little bit of a pause on that, like we love saying millennials associated with those young whippersnappers, but they're anywhere from 25 to 40, which is young, but not not our youngest. And so I think they are the trunk of the tree, so to speak, I think we have to be really thoughtful about you know, you don't trim your tree in the middle, you really do want to keep developing them, you don't want to ignore them in favor of the shiny Gen Z's when they are, you know, such a huge, demographically a huge group, but also a group that's going to continue to have that need for growth and investment. I'm seeing my millennial colleagues jump, continue to jump even mid career, they're not slowing down sort of their interest in piecing together a very developmental career. So I think we do need to think about that. And then also the question of who will your talent be and say, well, it might be baby boomers returning after, you know, a COVID and wanting a new chapter and a new Act in their career, and how might that add an interesting generational diversity? Maybe some of your new workers will be from unexpected places, such as the older part of the workforce. So there's a lot of balls to juggle there for sure. We don't want to ignore anybody.

John Ryan 24:23
You mentioned growth and learning as being something they really value. Gen Z, the millennials. Are there any other values that there really stick out in your mind as to what's important to that generation?

Megan Gerhardt 24:36
Yeah, I think, you know, our millennial generation, if you look back again, at the way that they were raised, and I'm always mindful to say, you know, because because generational identity is one layer, often when we talk about how the millennials were raised, we're talking about higher socio economic millennials because we talk a lot about the opportunities they were given, you know, the classes, the lessons scheduling the everybody makes the soccer team and gets the trophy stereotypes that we hear about there. But the parenting philosophy was let's invest in these young people, and not make some of those mistakes maybe we made in prior years with, you know, trying to make sure we were protecting their self esteem trying to see sort of almost as a social experiment, if we really involve them in classes and, and school and camp and lessons from the time that they were three or four, what would what would happen by the time they were 20.

Megan Gerhardt 25:38
And what a great social experiment, they were the most educated, most developed generation we'd ever had. But then when they showed up to college, and then to the workplace, with the expectations that were sort of aligned with the amount of development that they had been given, there was all these stop signs like, Oh, hold on there, you're only 20, you don't get to do that yet, when in some ways, they had had so much more experience and so many more expectations put on them. And so, you know, I do think we see the value of millennials of doing you know, we all again, a shared value is meaningful work, we all want to do something important. I think for millennials, they're very savvy about it, they will work hard, the perception that they're lazy is is false. But they'll work hard for something they really care about. So you're the idea of giving them busy work, because they just got here or they're lower on the totem pole. That is where we run into issues with with them being viewed as, quote, lazy. Why are we doing this? Can you explain to me why this is necessary or what this is for and if they understand the importance of it, it's been my experience that as a whole, that generation will bring everything they have to it. But it's, it's new, or it was new for older people to have to give context or explanation or justification to a younger colleague about why they were being asked to do something. And so a lot of it, I think, in terms of a value is, you know, really being driven to make a difference. If you can help me understand how this works making a difference, then I'm on board, I'm part of something I'm helping I'm moving things forward, not just going to do it, because you had to do it. Right. And that's a little bit where you get some misalignment about what expectations are.

Megan Gerhardt 27:34
So I think for millennials, I always point to that as being a really interesting dynamic. I also think we see for Gen Z, which is an unfolding generation, they're anywhere from depending on the math, you use seven to 24. I'm advocating for 2014 to be the cut date for Gen Z, because of COVID. Those will be the last kids that have a probably an active memory of the pandemic. And so I think that makes sense for our cut point there. But they're interesting, right? We can look at the 18 to 24 year olds and say, Okay, this is what we're seeing. But we don't know yet so much about the kids younger than that, I think with Gen Z, you know, talk about growing up in the age of, you know, pick, pick your social issue, right? Fake News, school violence, pandemic issues, I think they're going to be a bit more risk averse than we saw with the millennials, and not that they're necessarily going to be conservative. I think they're going to be self sufficient. More so than we saw the millennials be I think they have figured out that there's no sure bet and that you are going to want to craft your own sort of safety net, I think their entrepreneurial spirit, you know, that they can form companies, from their bedroom on the computer with a little bit of savvy is going to serve them really well, gig economy. Right? You know, we're seeing high schoolers working for doordash. And, you know, figuring it out on their own terms and maybe being less conventional than we've seen prior generations be out of necessity, I think.

John Ryan 29:16
Well, no, thank you so much for that. And obviously we're looking at, you know, how do we better communicate and better understand the the millennials in the sense. Are there any tips suggestions you have for the millennials in the workforce, especially if they're managing people from an older generation?

