THINKPIECE: The key to building team chemistry begins with bridgingthe generational gap

In a recent book by futurist John Krubski, Who Dances Naked First,

Gets to Lead ... , the author says that we're living in a revolutionary

era in which five generations are coexisting simultaneously for the

first time ever.

While this may be fun at PTA meetings where parents of 7-year-olds range

from 20-something to 50-something, it is increasingly a challenge in

agency life where the values, attitudes and culture of different

generational cohorts need to 'blend.'

Back in the old days, there were perhaps two generational cohorts

working together: 'matures' and 'boomers.' Each had a comfort level with

the chain of command, so life was easy. Seniors gave the orders, juniors


That was then. But today, within the same office, work means very

different things for four generations - Matures: an obligation; Boomers:

an adventure; Xers: a challenge; and GenY: a growth experience.

'Followership' now takes on different forms across generations. Boomers

followed their bosses because they had to; Xers make their bosses earn


It is clear that each of these cohorts has a separate gestalt which,

without some sensitivity training, can impact the effectiveness of the

team. The outcome can be miscommunication and tension - ultimately

leading to an erosion of client trust and new business turndowns.

So how can we all get along, particularly in agency life where account

teams need to communicate with one cultural voice?

- Recognize that the team needs every generation. Welcome and accept

advantages of different skills and viewpoints. Value knowledge -

whichever cohort has it - and match the most appropriate work with the

player who will handle it best and enjoy it the most.

- Empathize. Immerse yourself in the other cohorts' interests or


Xers and GenY appreciate Boomers who know the song Who Let the Dogs Out,

just as Matures and Boomers are fascinated by Xers who know Ruby


- Matures and Boomers should avoid phrases like 'because that is the way

it's always been done.' Try 'would it make sense if' to encourage

cross-generational buy-in.

In an age of the enlightened client, more emphasis is being put on the

'team purchase' versus agency reputation or a creative proposal. So the

seamless integration of generations within the agency can provide

differentiation and success.

Mike Greece (Boomer) and Malkie Bernheim (Xer) are managing director and

VP, respectively, of Padilla Speer Beardsley's New York office. The

article is a co-generational collaboration.

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