I recently had a rather interesting discussion with Maria Ghaderi, a young and very successful network marketer. We got to talking about generational differences, and I asked her to give me her take on the way baby boomers interact in business with the younger generations. What she told me was eye opening and a great lesson to us older folks.
She started out by saying that it was a mixed bag. In some ways she’d been very grateful to have come into her business under the wing of baby boomers. On the other hand, there was a downside to working with older network marketers.
On the positive end, as a younger person joining a network marketing team on which there were many older people, she was able to grow and mature more quickly. While younger people are constantly exposed to their seniors, it’s rare for them to be in environments where they’re treated as peers. Usually, if you’re a young person among older people, you experience condescension. But among her network marketing community, she was respected as a fellow adult, and as such, rose to that image.
Being among her baby boomer colleagues, she was forced to stretch herself; to ask more of herself than she ever had or ever would have if she’d remained solely in the fold of her fellow Gen Y peers. In fact, she told me, this is why when you meet Gen Y network marketers, they seem so much more articulate and mature than those not involved in our profession.
On the not-so- great end of the spectrum, she felt that baby boomers often lack an understanding of the strengths that their younger cohorts bring to the table. They may be slow to accept change and might even stand in the way of progress driven by the unique perspective and skill sets the Gen Y distributors possess.
As leaders, baby boomers often have a difficult time understanding the more animated emotional swings of their younger cohorts. And they could definitely take a page out of the Gen Y playbook in terms of persistence.
As a leader, Maria had begun to notice a trend among the newer recruits on her team who were members of the baby boomer generation. They were less focused. They gave up more quickly when they hit a wall. They expected to progress more quickly, and when they didn’t, they started to lose interest in what they were doing. Conversely, the Gen Y recruits would bury themselves in a project until it was done. For example, she herself wanted to develop a website. In order to do that, she literally spent weeks learning the basics all the way back to HTML coding. Her experience was that baby boomers seldom have the stamina for a new task of that sort.
She also felt that baby boomers were far less coachable. They’d get an idea in their heads about what or how they were doing, and very little would shake them from it.
She’s found it difficult to keep baby boomers focused and motivated, while her Gen Y teams were much quicker to shake it off and get back up after a breakdown.
Is hers an accurate portrayal? Who knows? Certainly, baby boomers often criticize Gen Y people for some of the exact same reasons. Many boomers think younger people are flighty, that they give up too easily, and that they’ve got to be coddled and cajoled into staying with something to the very end. So, how is it possible that this young woman saw that very behavior in us boomers?
First, there’s the likelihood that each of us has all the positive and negative traits we attribute to the other, and it’s just a question of how we’re directed as to which of those traits show up. As a younger person, this woman was much more likely to have an inherent sense of how to motivate younger people, hence she’d see them as more coachable. Perhaps, as an older person, you might be less coachable when your coach is younger, and you secretly sense that you know better. So, many of the impressions being formed by each generation are clouded by preexisting beliefs. After all, when you were younger, what did YOU think about “the older generation?” Were they stodgy, stuck in their ways, unwilling to change? Were you driven, open minded, focused, and creative?
When we compare ourselves to those who came before us and after us, we’re always apt to see ourselves as right and the other as too far out of balance; after all, we’re obviously the yardstick of what’s correct… right? 🙂
Here are some takeaways from this conundrum for all you baby boomers out there…
Be Humble… you don’t really know that you’re right and they’re wrong. It only seems that way because that’s how humans are wired. So, open to the possibility that your viewpoint is skewed.
Be Realistic… you’ve probably gotten complacent. You’re so used to being the one who knows that it may be hard to admit you’re a beginner once again.
Be Respectful… your younger cohorts deserve that…even your admiration. They absolutely know things you don’t. Regardless of your current attitude, it never hurts to check yourself.
Be Excited… if there’s any truth to the assessment that we give up too easily, let’s learn from that and practice maintaining our enthusiasm. After all, isn’t that why you’re in this business?
Be Curious… you’re in a rare situation. You have younger people above you and below you. Why not learn what they have to give and let their special talents influence you.
Be a Leader… your humility and respect shouldn’t displace your earned right to be an example to others. Show up as the best version of yourself and be a model worthy of imitation.
Finally, Be LOVING… you were once the misunderstood generation. Remember that feeling? Not pleasant. Be a source of love, respect, admiration, and guidance to those younger than you…and let your love for their passion, their essence, and their positive intention supersede any judgments you may have. In that way, you’ll bring out the best in them…and they may just bring out the best in you!
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