Leadership, Our Blog

Connecting Across the Generations

By Tasha M. Troy

Last week, I was leading a class discussion in my Business English class on branding. In the book was a list of top companies – McDonalds, Microsoft, GE, etc., all household names, or so I thought.

Then a young student asked me what kind of company IBM was. Wow! I felt old! This was one of those times when generational differences were very clear.

I am a member of Gen X, a smallish generation sandwiched between the larger generations of Millennials and Baby Boomers. What’s more, I’ve chosen a profession that regularly puts me in contact with people of all three generations, especially Millennials. What has made it possible for me to be successful in this environment?


Intentional Connection

At the beginning of each new course I teach, I have to find ways to connect with my students, just as managers and company leaders must connect with their teams and employees, regardless of which generation they belong to. This is to ensure that we can all reach our goals, individually and collectively.

For many years, I assumed it was the responsibility of the students to follow my lead, but upon reading John Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership a few years ago, my perspective drastically changed. John says that “[successful leaders] take the first step with others and then make the effort to continue building relationships” (p. 119). This struck me hard.

I had always just accepted that some of my students will naturally connect with me and others won’t. The paradigm shift for me was that I needed to intentionally reach out to those who didn’t naturally connect with me and establish the connection myself, no matter what generation they belonged to.


Keys to Connection

Here are several principles I now live by that enable me to connect with family members, friends, colleagues, and students from all different generations. Interestingly, they can be categorized according to Dan Shapiro’s 5 Core Concerns, the five key interests any individual has:

  • Appreciation:  Create a safe place for them to express opinions and views, and then listen to understand, suspending judgement until understanding is reached.
  • Autonomy:  Allow people to make mistakes, but be available to support them through the recovery.
  • Affiliation:  Find and build on common ground – shared values, goals, hobbies, interests, etc.
  • Status:  Respect people as individuals.
  • Role:  Recognize and encourage people’s strengths.


I have found that the secret to walking out these principles is asking the right questions. Show a genuine interest in others, and you will find it is often reciprocated back to you.


Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net
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