Phyllis Weiss Haserot, Biz Dev Strategist, Speaker, Facilitator
Phyllis Weiss Haserot (Haz-er-o), is the foremost workplace multi-generational expert speaking with a cross-generational voice. A “uniter,” she brings the power of cross-generational conversation and collaboration to solve the urgent problems and nuances of attracting and retaining clients and employees of different generations, effective multigenerational teams, knowledge transfer and succession planning. Her newest book on generational challenges is “You Can’t Google it! The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work.”
President of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consultancy, Phyllis is a speaker and blogger on intergenerational relations issues for Forbes.com, Next Avenue, Legal Executive Institute, IRIS.xyz, LinkedIn Pulse and others.
Dubbed the “cross-generational voice,” Phyllis works with organization leadership and multi-generational teams focused on both external and internal stakeholder relationships.
AUTOMATED EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
[00:00:01] You're listening to Scaling Up Services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
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[00:00:57] Welcome everyone. This is Scaling Up Services. I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host and our guest today is Phyllis Weiss Haserot and she is a cross generational voice within organizational leadership and multigenerational teams. She is president of Practice Development Counsel. She's also author of You can't Google it the compelling case for cross generational conversations at work so we're going to talk a little bit about multigenerational workplaces. We're going to talk about the effects of having multi generations in the workplace working together incredibly important for service based businesses. I'm excited for the conversation with that. Phyllis welcome to the program.
[00:01:32] Thank you Bruce.
[00:01:36] Yeah. So why don't we start with a little bit of background on you and how you got to be an expert a voice for multigenerational workplaces and the investigation of that. What was the background that led you to this path.
[00:01:49] Well I can't tell this in 25 words or less but let me put it this way.
[00:01:54] I practice development counsel, which means marketing advice from the days long ago when I started the firm and it was considered with professional services to be unethical unprofessional and you know and illegal actually to do any marketing business development advertising any of that. But anyway so that's that's where the name comes from. Does it sound like like a cross generational conversation but did so I was working in business development and marketing and I realized early on that why organizations of all kinds. Were not were effective then there were was how people interacted or didn't often didn't know. So I got involved in organizational effectiveness and in about 1997 realizing that the younger people were not getting the attention they needed from the senior people cuts of senior people were too busy. I started doing next generation programs which were first focused on business development new marketing and then everybody takes their brings themselves in their baggage tour and so we know get into that and I started being the intermediary between senior management and everyone else who wasn't always getting the expectations that said senior management had which I assumed that they were talking to each other but they thought they were articulating their expectations a little better. And so we started doing that. And I just got fascinated with everything generational. The other thing is it took me until a few years ago to realize what is the connection with my graduate work and first incarnation as I said I'm a master's in urban planning and it was because I did a lot of demographics work. And so the interesting connection there that I've always been fascinated with the pattern's and how things are connected and being a trend watcher and as I say now a uniter.
[00:04:18] So interesting I know my background is actually in architecture so similar kind of discipline and I always said at the you know as a business coach as someone who helped solve kind of organizational design problems it's it's a similar kind of problem solving thinking.
[00:04:34] So I can relate to the to the parallels.
[00:04:37] I was educated with a lot of architects and engineers. Glad I never did any of that or where I had to as a government major undergraduate but I my my end just was on the people's side window education housing all of the mature people oriented tenants.
[00:05:01] So let's let's step back and just kind of define generation for a little bit. And I think that's. But you know part of the challenge in this or at least part of part of understanding the complexity is understanding what do we mean by generation what defines a generation. What defines the differences between generations. So give us your kind of take or the way that you. Kind of see this kind of generation definition and now it feeds into the work that you're doing.
[00:05:27] Well I'm so glad you asked that. Because people are fixated on birth years and that's really not the definition although it's kind of a crutch. We have to have some idea about approximately equal people are they shouldn't be rigid about that. Generations are really defined by the formative influences that people have when they're growing up and one in particular ages. Probably more high school and college age than toddlers but still people had those experiences so what were the common things that were going on economically politically socially culturally. And that's what brings people together in terms of each generation. But there are other things that are also very strong influence. So you can have people who have the exact same birthday but they were brought up in different geographic areas or from a very religious family or very conservative family or more progressive. And that has a lot of influence but the things that we look to in defining the generations and the people who tend to make these definitions look to what were these formative influences that people have in common.
