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The Power of Multi-Generational Teams

Lesson 1 of 6

Class Introduction

Gaynor Strachan Chun

The Power of Multi-Generational Teams

Gaynor Strachan Chun

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

There's been a lot of press recently, I know for the last few years about multi-generational teams and the problems everybody seems to be having with them. And so, you know, we label people Millennials, Boomers, it's their fault, it's their fault. The Gen-Xers get left out and stick their piggy in the middle. The fact of the matter is, is that there has always been, there always have been multi-generational teams in workplaces. So what we're gonna talk about today is why generational differences matter, what they are, and how we can get beyond the labels, which personally I think is the biggest problem, and work together and learn from each other. And so I have a couple of new kind of like solutions if you like if you're working in multi-generational teams in terms of how to approach kind of working so that we can all learn from each other. So that's what we're gonna go through. So let's start. Actually I'm gonna ask a question. Who here works with multi-generational teams? Who works w...

ith other people that are not of the same age as they are? You do. Three, four, yeah, yeah, we all do, right? It doesn't matter whether it's (clears throat) and often what the press focuses on is large corporations. Right because that's where you get a lot of people who are working together and obviously they're gonna be across all the different generations. But even if you have your own studio, even if you have your own photography business you still have to work with different generations. It's just a fact of life right? What we're gonna go through today will work and will apply to people whether they're working by themselves, have their own business obviously where they have different people working for them that are in different generations, as well as just even dealing with clients. So what we'll cover today is, generational differences. Why do they matter? They exist and they exist for good reason and they're usually a good thing. Getting personal, dump the stereotypes, and how we can do that and get down to again, interacting with the person not the stereotype. Embracing those generational differences, to build strong inter-generational relationships. We are different. We're all different. We're all different from each other. We did talk a little bit about that in the active listening class about inclusiveness. So what we're gonna hear is how do we actually embrace the differences and make it a strength rather than a weakness. And this is one of my new ideas of how to approach this. Approaching multi-generational teams as a mutual apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are something that we are all very familiar with in the creative world. You know, typically it's where you learn from somebody who has mastered a skill. But I think where we're at with our culture right now, and with kind of like some of the people coming into the workplace, there's things we can learn from them and likewise they can learn from us. So thinking of it as that mutual apprenticeship is kind of like a new way of thinking about it, rather than being a top down hierarchy. Looking at how that apprenticeship plays out as a mashup of wisdom and disruption. There is wisdom that you just get from life experiences, work experience, life experiences. The newest generation to enter workplaces, disruption is their role. I mean it's always been the way. And so how do we again see these two things as a strength and bring them together and value both of them. And then ultimately this new kind of system, if you like, how does that change the way we actually think, do, and lead so that we are remaining relevant for the 21st Century, our business is remaining relevant and people wanna work for us. So that's what we're gonna cover. In terms of takeaways, three very simple ones. Understand why there are generational differences and know how to get beyond them and find that common ground and then learn how to work together through kind of shared learning. My usual trick, a little moment of reflection, just to get us all focused. Take a few minutes and reflect on people that you think of as a friend. Doesn't have to be a close friend, but just somebody that you would say is a friend. How similar or different are they from you? Their age, their attitudes, their experiences. Just think on that. And then think about those things where you know people are always there, you're part of a cohort or a tribe. It's very tied to social media, obviously, right? We find our tribes on social media. We find the people that are like minded and do your consider yourself to be part of a tribe or cohort. Let's just think about that for a minute. And it can be a tribe or a cohort from a work perspective or a personal perspective. Are your friends similar to you or different from you? And if so, how different? Yes, Karla. I have both, so I definitely have friends that are very, very similar to me that I would consider kind of part of a tribe and we're very like thinking. But I also have a lot of friends that are really different and kind of different. Different attitudes, different beliefs. Come from very, very different backgrounds. It's a little bit of both and I really appreciate both. Like it's nice to have your tribe and that comfort level, but I also appreciate the people that have different attitudes, that they challenge me. Right, right, exactly. They make you open to new ideas right? Yeah. Yeah, okay. What about anybody else? Similar, different friends. Yes. I find that from, if this makes any sense, but from some of the outside some of my closest friends we seem very different. Like I'm thinking of one of my good friends and she is very calm and kind of stoic and a little bit more serious and I'm kind of the vivacious and social butterfly. But underneath it all, I think our values are the same. We have the same passions and we have the same ethical values around how we wanna live our life and we wanna treat others. And so I feel like because the underneath really connects we connect, then it's okay, I don't know, for me, that there are other parts that are so different. So it's a little bit more complicated in the sense of who my close friends are. So it's getting beyond the surface level. 'Cause again it's the old adage of don't judge a book by it's cover. Correct and then I feel like there's part of me that wants to, I like people that are quieter than me, 'cause I like to discover and dig in and see where we are similar. Right. And I feel like sometimes opposites attract in that way. Right, and these friends that you're talking about, are they roughly the same age as you? Are some of them younger, older? My close friends are around, yeah, around five age differences, but then I have some friends that are actually over 10 years older than me and are so close. So again, I don't feel like it's one box. Right exactly, yeah. Yeah, I find like you, it's like I have friends that are in the same age range as me. But I also have friends that are a lot younger. I have like a great couple that my husband and I are friendly with and they're like 29 years of age and they're fantastic. And we get on really well. And then obviously have other friends that are older than me too. So I think it's right. I mean what you uncover is that underneath it all, there's some kind of value or kind of like an interest that you kind of like have commonality with. And really, it is really about uncovering that so that you start there, in terms of what you have in common. And those are good things. As I said, there are generational differences. Why do they matter? Why do they matter? Why do we actually spend so much time thinking about generational differences? Part of the reason is of course that generations are shaped. Each generation that comes through, and generations, just so that everybody knows, from a technical term, is about 20 years. So it's basically the time it takes you from birth to be viewed as being, kind of like going out into the adult word if you like. So each generation is about 20 years in length varies a little bit, but that's about how long they are. And the environment and the culture that we grew up with obviously really shapes our values and attitudes, our work ethic and our work styles, and attitudes towards authority and family, and our general outlook on life, and our priorities. If you think about the generations coming into the workplace now and has been coming into the workplace for a while, a lot of them had workaholic parents, right, 'cause they were boomer parents. Workaholic parents who didn't have time for them and so therefore kind of like showered them with other kinds of gifts if you like to make up for that. And this is a generalization so you know I'm going against my own theories here but, and decided and also went through the financial recession and saw what that did to their parents. So that, those cultural world events will effect how you then view life, how you view work and it will shape your values and attitudes. It's the same with obviously previous generations, world events and the culture you grew up with. If you grew up in a culture that really values family, like the Latin American cultures do and the Italian culture does, and that effects how you look at life. You tend to work to live, not live to work. In the