Megan Gerhardt 29:32
And we are seeing that that, you know, the latest statistic we found when we were doing research for the book was 40% of people report to a manager who is younger than they are. And so as demographically as we've talked about, we see the millennials, you know, consuming a bigger portion of the workforce, I think that's going to continue to grow. Like we said, a lot of Gen Xers don't define success based on status. or career title. And so many of them not as interested in grabbing that next rung, they want to do something maybe a little bit different than that. So we talk, we have a chapter in the book about leadership, leading a younger leader leaving older teammates, and of course, older leaders connecting with younger ones. I think there's great opportunity in both, but specifically for your question. As a younger leader, you have to balance

Megan Gerhardt 30:33
make this sort of fear of imposter syndrome, especially when your team might be full of people older than you, you know, you have to recognize that you were given that role for a reason. And that you've earned it, you know, you have to believe that you have a valuable perspective to bring to the table. And one of the things I love talking about in this work is the fact there's different kinds of knowledge. And so there's a kind of knowledge that comes from being at a company for many decades, you know, institutional knowledge, organizational wisdom, and in context, it's so important. We don't want to lose that.

Megan Gerhardt 31:08
But there's also, you know, knowledge that comes from growing up in a different period of time. And of course, the easiest thing to think about is being more digitally savvy, but it's certainly not limited to that innovation, you know, new ideas, fresh ways of thinking. And so believing you belong in that role, and that you were put there for a reason is the first part of the challenge. But then the second part of the challenge is how do you leverage all of the great diversity of experience on your team in a way that's going to build respect, right, strengthen the trust, if we go back to that intelligence method. And the way you do that is you balance your confidence with vulnerability the way any leader does, right? vulnerability, thanks to Bernie Brown is all the rage right now in leadership. And as you know, it's one of those best kept secrets that you think is a leader. And I think, particularly as a young leader, that you're supposed to know everything. And if you don't, people are going to think you're a fraud. And you shouldn't have ever been given that role, when in fact, being vulnerable and admitting that you might not have the answer, or the perspective is a great way to earn respect. You know, I can't tell you how many times I've gone to an older colleague and said, I'd love to get your two cents on this situation. Or can you, I would love to know what your take on this is? Or have you seen this before? Right, using thoughtful questions. You're not saying I can't do it, or I have no idea or I'm out of my league, you're respecting the experience and perspective of an older team member, which they appreciate and need and want. And you're also creating a partnership, you're creating somebody that's going to be on your side and wants you to be successful, because you asked for their input and their advice, we all want to be asked for our advice. And so now you have an ally, who's rooting for you to be successful, because you recognize the value they bring. And that is, you know, the last sort of principle we talked about in the intelligence method is expand the pie. Right?

Megan Gerhardt 33:24
You know, I love there's this T shirt that I saw, it's like, you know, equal rights for you doesn't mean fewer rights. For me, it's not pie. Right. And so I you know, we that was something we mentioned in the book is it's the same thing, it doesn't have to be a win lose, you know, if I come to you and say, Oh, this is really a tricky situation, like, what's your take on it? that builds your respect for me, because I value your opinion, and it builds my respect for you, because you're willing to give it and then we both walk out with a nice piece of pie. Right? And so that is what I think particularly for everybody that the same is true for an older leader that could ask, I love asking my students, how would you do this? Right, like I've mastered, okay, I shouldn't say my students will call me out if I say I've mastered technology, but how I learned to use Instagram and Canva. And, you know, zoom this last year was by saying, alright, team who wants to help me out on this one, I'm not quite sure what I'm doing. Oh, they love to help, right? And how good they are at it. And they're valuable now doesn't make me less valuable. It makes both of us valuable. So that's my number one kind of recommendation is balancing that confidence with a willingness to to ask for help or input.

John Ryan 34:46
I love that method. Yeah, thanks so much. And I think our listeners will definitely enjoy using that immediately. Thank you so much. With one last question in relation to the durations with feedback. Is there any specific difference in how different For generations in the workforce, like, prefer receiving feedback, direct indirect?

