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Working with people of different ages

Working with people of different ages

Working with Millennials, Boomers, Gen Xers can be challenging. But, not impossible.  Let’s talk about working with people of different ages and building strong teams.
#GenX #millennials #Babyboomer

During the span of my career, I’ve been part of so many meetings I couldn’t begin to tell you how many.
But, I’m noticing something a little different lately. It started just a few weeks ago.

Always the early bird, I was waiting for a community project meeting to begin. Then, I perceived something fascinating about the other professionals entering the room. Each of them – I mean every single one of them – was young enough to be my offspring. I could be their mama!  It was a serious “a-ha” moment.  It prompted me to think: “How do I work effectively with these millennials”.

I didn’t feel any particular way about being the oldest in the room; I didn’t feel good about it nor did I feel bad. It was just one of those “hmmmm” moments that happens at one time or another.  If you read Forbes, Harvard Business Review or any other business site, you know generation-focused articles are all over the place. I guess a lot of people are wondering the same thing I am: how do I make these relationships work?

Multi-generational workplaces aren’t new by any stretch of the imagination; every generation has had to navigate the older and the younger working together.  But there is something distinct about this current dynamic. I think it’s the influx  of technology in the last twenty years. The millennials grew up with tech other generations have to learn. Maybe it’s because people are working longer before retiring. It means the preceding two generations are sticking around way longer than they did in the past. Another factor could be our society’s inclination to “worship” all things youthful.  The “worship” could produce a story of insecurity among the more seasoned workers.  Tension and conflict always follow insecurity.

Each of the afore mentioned can help but impact workplace cultures and how teams interact on a day-to-day basis, right?

Our generations are different…very different …from one another.
More than chronological years separate millennials (folks who became adults in the 2000s) from Gen Xers (born from 1965 to 1976) like me. Our professional ideologies, ways of work and world views tend to be vastly different from one another. We certainly define “appropriate” behavior  differently.

An example is workplace uniforms. I’m old enough to remember when women in the banking profession wore ONLY skirts (yes, skirts), dark suits and enormous shoulder pads (think Golden Girls fashion). The message I received (as a young professional)was women had to look like versions of she-men in order to be taken seriously. Thankfully, those days are gone. However, the residue remains. Many a career was launched with those same professional mores and they can still shape the philosophies of those who grew up with them, right? I can’t tell you how long it took for me to grow accustomed to jeans in the workplace!

Well, today’s young professionals are nothing like their stuff predecessors. Not only do young women embrace their femininity, but some flaunt their sexuality in ways once taboo for the us old folks. Managers are between a rock and a hard place. Conversations of cleavage, tight clothes and short skirts have been the struggle of many a human resources professional. “What to do?” they wonder. How do they set standards of dress without seeming (or being) sexist? Do you think it’s sexist for company’s to require workers to dress without cleavage showing or short skirts?

What about dressing casual? More and more managers yearn for people to arrive at work dressed for work.  A manager for a local school district asked me: “how do we handle folks coming to in extremely casual?” “Do we actually have to write “no pajama bottoms” in the employee handbook these days?” We chuckled, but this is a real conundrum for those supervising some millennials.

Let’s talk work styles.
Clothes are a bit trivial and can be overlooked in the big picture.  Performance is different; it is the chief concern.  Can people get the job done efficiently and effectively? Lying deep inside the answer is the concept of work styles. How do we do our work?

New-School Style
Should work still be done “at work”? Depends who you ask. I know millennials who shun the old-school “chained to the desk” philosophy for more, flexible, nomadic work environments. Be it a coffee shop, a library or even their bed with a laptop in their lap, some swear they get more done away from the office than they do in it. They find being away breeds productivity.

I think they are right – at least the ones I’ve worked with. You never see them physically in the office, but they are “getting it in” as the youngsters say.  They reach goals and get things done!

And there it is. The proof is always in the pudding.

Getting the work done. Millennials seem to do just that. They use fewer resources and tend to work circles around some of us oldsters! I think it’s because they know how to leverage innovation and technology in order to be effective with fewer resources. They may also use technology for interpersonal connections and for many of them it seems to work.

Old-School Style

On the other hand, lots of Boomers (born from 1946 and 1964) tend to work most comfortably at the physical office.  Walking through those doors, smelling the brewing coffee energizes them in some ways.

