27 Feb 2023 | 4 min read
I recently attended a conference where one session covered an overlooked topic. The session was about intentional and healthy succession planning. But this particular session was unique because the speakers were explicitly focused on next-generation succession planning. The speakers discussed intentionally mentoring and raising future leaders from the generation below them. The main idea was that while still in a leadership position, leaders should invest in the empowerment of the next generation with the intention that they will eventually be leading the charge.
We talk a lot about mentorship, encouragement, and resourcing future leaders here at Volunteer U, but today, we want to look at equipping different generations. Longevity and technology have changed the work landscape for those in different age brackets. Some studies claim that there are currently five generations in the workforce, from the Silent Generation to Gen Z. Chances are, you probably deal with individuals from at least three different generations daily. While that may seem overwhelming, there is not as big a difference in coping with generations as we have been led to believe. According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, generational differences may not be as great as most of us imagine. Most people will experience changes in their needs, interests, styles, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses throughout their careers. Embracing generational differences can change how people collaborate and succession plans for the future.
How can leaders have successful generational transitions? Pay attention to the following few paragraphs because whether you are part of the older preparing the younger for leadership, or the younger era looking for insights on how to guide others, this topic applies to you.
Values Bond Generations
You don’t have to look for someone just like you to fill your future position. First off, you will never find that person. And second, the growth of your organization will depend on someone with new skills and traits to successfully help in that growth. So don’t try to create a duplicate of yourself when mentoring a successor. Allow them to fill the position with their own ideas and dreams. Instead, look for individuals who share your values and can carry them into the future using their own unique set of skills and generational language. If you are a part of the younger generation, gravitate to leaders who communicate your ideals and work toward similar goals. Your shared goals will bond you and create a “we” mental framework that will reinforce teamwork and mission completion.
Honor and Empower
According to Gary Brothers, a common theme to creating healthy relationships between older and younger generations is to honor and empower. Older generations can honor and empower the younger by letting them lead. Younger generations can honor and empower the more senior by seeking their advice and wisdom. Together, different ages can work to learn from each other and come up with innovative ways to reach goals. But it starts with recognizing each other’s differences and respecting and celebrating each generation’s unique worth. During times of transition, when your organization is feeling uncertain or fearful of the future, honor and empowerment from the outgoing generation to the incoming leadership are critical to the success of the turnover. Generations must work together to prove that core values will remain the same, even as a new era of leadership is stepping in.
Learn from Each Other
Innovation and creativity are vital to organizational growth and cornering your section of the market. But there is a reason experience is the best teacher. You need both sides of the coin to drive success. So take the time to learn from each other. Younger generations can introduce new technology, imaginative ideas, and daring concepts. While more seasoned veterans can help shape a vision by sharing knowledge, past lessons learned, and keen intuition brought on by years of adventures. Communication between the previous leadership and the incoming is vital during generational transitions. Learn from each other. Don’t repeat past mistakes. Talk things through. Even small details that may seem unimportant might hold the most powerful lessons.
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