[00:07:02] Yeah I guess that makes sense. It's not not so much the deeds themselves but rather that the things that occurred around them that kind of gave them values or gave them perspectives or priorities or the ways of kind of seeing the world. So let's let's take one example of a generation and what factors kind of go into forming that generation's makeup and then now we can kind of go through the generations that are in play today so to pick any water pick one that that is good illustration and then we'll kind of deeper look we'll talk more generally about the different generations.
[00:07:32] Well to start with I guess the oldest dad are in the work place now.
[00:07:40] I mean there are older the traditional two are older than the boomers but there are there are fewer of those.
[00:07:50] And so the boomers came in in a time that was pretty optimistic and so they tended to be much more optimistic than for instance the Gen Xers were or at least the older end of those who came into the workplace pretty bad recession not as bad as the latest one but pretty bad. And and so they had more trouble getting jobs and there were a lot of them overqualified for the jobs that they that they got. It took a while. And in fact the extras were known as slackers entrance entry older ones. And then they became very hard work. And I'm actually focusing on them a lot now because I think that they are neglected and much to the detriment of work.
[00:08:44] This is not only that advertisers media everything is boomers or else. And I.
[00:08:52] Am very much as I say a uniter.
[00:08:55] I'm all about cross generational conversation and I don't think that we should be focusing on any one but dead each of them need to understand the others to be able to attract and retain clients and employers and donors and alumni ever and to have more effective work teams and to figure out how they do their succession planning and their knowledge transfer and instead of getting silent. Yes.
[00:09:28] So I mean if a woman does this thing the boomers are what. What were the factors or what were the world of and same things that impacted boomers that gave them their optimism was Do you know the war was over.
[00:09:43] World War 2 which influenced their parents an awful lot. And we had so many changes in the 60s which were you know really pretty dramatic and they were very much influenced by the Beatles.
[00:10:00] You know they were just culturally a very important thing there and coming into the workplace they accepted in a way though what the traditionalists in their more conservative ways we always did things like that. But there were more a lot of.
[00:10:21] At least in the other part were rebels or going to change things. But they all going to changed things from the inside you know whereas the millennials tended because and actually most of them have parents. But you know who taught them the question and to speak up and all of that. And so it was a different kind of thing. They came in hell bent for changing how the workplace was going to begin. From day one and impatient about doing that got it.
[00:10:58] So says boomers you know that that kind of post-World War. Lots of change going on generally strong economy. I believe their attitudes and their opinions and their view of the future.
[00:11:11] Why don't we walk through.
[00:11:12] I just wanted to say one more thing. Because there are so many of them. You know I was a baby boomer I became very competitive and they became workaholics and more and more competitive especially the younger half. So that was a big influence too in how things were changing at work and how compensation systems changed and how old they were being evaluated and their performance.
[00:11:44] That's interesting I hadn't thought of that that you know that the sheer size of that that generation credit that kind of competitiveness within within a generation in terms of getting businesses around it like getting promotions and advancement at work and professional opportunity is that people are really fighting for those opportunities.
[00:11:59] Yeah. So let's let's walk through that sort of the generations that are at play right now the traditionalists are mostly phased out. We're saying at this point baby boomers kind of are the older generation that's in the workforce currently. What are that. Let's walk through the generations what's after that.
[00:12:15] So then the next gen Xers which is a much smaller generation. If you look at the numbers I mean it's been changing from the ones that I generally use because there are more retiring and dying coming older around and more coming in on the younger end especially since you have a lot of immigrants and the younger and the young and but the Gen Xers were you know just for a relative kind of numbers maybe about 44 million and you and the boomers were like 77 to 78 million.
[00:12:54] And the same thing with millennials also wants the same size as as the boomers although they're probably more now because there are more of them in the workplace and boomers leaving although not baby boomers are not leaving fast for the first time we thought they were going to leave.
[00:13:15] That's no I mean that's the thing is they it's it's a generation of boomers are much better fit and healthier there and and we're always looking to to grow and learn.
[00:13:32] It's still in general seeking realisations of course that you know wanting to to do more and more and a very large percentage of them don't want to be going anywhere.