States a lot of people live to work, right? And so I mean, it just automatically shapes. Sometimes it shapes it in a positive way, sometimes it shapes it in a way that where you actually want to do the reverse. You want to do the reverse of what you saw when you were growing up. So people with workaholic parents who never came home, were latchkey kids or whatever, quite often have a very different attitudes towards work than their parents did. So that is something that we do need to keep in mind when we're trying to work together, 'cause we are all gonna have different attitudes and styles. Generational labels are not new. We love to label things. We love to put people in boxes, right? And we love to kind of make vast generalizations, you know that all the people born within a range of 20 years are gonna be like this. They are like this. And part of that is because of the strengths of our kind of marketing in our businesses (laughs), because in marketing you do actually have to, kind of like generalize some to understand your target audience, right? You can't know every single person. Although these days with big data and machine learning, there will be a day when we will know every single customer. But generational labels are not new. Actually started in the early 19th century, people started labeling people. So you know, we've got the Great Generation, which was from the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, the Gen-Xers, the Millennials, and now of course coming through college we have, Gen-Z, the builders is what they're being called. Talking about builders. So they're not new and partly because it was kind of like, you know as I say, they wanted to find a way of categorizing people that had experienced the same social events and see whether or not, like any good, kind of like anthropologists would be doing, see whether or not what the effect of those events was on the generation. And as I said, it began in the 19th century, and it actually started from a place of real positive. It started as a positive because they were looking to see if they could confirm their belief, these anthropologists that were doing this, and social scientists, that a single generation could actually make permanent social change. So it started from a place of good and now it's become, I think, a place of negativity, because it's about blame and what's wrong with a generation as opposed to, kind of like what is good about the generation. So the origins is great. And the idea too that, that youthful rebellion was actually a form of making actual social change. So if you think back obviously to the '60s in America, you know '60s and '70s, there was a lot of youthful rebellion and there was a lot of social change that happened. And that's where looking at social generations is actually a good thing as opposed to kind of then when we labeled everybody into the box. The fundamental issue of course is that, generational tension then when you start to get, kind of like the tensions between the generations, it causes again, something that we talked about a little earlier in active listening, miscommunication, resentment, friction, and so kind of like you know, when you don't again, it's like when you think you're very different from each other and you start doing this, then you get that real tension arising and I think that's where then the negativity comes is by the labels. So without again, without a longingness to understand where we are each coming from and what has shaped our attitudes, we actually strip ourselves of the opportunity of starting another positive relationship. So again, it's back to kind of like those interpersonal relationship and how do we start them and how do we strip down that tension? So this particular generational transition if you like seems to be hard for a lot of people. At least that's what I find when I talk to a lot of people, particularly if they're working inside larger corporations. They think it's kind of like, it's really hard that they cannot work together. They don't understand each other. They're always butting heads. They will say things like the Boomers are so traditional and they're not willing to change and they're technology Luddites (laughs), right? And then the Boomers will say, who tend to be the more senior people obviously within the organization will say, the Millennials have these weird work styles where they think they can come in at any time and leave at any time or they have no respect for authority. They just walk up to the CEO and tell 'em what they're thinking. And so it goes it on, right? I mean we've all heard the stories, we've all heard the stories. So why is this one so hard? Well it didn't seem to be that hard when Gen-X came in. Didn't seem to be that hard. It's because we're actually also dealing with a huge cultural revolution, right? The last one was when the Boomers were coming into the work place, which was as we said, kind of like in the '60s and '70s and it was fueled by, what was then a relatively new technology, which is television right? This one is being fueled by even more pervasive technologies as we know. It really is a revolution to a digital lifestyle. So that typically will, when you have a massive cultural revolution like that happening at the same time and being quite frankly driven by the younger generation that's when tend to get, because obviously the way we live, the way we work is being significantly changed. So going back to tension, does anybody have any examples, classical examples of generational tension, where somebody that's not of your generation has kind of like, you know, said that they couldn't work with you because? And or vice versa, where you have actually come across somebody, where you can't get beyond. There's just this natural tension from the get go. Nope, that's good. I'm glad it's no. I'm good for no. (laughs) I think my generation sticks in the middle. So I've had it before, I've had an older person in the workplace say, oh I can't believe that this generation behaved like this or do this. And I think perhaps somebody my age group, we're kind of a little bit like piggy in the middle sometimes. Right, right, yeah that can happen and that's a difficult place to be right? It's a difficult place to be, being piggy in the middle. So yeah. Yeah, I've had it. I mean there's ageism at both ends of the scale at the moment right? I mean and that's partly because we haven't sorted out the tensions. And people will kind of, people will categorize kind of like young people, older people, whatever and based on kind of like this, what they're reading in the press and about these labels. So it happens at both ends of the scale. Yeah I used to kind of, there was one young man that used to work with me, who kind of like kept literally calling me mother. And I was like, you know, it's really not (laughs). I said, it was like, I may look like her, but I'm not your mother so. But silly things like that, where I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it, but at the same time it's like really? So it does happen, it does happen. I have just a little comment because I can notice a big gap, generational gap in my students. And it's unbelievable because very young students can do everything in one moment and they think, oh it's done and sometimes it's really done and they're really fast. And older students, for them everything is hard. It takes so much time that they really need to understand everything carefully and they cannot stand to have another student in the same classroom who do everything so fast. And so sometimes, it's not easy to put in the same classroom, students who are older and younger together. They wanna learn the same thing. They start as beginners but very quickly they change the level of expertise of the things that they are studying. And so this is so interesting. And older people are so passionate about what they are doing and they put all themselves, but sometimes they cannot open their mind to the fact that they jump a little bit over and the younger ones are just so easy to deal with, because they are not afraid of anything. And they feel that they have the world in their hands. And they have the power, they have the time, they have everything. And there's several things going on there right? So one is, one of the key things I probably left off that slide about generational differences is education style. And education style has changed pretty dramatically over the last 50 years. And now the people that have just come through the education system have been trained to be project driven, because it's very test oriented. It is in the states anyway. So they learn for the test, they take the test, they move onto the next project. They learn for the test, take the test, move onto the next project. If you had more of a liberal arts education, it's about a way of thinking and a way of constructing an argument, a way of kind of like looking at things, which leaves you open to new ideas, and that's where you get those people that want to really understand everything. So it depends on the education system. Now that can also be different even within a generation too. But for the majority of Americans that have recently come through the education system, they've been very, very focused on test. So it's project driven. So it's about short-term projects. And that's the difference that you're seeing. The shame of it is not being able to bring those two sets of students together so that they can learn from each other, right? So anyway, dumping the stereotypes.

