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Bridging the Xer-Millennial Communication Gap

As time has passed in the world today, we have thought leaders that have made wide sweeping generalities about populations of people based on their date of birth. Each generation has their likes, dislikes, and attributes. The fact is, most all differences in generations are related to the evolution of a civilization, it’s people, generational events, and the desire to want better for our offspring. Every generation has had collective experiences as we have aged, and therefore have similar experiences, giving each common group a few common denominators.

It started with the Greatest Generation, otherwise known as the silent generation. They were the work hard generation. Then advanced to the Boomers, and they were the party hard, save the world, me generation. Then the X’ers showed up, and they are the work hard, play hard, latch-key kids. FYI, the guy typing this, epitomized the work hard-play hard aspect! Next up, the Millennials. They are the Echo Boomers, nurtured by a life that has never not been digital.

Millennials garner a lot of press, attention, and complaints, but some earn impressive accolades. We talk a lot about “rockstars” and “thoroughbreds” because that is what we look to attract for our business, and for this generation, they are either a rockstar or a complete dud. And there is no in between. And for all generations, our biggest challenges are understanding what our strengths and weaknesses are given our generational deficiencies, then analyzing how we can break down those differences in norms and values and executing (rather than complaining). This is the only way to “move the needle,” sustain and grow the business, and change lives.

For me, and my recent experiences, there are several basic things for us to understand as we work together, and look to accomplish great things. I don’t want to oversimplify things, but for this post, we have to keep it short.

  1. For us non-millennials, we have to understand that we genuinely suck at COMMUNICATION, and especially if we are male. We expect for anyone to just execute, get the job done, and be happy you are on our team. Millennials find comfort in knowing more. After all, they were born with a tidal wave of information and hand held super computers. They want to know explicitly what is expected of them, they want to know their place in the organization, and they want to know what the future holds for them in detail. They want to be a part of a greater purpose rather than just making money. And in this process, they want a voice. It is really that simple, although very difficult, for non-millennial generations to implement because we didn’t get those things or have the ability to do that when we were entering the workforce.

  2. For millennials, it is simple as well. You have to have PATIENCE. And in that patience, there has to be respect. (Before I continue, let me say that if you have a dud millennial on your team, quit wasting your time and gracefully allow them to fly free from your high flying organization. They don’t like it there anyway.) In my experience, many rockstar millennials are accused of being disrespectful when they do, in fact, have respect. The issues occur because of a lack of patience. Millennials who are working hard to achieve what they want, can often act in a way that seems disrespectful to the non-millennial. The older generation will often think “We would never do that!” and this creates a barrier that is hard to break down. But on the flip side, the millennial is thinking “We would never be that poor of a communicator.”

Point being in all of this… when all of us are sitting at the table, we will have generational differences, and differences in norms and values due to the era we were raised in and the similar events we experienced together in those generations. If we are going to work together, partner, or collaborate, or transition the farm or ranch or business to the next generation, each generation must undertand the strengths, but more importantly, our weaknesses. That way we can minimize those downfalls, and create the desired change, belief, or outcome we envision.

If we can’t do those things, barriers begin to be created and failure begins to seize the situation(s). And that can potentially be the beginning of the end, for whatever it is you are working on or doing. It may be at work, in the boardroom, in a civic organization, at a school, at church, or within your family. Even though all generations have frustrations with each other, we must work tirelessly to achieve our common goals. And for us non-millennials, go out and find those rockstar thoroughbred millennials. They are out there, we have an AMC family full of them! Yes, they frustrate us, but we frustrate them. Millennials, remember, patience and respect the process. For us non-millennials, remember, improve your communication!

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