Megan Gerhardt 35:07
Yeah, that's a tricky one. This one really came to light. For me, it's a little bit different, but also relevant. You know, this was an impromptu conversation at a workshop where we were talking about communication. And one of my participants said, Well, you know, I get these emails from my young employees, you know, asking for things, and I'm really busy, and they just want this immediate response for me. So first of all, the idea of speed is an interesting one around generations. And I said, Oh, you know, I'd love to dig into what immediate means. Right? So I just sort of did this quick, you know, you email your supervisor, you know, with a request for feedback on an idea that you have submitted, you know, to help improve things in the organization, what's a reasonable time to expect a response? And we just did a quick, you know, rough poll, and our youngest participants said, you know, 24 hours seemed reasonable 24, maybe 36 on the outside. totally makes sense for that age group raised in an age of instant feedback, quick response, the text, you know, the the automatic communication, you know, and it really did follow what you would think so people our age, two or three days, you know, seems like, you know, point where I might pinion, did you get my email. And then for our older members of our group, you know, they were saying more like a week, and again, it's not right or wrong, you know, they're saying, I'm busy. And your request for feedback about some idea I didn't ask you for is pretty low down on my priority list. I'll get to it when I've got a chance.

Megan Gerhardt 36:53
And so it opened up this interesting conversation, because if I'm expecting 24 hours, and you're expecting a week, welcome to generational conflict, right, one side thinks they're being ignored, the other side thinks they're being nagged. And then we have this, this frustration, and we haven't adjusted the lens. And so, you know, I think timing is an issue. And again, let's discuss norms, you know, can you as a maybe older person who doesn't want to be a slave to every email coming in at every second, we find our older, you know, our older generations very capable technology, but using it more intentionally, right, that it's a tool for them, they don't need to necessarily feel like it's pervasive. And it's, it's, you know, something they have to be on all the time, you know, can you can we have a norm that you'll write back and say, give me a week to look at this, and I'll be in touch, right, or, you know, some sort of meeting somewhere in the middle. But I think in terms of other feedback considerations, particularly our millennials, and our Gen Z, want more frequent feedback. A lot of that comes from millennials, particularly not having a lot of opportunity for self direction, they were very scheduled, they were very had a lot of involvement from from parents, and teachers and things growing up.

Megan Gerhardt 38:17
And so it's a little bit more uncomfortable for them to be independent, to be kind of left to their own devices. Whereas Gen Xers really love that as a general rule, like, Hey, I assume if I'm not doing well, someone's gonna tell me But until then, I'm just gonna go do my thing over here. Whereas millennials, an absence of feedback might be perceived as a problem, that nobody's giving them feedback. So something must be wrong. So I hesitate to give a one size fits all, you know, I don't want to say all millennials need frequent feedback. And all Gen Xers don't need it at all. I would want people to have that conversation and not assume that their mode or or schedule for feedback makes total sense to their subordinates or their employees or their team. Just having the conversation just like you would about the computer at the meeting, you know, and you can just say, you know, I tend to check in with my people once a month or once every quarter, and go to lunch and have a conversation. If you'd like more feedback than that, I'm happy to give it just let me know. Or if we decide that's even too much we can adjust as we go, right? So we figure out those norms together. And don't assume what works for us is going to work for other people.

John Ryan 39:38
I love how all that comes together just the same thing. It's a different culture, understanding each other checking your lens, making sure understanding where they're coming from, what is the phone mean? Does it mean I'm not paying attention? Or is it another way that I could be actually being engaged in the process? Very cool. Thank you so much. You know, here are key conversations. We believe key conversations are really the key to so many things in our organizations. Do you mind? Dr. Megan, if we asked, you know, is there a personal or professional conversation that you think of that when you think of it as really had a big impact on you either personally or professionally?

Megan Gerhardt 40:12
Yes. And I think I, it's a story that I really always attribute to the, maybe the birth of Gen telogen, as a movement and as a passion for me. And it came from a student of mine I had a long time ago now. And I was taking over leading a an organization here at Miami. And it was one that it was clear had been built by people that it wasn't designed to necessarily serve. And so it was an organization that was kind of outdated. A lot of decisions, I think had been made by, you know, people who weren't students, as as things often are. And we were sort of surprised that there wasn't more student traction and interest around this program. And so I took over leading it and just thought for sure, I knew exactly what to do to fix it. And my ideas weren't working, it was very humbling that my way, quote, unquote, wasn't resonating. And so it was almost like a, you know, a Hail Mary, I threw up my hands, and I just said, Can, can we all sit down? I would love to hear what you are looking for, like, what would you love to see, we have an opportunity here, talk to me about what you want. And it's not that I necessarily can create it, or that we can do it. But I'd love to at least know. And so I took this group of, you know, 20 year olds out for coffee.