[00:13:44] But I think when I talk about this you can't Google it. One of the chapters is called Transition fluidity and what dad is about is succession and how that happens and the competition or when sometimes resentment from the Gen Xers who want to jump into the shoes of the boomers and have this sort of Prince Charles syndrome of when is going to be my time.
[00:14:23] You know I mean you can understand it from near their point of view.
[00:14:27] And my personal view is that anybody who is productive should be allowed to work. But you can't be in charge forever. And so we have to come up with role shifts for people that are still respected. You know not feeling like a demotion or or that others will regard it as is a demotion, but that they're something that they can still do feel like they're contributing and being an important part of the workplace as long as they're productive.
[00:15:02] It's interesting that that I would tend to agree.
[00:15:05] I think we we work under this kind of assumption or this model that you can start at the bottom of the ladder and you work your way up and you you work hard and you get promotions you kind of rise into more senior management or executive level positions and then you retire and you're out.
[00:15:19] It's like there's this kind of. Ever ever increasing or ever increasing kind of leadership role.
[00:15:26] And it sounds like what what you're suggesting or kind of contemplating here is maybe maybe this doesn't need to be a you know it's up up up in and out.
[00:15:34] It's you know you reach a pinnacle of leadership but you're still involved in the company post post your your high point of leadership role and you're contributing in other ways that isn't there right now.
[00:15:44] And so it's sort of figuring out how to create that. It's a company is it's probably hard. I certainly imagine it's it's hard.
[00:15:51] Yeah I mean there are things you know that people who are looked upon as elder statesmen can do and contribute when we need people passing on knowledge. So people who can be good managers who can train their people. And so you know that one thing people who are good at developing business bringing in new clients and customers meaning you don't want to lose those relationships when you force people out or at least make them feel like they're lesser than they than they were.
[00:16:31] You can lose very very important business relationships the grass. So very often you know things when competitive for a long time and then from one company to another they're all going after each other's clients and customers. And if the key relationship person leaves voluntarily or involuntarily you know it's like open season. Very often the customers and clients. So you don't want to lose those relationships it's not only the knowledge you can put on your computer that kind of knowledge management.
[00:17:14] To Baby Boomers Gen X. What's next. What is the next phase.
[00:17:18] So then we have the millennials and they are actually many of them are impatient to leap frog. They're the Gen Xers. They're very very very impatient to get frequent promotions. They don't realize because nobody tells them very often how you know what it's like to enter the workplace and so much of what.
[00:17:48] What are the what were the generational kind of factors or influences think things that happened when those folks were going through you know grade school middle school grad school that it formulated who they are formulated this kind of dynamic that they have.
[00:18:06] Well it started there and it happens more more and more as it's in their formative years and probably a little older than the ones you mentioned.
[00:18:16] What happens any time and do it again it was an optimistic time before we had the big recession.
[00:18:25] And parents are much more involved with their children. And you know this this whole thing I mean everybody was not a helicopter parent. I am a millennial and we were not helicopter parents. I believe in people being self-sufficient.
[00:18:46] But there was so much support from parents teachers mentors coaches and the whole thing and actually started from you know what were what were their parenting books that parents were reading. Oh interesting. There was a lot of that which was very different from the boomers parents. You know it went from Dr. Spock to to Gary days or 10 other other ones.
[00:19:19] Yeah that's probably a fascinating study in there on defining finding generations by what books their parents were reading around parenting yeah or what to do.
[00:19:29] And then you know and and again it's really important to say we don't want to be stereotyping some people you know there are socioeconomic differences where people went to school they can you know that those kinds of conditions. So everybody didn't have that kind of support that you know that I was talking about. But there was there was a lot of it. And the way teaching went. Also a lot of teamwork for them. When Millennials were in school even in the lower grades much more than previous generations had had. So they expect to be working in teams.
[00:20:13] And there is less autonomy and independent thinking in that generation.
[00:20:20] A lot of millennials when they have a problem to solve whether they watch an intermission they just put it out to their you know their social media and get all their friends and connection.
[00:20:36] It helps them come up with an answer. And that was not true of the Gen Xers. It's not true actually of Gen Zia's so much. Who are the young ones and millennials. These are the ones that are just in college and graduating now and younger.