They also likely believe more is best – more hours at that office, more paper, more meetings, more office supplies, more effort. I will probably anger some, but the Boomers may also be a bit more controlling than millennials. They could possibly still believe good old-fashioned, face-to-face meetings are the best accountability tools.  They may think something isn’t official unless it’s written on a post-it and stuck to their computer monitor.  Their draws may be full of pens, boxes of paperclips and even WhiteOut Ok, scratch the last one. Are you old enough to remember WhiteOut?


working with people of different ages

Working with people of different ages – takes work.


In the end, both generations likely get the job done. They will just approach it and reach it in different ways.

We’ve talked about some workplace characteristics of baby boomers and millennials. Now, let’s “X” things up a bit.

Gen Xers (born from 1965 to 1976) on average tend to be more malleable than the generation preceding them.  I’m an “Xer” so I’ll use my voice. We Xers value the Boomers and their “take no prisoners” work ethic. It’s not foreign to us because they likely trained us.  Still,  we’re close enough in age to the millennials to relate to them as well. Technology doesn’t intimidate us Xers at all; we embrace it. In fact, it had it’s roots with our generation.

Hey, we all want the same thing, right?

All three of us – Millennials, Boomers and Gen Xers ultimately desire to be successful in the workplace. We all want to contribute in meaningful ways. We want to be valued for our contributions. We want to be successful. Indeed, we all want the same things; we just take different routes to get there.

Older workers yearn to be respected for the dues they have paid and the knowledge they have acquired over the years. Part of their definition of respect may be eyeballs on them during interactions so they don’t have to compete with devices.

The younger workers might long for management to trust them to produce good results without micromanagement or constantly questioning. Nothing bug a millennial more than being micromanaged. Sadly, these needs are tricky to communicate, so folks may never discuss them.

That’s were the problem arise.

Perceptions almost always breed misunderstanding. Communication breeds empathy, compassion and acceptance. Until you communicate with someone directly, you have no idea how they feel.

Millennials could perceive Boomers as being rigid and antiquated and doing things all “wrong” while the Boomers may view millennials as flaky, short-cutters trying to circumvent tried and true systems. For the most part, both viewpoints are wrong when attributed the masses. You must talk to one another to see how they view the world. Until then, there will always be an “us” and “them” divide.

As a team-building training consultant, I get frequent requests for trainings to bridge that “great divide” between the generations. That’s a tall order for training. Training is not a cure all. It’s a springboard.  It can launch a team in a new direction, but it is not a band-aid for mis-guided assumptions. When a manager or professional ponders “how do I work with millennials”, training may be the first thought, but isn’t always the most logical first step.

The most logical step is to provide many ways for the generations to connect and talk to one another. It’s all about communication.  Talking is the first step toward understanding.

Communication is not just “talking”. It’s listening and hearing. Click To Tweet

How do I work with millennials …Boomers …any age group?
Communication (facilitates understanding), flexibility (facilitates relationships) and open-mindedness (facilitates acceptance). That’s how you work with people.

Effective communication can stop silly misunderstandings and can [possibly] breed empathy. For example, if I understand what you believe or think, maybe I can better understand your responses and reactions.  Again, it starts with communication. Training can open that door to sharing but, it’s not a ‘one and done’ solution by any stretch of the imagination.

Let me also say communication is not just “talking”. It’s listening and hearing. It’s trying to determine how your words reach my humanity. That requires effort. You burn emotional calories as you work to understand someone else’s experience and point of view. It’s work.

The problem is never about people seeing the world differently than we do. No, the ultimate problem is us being ignorant to how they see and experience it.

As we get older, it’s easy to become unyielding and short-sided, isn’t it? Old people in my life used to call this being “stuck in one’s own ways”. I don’t want to be stuck. I want to expand. Being around different, and even opposing views helps us not be “stuck”. It equips us to be flexible.

Flexibility and open-mindedness keeps us evergreen, growing and relevant. Anything that isn’t growing is…DEAD. Don’t be a deadhead…at least not in this sense of the word.

We all have to keep our boomer, millennial and gen Xer minds open to new ideas and new ways of getting jobs accomplished. This may mean trying things we are not fully convinced will work at the start. Yet, trying them all the same with the best intentions. Remember, there are millions of ways to accomplish tasks efficiently.  Ours may not be the best or most efficient.