Class Description

What do you get when you put a baby boomer, a GenXer and a millennial on a team? Squabbling? Misunderstanding? Utter chaos? Or maybe you get a potent mix of styles, perspectives and ideas that can move your business forward in ways a more homogeneous team couldn’t.

While teams made of like minded individuals can seem more manageable and harmonious, they aren’t particularly realistic considering that the current workforce is made up of people from four different generations. So it’s a good idea for managers and team members to figure out ways to just get along.

Gaynor Strachan Chun will explain both the challenges and opportunities that multigenerational teams present and show how they can provide team members with experiences that are more fun, fulfilling and successful.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize the unique strengths of each generation.
  • Keep an open mind, accept different opinions and respect others’ backgrounds.
  • Find the fun in multigenerational teams.
  • Get over stereotypes and presumptions that we have about different generations.
  • Understand the value and power of diversity.
  • Set up rules of engagement.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Generational Teams Resource Guide

The Lifecycle of Emergence

Multiplicity Model

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Jerry Smith

very well done, so much to learn, best of all is the process of explaining stuff is amazing, i totally highly recommend to learn from here. 10 our of 10 points from my side. Jerry Smith


It's so refreshing to have a productive and practical conversation about multi-generational teams. Gaynor reminds us of the important roles that generations play in our society by discussing how both wisdom and disruption are essential. She provides language and concepts that help us break down our stereotypes and empower multi-generational teams to be not just functional, but also creative.