[00:20:58] And of course the older ones and they are more independent minded like doing things on your own solving their own problems. They are probably much more entrepreneurial in general. They started even in grade school. Signed them inventing apps that would solve some problem not because they thought they were going to be the next more talked about but that they had some problem and they were so used to using technology that they could do this. Yeah so that's a different thing. And it probably was if there were you know independent minded and like doing things that way because their parents were Gen Xers who were more like that. So it's a big influence. See your parents are what they're what they were like.
[00:21:53] This is a good overview of the different generations and kind of what drives them or what influences them or kind of the values that they have. So from an employer perspective if I'm a leader and a service based company why is it important to know this or how does this impact the performance of my team's the performance of my company. How we manage people like how do I use this information.
[00:22:14] One of the things that has to be done is you know we make observations and there are a lot of observations that have been made we'll use the example of the millennials.
[00:22:27] Ok now they're criticized sometimes for going around the office and having earbuds in there their years and people feeling like other generations that they're they're not really paying attention to them when they're talking. Why are they doing this. Well but they don't ask why and what the implications. A lot of the environments that had been re created are these open space in a work environment.
[00:23:03] It's very distracting. Some people are walking around trying not to have to listen to other people's conversations and trying to fuck you know and another they're saying about how people are dressing and and punctuality. Think about it. People come out of college they went to college and if you didn't have early classes you could come in whenever you wanted to. Yeah but he told them that when you enter the workplace there are certain hours and people care about that and they care about face time. You know for for some things but how much.
[00:23:46] So how much of that is how much of that is just someone who has not been in the workforce yet versus a real generational thing.
[00:23:53] Sarah is there something about the generational difference in terms of your sense of time or punctuality and things like that or is this just you know people that are just entering Have you don't have yet to learn those things.
[00:24:04] I mean it's sort of a combination because I said it's what has your life been like up to that you've learned some habits and if the employer I mean I think whether the employer likes it or not they have more of an obligation to train people and to expand the kind of orientation that's always been done. It's not just filling out papers and where you're going to find supplies and all that kind of thing but but to know what are the expectations and to have conversations right upfront.
[00:24:41] And I think bringing in people of all levels and generations to talk about these things together you know why why are things like this. What are our obligations to our clients and our customers. Even if you shake it you're given a mundane job to begin with and you think you're very smart and you know are impatient to to get to the challenges right away that maybe you really need to know more. The senior people aren't going to do some of those things that they've done already. And it is important to your end customer and you know even if it's an internal client that you give them what they need and they will we go. That is important. So you need to to to learn and get good at certain things and understand how and why they are they are done for them.
[00:25:47] So if I'm thinking about my organization or my department or my team even or should I be trying to kind of keep generations separate and working together should be trying to mix generations within my kind of teams in my department my wits I guess what.
[00:26:02] How does this impact my strategy for how I structure my organization or how I staff my organization.
[00:26:09] I think that silo ing the generations is a really bad thing. It's a day that they need to work together. I mean you know there's so many studies have been done about how important diversity is and generational or age diversity is one of them and in fact it's the universal cause everyone has an edge. I call it the missing piece because so much focus on diversity is on gender and and ethnic and race and so forth. And those things are very important but generational attitudes really inform and influence attitudes about attitudes and behaviors about all of the other diversity factors so it should. It should definitely be considered and people need to learn about it but you need to have people who can do the things that need to be done and that can relate to your customers and clients of other generation. What the problems in professional service firms is that you have people with this strong client relationships who are decades older than a lot of the new clients in new industries that they're not as familiar with and not necessarily as comfortable with each other. So you have to have layers of this and you have to let people voice not only their their opinions but their ideas. That doesn't mean that younger people expect to get whatever they're bringing up and demanding but they do want to have a voice and sometimes they really do have either better ideas or emerge from no direct familiarity with the marketplace because they have friends and contacts who are in new industries that you know some of the older generations and the people who were higher up in the organization may really not have.
[00:28:18] So you need You need to have them all and have them working together. And that's why as I said I'm all about cross generational conversation. What I love doing these is workshops and cross generational conversation days.
[00:28:37] And the interesting thing about it is that as soon as people are asked to get into a small mixed group of mixed by age as patients and discuss issues or ideas and that they're given they just plunge right in and enjoy what we have become so divisive in so many ways whether it's political or or just this separation you know it didn't used to be that way decades and decades.
