Bridge the Generation Gap on Your Project Team

Bridge the Generation Gap on Your Project Team Cover
Inga Davids

July 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

Find the value locked inside individual diversity to bridge the generation gap on your project team, and crack open a new-level of performance potential.

Millennials were born sometime between 1980 and 2000 (roughly), spanning an age range from those in their early twenties to those in their mid-thirties, yet why does this generation tag seem to only conjure images of a young hipster twenty-something, who’s highly-caffeinated, with an unquenchable career thirst?

Seldom does the term millennial bring to mind the group of over-the-hump of thirty – the experienced analysts, the thought leaders, those who’ve been managing teams and those on their way to the C-Suite.

When talking things through with my peers, and shedding some light that they too are millennials, of course, many are shocked that I’ve lumped them in with this ambitious and unapologetic generation. Most are quick to retort, “What, me, a millennial?!”. And it’s okay if they don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling when dubbed one.

Why the sub-divide within the millennial generation?

Because many millennials already reaching the senior or principal business analyst milestones are not always able to identify with their younger millennial counterparts, who are still figuring out the professional landscape and leaping between jobs.

Let’s paint the scene.

Imagine a fresh-faced graduate working alongside a thirty-something business analyst on the same project. These millennials, who are working together, for the same employer, arguably host very different perspectives and expectations of the workplace. There are profound differences in the world a thirty-something was raised in, in comparison to the world of a fresh-young graduate.

But, are these nuances a bad thing?

And, how can we benefit from our differences?

As it is, working in teams can be challenging without adding inter-generational stereotypes to the mix, which may create an unfair bias and lead to underperforming, disengaged and disgruntled team members.

Here are a few pointers to avoid heading down that slippery slope:

(In fact, here are a few pointers to simply help teams get along, together …)

Suspend judgement

Consider one another.

Depending where you find yourself in your career journey, there are stereotypical characteristics that individuals tend to display. A well-known stereotype is that graduates tend to fearlessly express opinion, unlike their more grounded senior peers who are more rational when it comes to matters of conflict. And I’m sure we all know how misleading and incorrect stereotypes can be.

As business analysts we are taught to assume nothing and to suspend judgement, and never to be too quick to jump into solution mode. Business analysts really shine when they’re able to remove the fog, myths and misconceptions surrounding a business problem and create a truly shared understanding with a room full of misaligned stakeholders.

The principles of stakeholder management can be applied in our approach to understand the similarities and differences that exist between team members.

It’s important to recognise team members as individuals. To never assume that you understand exactly how somebody thinks or behaves based on their age, background or experience. If you fall into the trap you’re likely to isolate yourself.

Seek dialogue

Build professional foundations.

Business analysts are primed to build relationships quickly. We are dropped into situations where our stellar skills of transparency, active listening and building rapport are mobilised to elicit fruitful findings. Sometimes easier said than done, but once we’ve broken down barriers and formed trusting relationships we all know that satisfying feeling of having connected with someone.

Through these experiences we come to learn that by fostering relationships we’re better equipped to relay concepts, harness participation and produce effective results. Each and every individual has something to offer and contribute towards successful team dynamics.

Break down generational barriers by creating a space where team members are encouraged to participate in conversations, brainstorming sessions and meetings.

When team members feel confident that their ideas will be heard, these shared perspectives, insights and learnings can be exploited to produce high-performing results. Miss this and you’ll miss mobilising a high-performance team.

Share learning

Embrace collective capability.

Business analysts are naturally curious. We’re interested in the wider picture of people’s views and reasoning – in knowing what they see – and this curiosity transpires into team dynamics. This willingness to ask questions, share experiences and see differing perspectives enables teams to resolve disparity and create innovative solutions – in a world that is calling for big ideas.

While senior millennial business analysts may be able to offer sound career development advice, more junior counterparts are able to shed new insight into the nuances of the modern customer mind-set, the trends of technology behaviour or social side of engagement channels.

No matter where team members are located along the experience spectrum, each and every team member has considerable value to contribute.

For growth it’s necessary to create an environment where team members share knowledge and experience in a nurturing environment for the benefit of the team as a whole. Without a sturdy viewpoint any picture will be sketchy.

Let’s be realistic, not everyone fits the mould of the stereotyped millennial.

And the differences serve as a great opportunity for us to expand our perspectives as individuals and, undoubtedly, impact our team dynamics in a positive way – the key is to guard against our assumptions, be open to dialogue and have an eagerness to learn.