Better Day-to-Day Leadership through Facilitated Multi-Generational Team Dialogues

Topics: Law Firms, Leadership, Talent Development

The workplace cultures most desired by sought after talent are mobile, flexible, agile, and engaged. We’re going to see more frequent leadership changes at various levels, role shifts and non-traditional reporting relationships brought on by external forces and internal impatience.

This means the mindsets of future leaders, their training and how teams will operate will differ from today. Get ready!

What You Need to Know About Millennials

While Generation Y/Millennials (same generation, two names) appear confident and sure of their “quick study” abilities, early in their careers they want a precise guidebook for their activities so they won’t fail to be “right.” To generalize, they don’t deal well with ambiguity, as they are accustomed to being given help from parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, and tutors. Because they most often have worked in teams, they are less adept at figuring things out on their own than Boomers and the Gen Xers, who were often left to their own resources, and wonder why the Gen Yers can’t “figure it out for themselves.” We need to rethink how to lead young lawyers and what to expect from them as leaders.

Experience so far yields some observations on how Gen Yers want to be led and will lead when their time comes:

* Gen Yers have high expectations for meaningful work and want to feel passionate about what they do. They have been told that money follows passion.

* Transparency is the most valued attribute of a leader, which includes distributing information so everyone is in the loop and part of the conversation about anything that directly affects them.

* They want opportunity to have impact, encouraging social entrepreneurship and an Internet sense of community.

* They favor a team approach to goal setting, and achievement that must be reinforced by recognition and rewards to everyone who contributes.

* Navigation through career challenges, pace and progress and work/life flexibility needs to be facilitated through honest conversations.

The above description is far different from command-and-control style leadership and authority based on longevity or seniority, neither of which Gen Y believes in. Practice groups and work teams need to shift their operational models to adjust to today’s multigenerational teams.

Facilitated Dialogues Are Crucial

Facilitated dialogues within work teams are the key solution to achieving change and harmony among the different generations. That is where close and effective bonds can be established and nurtured to eliminate generational disconnects and change debilitating business models. It can establish buy-in from resisters who can stall or scuttle progress and engagement.

How facilitated dialogue in work teams can foster stronger multi-generational teamwork and increase productivity:

* All generations and levels are part of the conversation and are heard. For each new project a facilitator establishes a non-threatening environment for cross-generational conversation.

* Through dialogue, roles can be customized with working arrangements that are perceived as fair to work for each team member.

* Leaders must be clear about quality of work and deadlines and consider alternative ways to get desired results.

* Understanding of differences and benefits of diversity of styles mitigates resentments and fosters empathy and cooperation.

* Using assessment tools for identifying personal behavioral style, group culture, work expectations and learning style enables better understanding of self and teammates and reduces stereotypical thinking.

* Meeting of the minds requires some compromise on all sides.

“What’s in it for me” from the individuals standpoint? To be associated with a team that demonstrates better results, reinforced by recognition.

Facilitators should incorporate a combination of behavioral style and business development expertise as well as knowledge of generational attributes and their implications into the conversations. These dialogues are the most effective way to bring inclusiveness and change to increasingly obsolete business models and engage the multigenerational workforce.