[00:29:13] And is that is that the strategy I mean I mean you know so say I do that say I get a good generational mix in my team or my department if I if I start having what I think is or I perceive as intergenerational conflict or inner intergenerational friction How do I address it.
[00:29:32] Like what's the approach to you know working out some of this stuff as it comes up and inside my company.
[00:29:38] I mean you have to get people talking about it instead of backing off retreating into tribes you know getting angry. You know sometimes it does really take a person with mediation skills and although that drives on fancy meeting I went back years later and got those that training. But you know ask them why you know what what is this what don't they understand. Ask them to ask the other person why they think or do things a certain way and talk.
[00:30:19] It out and it can. It can be done but it takes time. There's no doubt. But you're much better off when you get people to come to common understandings even though you may not persuade another person entirely. I mean. And some people are just going to do again. But most of the time if people have an understanding they may say hey well OK that makes sense I understand where you're coming from.
[00:30:50] How can we work this out obscures if there's any case where that either it's not solvable or solving it as more more effort than it's worth.
[00:30:59] I mean can you think of any any scenario inside of a company in terms of how you're structuring organized things where you sort of intentionally having a lot of cross generational mix is maybe not a good idea or not as effective.
[00:31:09] Well you know it depends what your objectives are.
[00:31:13] Many studies have shown that more diverse teams are more creative and innovative. And so that's a good objective, but you also want to have a cultural fit and that may not be generational, but people their values and their vision for things but you don't want to have everybody seeing things the same way. I mean I don't think you're going to have so much progress but sometimes when you have to do things fast you have to get people who are used to working together and maybe they have been years doing that. But it shouldn't be that way all the time.
[00:32:01] And if somebody you know it may really be a personality conflict that has nothing to do with their generation on their age and some people can't work together and you're going to have to figure out a way to remove one of the people replace them with someone else.
[00:32:23] But that's a good.
[00:32:25] Yeah I think that's a good point and I think that I certainly have seen it where I think I think it's not uncommon for people to kind of use generational differences as an excuse or as a as a way to kind of sweep a bunch of things under the rug which are really more situational and personality. They tend to sort of overgeneralize as well they're just it's that generation. And it really has very little to a generation has much more to do with the individuals the specific individuals more than their interpersonal dynamics.
[00:32:54] That's right. That's right. Everybody is an individual. And the more that we put them into boxes the work you know the more detrimental it is because people want to be looked upon as individuals. They don't feel like they're a class good.
[00:33:14] Phyllis this has been a pleasure. We're going to hit time here. If people want to find out more about you about the book about the work that you do. What's the best place to get that information.
[00:33:23] Well you can go to my Web site. You can't Google it dot com.
[00:33:30] You can google that. But this site is you can't go.
[00:33:35] You can't google 10 essential traits and skills for a work that we talk about in there. From those through lenses of five different generations but that's Dad I'm living in.
[00:33:53] I mean my name on Twitter is Phyllis W. has a row at Phyllis W. has a row and I have a cross generational conversation group on LinkedIn very active there and I do want to do two things.
[00:34:12] I offer a challenge to your listeners and also some free offers. Sure. So the challenge is as we was talking about all this cross generational conversation to develop comfort with cross generational conversation. Select three of your colleagues or teammates or clients of different generations reach out to them with curiosity which is one of those ten essential skills I think we need to strengthen our curiosity muscles to get to know them better and move the needle in your relationship. Just try it just see where it goes because what I've found is people are very happy when they actually reach out and I am a free offer for anyone who is listening it's a free chapter from. You can't Google it which you can find on you can find the book on Amazon or your favorite bookstore in print or e-book. And so you can just go to you can google at dot com and you will find the free. Offer and there are a couple of others on there as well.
[00:35:24] Excellent. I will make sure that all those links are in the show notes so people can click through and get all of that. Phyllis again it was a pleasure. Thank you for taking time for me today. I think. Great conversation I think is a really important topic that we don't talk about enough in all companies but certainly service based companies where we've got a lot of people that Alex. I think this was really helpful.
[00:35:42] Let's just say one more thing.
[00:35:44] I love getting questions and stories so if anybody want to contact me directly email@example.com and I would love to hear from you.
[00:35:57] Great. I'll make sure that your email address is in the show notes as well. Thank you so much for taking the time today.
[00:36:03] Thank you for inviting me. I love it.
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