Communication. Flexibility. Open-mindedness those are the core values of strong teams. Once those core values are rooted in a group, then, we can focus on team cohesion.

It’s kind of cool to be old enough to see the workforce changing. I enjoy seeing the evolution. But, it also means I have to change with it and work to provide resources that help others do the same. That’s my call. My gift. My challenge.  I’m working on a multi-generational training module now. I hope it serves to get people talking.

What do you think about working with other age groups?

Online Resources

Motivating Millennials Takes More than Flexible Work Policies

7 Ways Millennials Are Changing the Workplace for the Better

Teri C.

Schedule a True Colors to build your team!

It may seem impossible for individuals with different values, strengths, backgrounds and needs to work together as a cohesive team. But, it’s not.

Training Consultants in Kansas City area

The key lies in understanding. Once individuals understand the needs and stressors of others, they can interact in ways that promote team cohesion and empathy.

An effective team gets results and meets goals. That’s what you want. An unproductive team costs you money, energy and even valuable staffers.

Schedule a True Colors Team-building training. This is the all important first step in equipping your team to understand, appreciate and learn how to celebrate what each person brings to the team dynamic.




Teri C.
team building kansas city

Patti LaBelle Leadership Lesson

Life sure can deliver a lesson in the unlikeliest of places.

What I learned about leadership from
Patti LaBelle was totally unexpected.

It’s sort of a sickness. Well, not really, but I tend to see team dynamics everywhere I look – even in my “down” time.  Remember that little boy in that creepy movie who whispered “I see dead people”? Well, thank God, I don’t see the undead, but I am very attuned to team dynamics and am always “observing” them. Recently, my all-time favorite singer, Patti LaBelle, came toKansas City’s Kauffman Center of the Performing Arts  I don’t mind telling you, going was one of the high points of my month…ok…my year!   I was super excited to hear her sing; but I got much more.  Patti LaBelle taught me a few things about leadership that night.

Teri C.
engaging volunteers kansas city training

Engaging volunteers – Kansas City training

Have you attended my Volunteer
Management trainings in Kansas City?

I’ve been offering it for some time and during this training module, I learn just as much as I deliver.

One thing I’ve learned training Kansas City volunteer managers

Teri C.
prepare for online training

Prepare for Online Training

Prepare for online training before the training and things will go much smoother.

I can’t wait to share my training checklist – How to get ready for your training webinar!

I can’t wait to share my online training checklist

What’s better than being trained from the comfort of one’s own office or home? I know what is!  Being the trainer facilitating a training from the comfort of your own office or home! Online training is incredibly convenient (and sometimes) even more efficient

Teri C.
orange manager true colors

The Orange Leadership Style

Let’s talk about the Orange Leadership Style in this post.

Also, if you not sure what in the world I’m talking about with True Colors, click here.

The Orange temperament (#personalitytypes) tends to be flexible, easy-going and naturally open to change. They are rarely bogged down with the struggles of life. Not that they don’t have struggles, it’s just that they choose not to allow the burdens to affect them as deeply as other temperaments might. The phrase “keep it moving” is likely coined by a person of the Orange temperament.

Let’s be clear. The Orange True Colors temperament has feelings.  They may not show them often Andy to everyone (unless their second color is Blue).  Their feelings can be hurt, but they tend to be emotionally resilient and on to the next thing before the “hurt” sets in. Again, they keep it moving.

Teri C.
The Green Leadership Style

The Green Leader

It’s time to chat about the Green Leader

Teri C.
Gold Temperament Manager

A Gold Temperament Manager

Are you ready to learn about the manager with the Gold Temperament? Wait!  If you not sure what in the world I’m talking about with True Colors, click here.

Did you catch my previous blog post about the easy-going, peaceful Blue temperament and it’s implications on leadership? If not, check it out here!

Now, let’s talk Gold.

You have lots of strengths!

If you attended my most recent training in Kansas City, you learned Golds use task lists to manage multiple demands on their time. They like having a good “handle” on their duties and responsibilities and never want to be a slacker.

Is that you? If so, people value your ability to get things accomplished and your many  to-do lists may be a tool you help you get all done.

Teri C.
Team building training consultant in Kansas city

What is True Colors?

Have you wondered: What is True Colors?

Simply put, True Colors is an excellent great take on temperament research.  You’ll find it to be very similar to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), but  It associates color with temperaments.