Megan Gerhardt 41:34
And we just spent the day and they were talking about what they felt like they were prepared to do from a leadership perspective. So the leadership development organization, and what opportunities they would love to have that they weren't getting anywhere else. And so different than what I felt like I needed at their age. And so I started thinking, could we build that, and I remember thinking really clearly, well, we could build it. Together, the students and I, and whatever resources I can, I can gather from the university, but I can't build it myself. And I found that very empowering rather than sort of, you know, making me feel helpless. I felt like, oh, okay, we could build something greater together, right, then I could alone. And so I just remember that conversation and thinking, you know, this is what we need to do. This is what leadership is, is empowering other people. And so the great moment, and I had the student at the virtual launch yesterday for our book, which was such a great full circle moment was I said, You know, I love this, I can't wait to get the website updated to show students I said, but that's gonna take forever, like, I'm on some waiting list. And, and he just looked at me and he said,

Megan Gerhardt 42:47
Well, did you want me to build you a website? And this was remember, like, this was probably 2007. You know, I don't maybe maybe even a little before that. Like when when building a website was not just clicking on Wix or Squarespace or, you know, something like that. It was, it was a lot more involved, at least I To me, it was. And I just said, you will, you could build us a website? And he said, yeah. And I said, Well, when could you build us this website? And he just sees it tonight? And I said, Yes, please. Like, if you you know, I'll believe it when I see it. But yes, please, I would love a new website. And the next day we had a website was a WordPress, you know, what website with this new vision that the students and I had created together, just like in glaring, you know, you know, just right there staring at me, and I thought, Oh, this is it, right. And then the really great part, john was that not only did I feel inspired, you know, talk about engagement, you know, the students and this was the millennial generation, right? I had asked for their help building something, and I didn't tell them to sit down and that I'm in charge, and they'll, they'll have the program I designed for them. I said, Oh, I need your help building a program that's going to be valuable. And it's not that they have all the answers, you know, but one of the maybe shouldn't be a secret. But one of the secrets is, if you ask a younger person, how would you do this? And they tell you, they are much more likely to then listen, when you say, Oh, I love that. Here's a couple concerns I have, you know, like, company's not going to let us do that, or that's going to take more budget than we have. How would we work around that right? And so instead of it being one way, and shutting them down, it's inviting the ideas. And then you get to use your organizational wisdom and experience to kind of, I would say push back but to give context and to raise questions and to guide and to mentor and all those things that are great to be able to do in these these later phases of our careers. And they listen more, because they feel worse.

Megan Gerhardt 45:01
Right. It's that mutual respect, where I respected them enough to ask for their input and listen to it. So now they're going to listen to my concerns and my questions. And together, we're going to come up something innovative, but something realistic, right? And that's to me, that was intelligence. And that's where that moment where I thought, Oh, this is, this is it, this is what we need to be doing.

John Ryan 45:24
Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. And what a great metaphor for all the things you shared today. And also in your book as well. Speaking, which, thank you so much for being here. What's the best way for our listeners and watchers to get in touch with you stay connected? And also, of course, to take advantage of the new book that just launched?

Megan Gerhardt 45:40
Yes, thank you. So first of all, our book is out as of yesterday, it's called jet intelligence, the revolutionary approach to leading an intergenerational workforce, it's available everywhere you buy your book, so it's available on Amazon, we'd love to have everybody who's out there who's interested, read and write us a review. We love the feedback. It's also available as an audio book, which we're excited about, I got to listen to it in my car last week driving home. So that was really fun. I've also really thrilled to announce that we launched this week, the next phase in the intelligence movement, as we're calling it, which is a training platform, I've joined with some great consultants across the country, New York to San Francisco, who are equally passionate about intergenerational learning and intergenerational potential to launch a training platform. And you can find it at the URL www.poweroftheages.com, which is our our URL, kind of representing what we believe in. We offer everything from, you know, the webinars, workshops, and then we're also doing a manager master the the method for managers and teams, as well as a certification program that we're currently working on. So really excited about that. The goal is obviously to get people to bring this work to their own workplaces, and to start having these conversations. You can always find me @Prof.gerhardt. That's my handle on Instagram and Twitter and all of those good places and on you can also find me on LinkedIn. So we'd love to hear from anybody about their sort of experience with gentle diligence. And we'd love collecting the stories of where this is really making a difference.

John Ryan 47:24
Wonderful. Dr. Gerhardt, thank you so much for being here and for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

Megan Gerhardt 47:29
Thank you so much, John, I appreciate you having me.

John Ryan 47:32
And thank you all for watching and listening until next time, develop yourself, empower others and lead by example. Thanks for listening to key conversations for leaders with your host John Ryan. If you enjoyed the show, please let us know. Give us a rating or write a review. And if you'd like to connect with me and other like minded leaders, I invite you to join our Facebook group called Develop, Empower and Lead where I deliver free live training every week. If you go to www.developempowerlead.com It will redirect you right there. Hope to see you there soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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