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When Generations DON’T Collide

March 13, 2017

Across the Globe, we are confronted with generational collisions that are among the key leadership issues being faced by leaders of today’s organizations. Because people are living longer and staying in the workforce longer, this is the first time in history that four (or more) generations* find themselves working among each other.

A multitude of articles and books are written about the generational challenges, and there are uncountable studies conducted to try to identify and solve the mystery.

Nobody disputes that generations are shaped by common experiences and generally share common traits. I simply refuse to put a label on any of the generations – based on first-hand experience.

I’m even taking it a step further and make the statement that the top leadership of every organization that battles generational collisions has failed to create the organizational environment where multi generations can perform in collaborative efforts at the highest level.

The same applies for multi cultural environments.

*(Generations: Traditionalists or the Silent Generation (1925-1945), the Baby Boomer Generation (1946-1964), Generation X (Baby Bust) (1965-1979), Generation Y (Millennials, Gen Next) (1980-1995), Generation Z (Centennials) (1996-2010) Please note that some (re)sources list different years.
My Case Study:

I’m sharing with you a case study that I’m conducting. I have the privilege to observe this organization long-term from within, and I witness how this organization masters a seamless multi-generational and multi-cultural collaboration. What a brilliant leader!
Location: Switzerland
Organization: Manufacturing/Costumes for special Events
Age Group: 18 – 92 (5 generations*)
Nationalities: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Turkey, Scotland, Philippines, South Africa, United States, Croatia, Russia, Australia

Generations picture ages 18-92

I have been in Switzerland for over 3 months, and I get to observe the operation 7 days a week. This is truly a place where generations DON’T collide. I’m not talking about a fantasy place where unicorns still exist. This is the real deal.

As mentioned above, there are males and females from the ages of 18 – 92 working with a lot of passion, enthusiasm, pride and collaborative effort toward a common goal. Different departments interacting with each other… Laughter, music, discussions, idea exchange, creative and innovative sessions, cooking for each other, getting together to watch sports, looking out for each other, etc…

When I’m in this environment, I want to be a part of it. It’s contagious. People put extra work into the projects in the evening and during weekends because they choose to do so. Nobody forces them. They are fed by an internal fire to accomplish a common overriding goal.

Extra work into projects


Extra work into projects


So what are the 7 Key Leadership Behaviors that help this Organization bridge the Cultural Gap?

  1. Despite the CEO’s wealth and power as a person, he leaves his ego and his power at the door. He sees his role as somebody who takes care of his “family” (teams) and he values his teams. He has clear rules of what behaviors are tolerated, and what behaviors aren’t, and these rules are enforced.

2. The CEO communicates very clearly his personal vision and makes room for the rest of the      organization to add their flavor to it. He makes sure that his and the people’s vision is heard and clearly     understood.

3.  Before a strategy is crafted, the CEO, his leadership team, and facilitators make sure to involve the teams in making suggestions, giving their opinions, and sharing potential solutions. This way each team member feels valued and has ownership.

4.  The CEO models the behavior of valuing ideas and suggestions across all generations. He values contributions across all generations and highlights on a regular basis how each generation (and culture!) can learn from each other. He sees the value in experience, and he even keeps retired team members who still want to be involved and want to contribute to the success of the company. The oldest member is 92 and still contributes to the organization!

5.  The CEO communicates CLEARLY and OFTEN (Vision, values, mission, expectations, what success looks like, feedback, updates, praise, etc.) You can’t over-communicate! He takes the time to communicate in different ways (1-on-1, email, text, hard copy, phone, group conversations, town hall meetings, etc) – and he asks everybody who needs to communicate to do the same across the organization! This way, every person is informed in their own preferred way.

6.  The CEO gives autonomy and authority to the teams and trusts the process. Giving autonomy and authority can only be fruitful in an environment where the vision, mission, values, expectations, roles, scopes, etc. are clear!

7.  The CEO values his teams’ contributions, regularly gives feedback and praise, and takes the time to celebrate success. His behaviors mirror his language. He starts each public communication with “We…”.


Important note to the readers of this article: As I write this article, I witness the teams coming together for the final sprint to the “finish line”. Without any hesitation, the teams volunteer to work extra hours in the evening, early in the morning, and on weekends to complete a major project on time.

Unbeknownst to them, they were implementing a portion of my ‘Nyman Success Triangle™’ (Shared Vision, shared Mission, and shared Values).
Action Steps:

How do you bridge the Generation Gap?

What are some of the challenges that you encounter ?

Upcoming Leadership/Adventure Retreat

Join our Leadership/Adventure Retreat in the Swiss Alps.

Next Trip: Spring 2017

The Leadership/Adventure Retreat consists of 3 different parts:

  1.  The Leadership Think Tank (Mastermind Circle) where we solve Leadership/Business issues
  2.   Personal Executive Coaching Sessions (each participant gets one-on-one sessions with Helena)
  3.  Daily Activities – including visiting the heritage of the Saint Bernard dogs, a trip to Zermatt with the famous Matterhorn, visit inside the Glacier, Swiss wine tasting, and of course the real Swiss Specialties (Fondue, Raclette, Roeschti, etc) and much more!

–> All activities are guided by local Pro!

For more information, please click here!




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