True Colors consultant in Overland Park, Kansas

Discussing the Green Temperament at a Kansas City True Colors workshop!

I’ll tell you, temperament research has been a HUGE factor in how I build and maintain relationships. It has given terrific insight into others’ needs and taught me how to meet them. Far too often, we enter interpersonal encounters with a “what’s in it for me” mentality. It’s not because we are “bad” people; it has more to do with our primal nature. Have you noticed how children must be taught to share and be considerate of others? It’s because it is primal to think of oneself first. Just because it’s primal, doesn’t mean we should not mature past it.

If they want it to, True Colors(tm) can help people advance past selfish motivations and one-sided conversations. It takes intention and motivation, but if one wants to, this tool can help.

I received my certification in this research years ago. Since then, it’s become part of my life, really. It empowers me to communicate my needs in ways people can receive it. The certification process was intense. It lasted several days. The facilitators were a married couple – both with Ph.Ds.

I like Myers-Briggs, DISC and a few other bodies of data, but True Colors(tm) is my absolute favorite. It is the only module people actually “get” and remember. I can be walking through the grocery store and hear someone say “Hey, I remember you! I’m a Green!!!”

Also, my post-training assessments confirm people love learning about it and are even excited to incorporate the info into other parts of their lives.

While Myers and Briggs and DISC are great tools, I think they are too abstract. To be clear, I’m certified in both.

People cannot associate those other modules with any emotions. We remember and internalize what corresponds to our emotions. Generically speaking, colors, in themselves, are so much a part of our culture and psyche, we even choose certain ones to communicate sentiments (i.e. “true blue”, “good as gold”, etc). and to boost our moods! We respond to colors. It’s difficult to respond to letters or abstract words.

Another benefit to workgroups is the way I facilitate my training modules. I synthesize a variety trainings (of which I am certified) into my True Colors workshops. Fusing data renders a richer, deeper learning experience and a fresh look at temperament research. True Colors(tm) has been around for quite a while; I am happy to add elements to refresh it a bit.

Now is a good time to explain some of the color jargon I typically use on my blog and in my real life.

Blue – When I say “Blue”, I’m referring to the temperament that tends to be warm and relationship-oriented. These people find joy in authenticity, harmony and peaceful environments. Think about it: the color blue is calming; just as an ocean is calming. Blues are reassuring people and usually embrace tranquility.

Gold – Gold people are structured, organized and typically enjoy the “tried and true” elements of life. Gold is a durable earth element and mineral. It lasts and lasts. You can always count on a Gold to finish and complete any projects they take on.

Green – the Green temperament is logical, cognitive and often analytical. Green is the color of life and growth. It represents renewal just as this temperament is always seeking new challenges and fresh ways to innovate.

Orange – these are the fun-seekers (and fun-bringers) of the world. They are often very energetic and enjoy frequent change. Electric. Invigoration. That’s the color Orange. I need not say more.

As I share in my trainings, these descriptions are not boxes in which we all neatly fit. We’re too complex to fit into any boxes! That’s why I select words like “often” and “usually”to describe temperaments in my workshops.

Instead of imposing limitations,  think of True Colors(tm) as an emotional “peep hole”  into the needs, strengths and comfort-levels of others. It helps us socially navigate, respect boundaries and just get along better with others.

Click To Tweet

I love this research and I hope I adequately conveyed my passion for it in this blog post. I tell you, having a clear understanding of these colors help me forge meaningful relationships with people I meet.

Now, you have an idea of what I’m talking about when I reference “colors”. Do you have a favorite temperament research? I’d love to know!

Kansas City Training Consultant


Teri C.
Difference between team-building and team cohesion

Difference between team-building and team cohesion

#teambuilding #teamcohesion #managers

When I’m contracted to facilitate True Colors™ team-building workshops, I often ask the client to explain their goals for the training. This information helps me customize my content to meet their needs.  It also helps me understand their overall expectations of the training.

More often than not, their response to my question is “team-building” or some will say “team cohesion”.

It prompted me to ponder: is there a difference between team building and team cohesion?  The one word answer: YES!

I’ll explain both, but first let’s discuss team-building. We’ll touch on cohesion later.

What is team-building?

Team-building is a process, not an activity. In fact, it’s the systematic process
of unifying a group around a specific goal. Etienne Wenger might describe this goal as a “domain”.

The team-building process guides and propels a group into a place of closeness, mutual understanding and trust. In essence, team-building is like forging healthy relationships. Forging them requires each of the above mentioned. Each minimizes the interpersonal barriers that can impede workplace productivity.

Why bother?

I’m glad you asked! The answer is simple. A team that works well together performs at a higher level of efficiency than one struggling with constant conflict, mistrust and a lot of silly bickering.


Bess needs the report Jeff generates monthly. She emails him to request it. Jeff perceives Bess as a snob and as incredibly bossy. He’s a little “put off” by her cold, stiff email.

“That’s just how she is”, he thinks to himself: “in the break room she’s gets her coffee like she’s on a mission from God and barely returns a cordial ‘Good morning’”. Jeff doesn’t understand her and is not going to let her treat him like some grunt. He closes her email and decides to send the report when he gets good and ready. “I have feelings and I deserve respect”, he thinks.

Meanwhile, Bess sees Jeff as an incessant talker. She may think: People are always at his desk…talking…when they should be working. He’s always smiling and bringing donuts no one asks for. “He’s just doing that to make friends.” Workplace friendships are unprofessional” she thinks to herself. Bess is committed to being productive and marking off as many tasks as she can from her list. “I was hired to do a job, and I’m going to do it”.  Two totally different perspectives.

These two have a productivity barrier and leadership possibly doesn’t even know it. If they do know, they likely have no idea how to fix it anyway. But, if these two attended one of my True Colors workshops in Kansas City, they would discover that Bess is likely a Gold and Jeff is probably a Blue. They would explore the strengths of these contrasted temperaments and likely have a big laugh about how one initially viewed the other.

Wondering what I’m talking about?

What team-building does…

During effective team-building experiences, a group explores the motivations, personalities, weaknesses, values, triggers and needs of other team members. In other words, they learn how to “handle” one another in ways that leverage team strengths and enable everyone to work well together.

That’s why I’m not a big fan of consultants that swoop into workplaces; do a litany of games and label them “team-building”. Adventure activities and games are great to do AFTER you’ve layed a research-based foundation like True Colors(tm).

No, team-building is not static. No team remains at a level of closeness without maintenance. Click To Tweet

I also don’t think team-building is a one and done type activity. Common everyday situations can cause a high functioning team to plummet to a bunch of disconnected strangers. Here are a few ways this can happen:

* new team members arrive and interpersonal dynamics shift

* organizational/departmental changes (i.e. new managers, re-structuring, etc.)

*societal issues that affect the company, community or even the nation (i.e. a company scandal in the news, national catastrophes and even an election year can create divisions).

Depending on the type of organization you are, these scenarios can throw a monkey wrench into your team dynamic.

I especially saw this happen in a youth organization years ago. A newly elected US president created immense tension among a nonprofit team living and working thousands of miles away. The new president’s agenda was education in school settings. With this emphasis on education, youth-serving agencies knew funding streams would be impacted. Tension and worry invaded the nonprofit staff. Colleagues began snapping at one another. Mistrust surfaced as some team members assumed others were preparing to “jump ship”. It was ugly. Imagine that. A team dynamic in the heartland was demolished as a result of a new president in Washington DC.

Note: it’s happening again. This post is several years old!

Anyhoo, if the team dynamic is altered, a new team-building process must start afresh before irreparable damage is done and the team [is] permanently impacted. This needn’t [always] include an outside consultant. You can likely find other ways to build team identity. If not, contact me for technical assistance.

Let’s talk about team cohesion now.

The team-building process explores, unveils and enlightens team members. In it’s best contexts, team-building is the direct result of intentional plans, exercises and/or experiences.

Team-cohesion are the bonds, trust and connection that results from the above mentioned plans, exercises and experiences.

Team cohesion is a “closeness” rooted in understanding and acceptance. It influences interactions, reduces conflicts and cultivates a sense of belonging and a sort of membership to the work group, department or organization. But, here’s the kicker: team cohesion doesn’t last unmanaged. Like a cheap lipstick, it’s temporary. Without regular upkeep, it burns out and fades away.  Team-cohesion requires maintenance.

Click To Tweet

Remember my earlier example about the imaginary coworkersBess and Jeff? Say the same scenario happened, but a week before, they attended my True Colors sessions in Kansas City.

Likely, Bess would customize her email in a way that meets Jeff’s need to relate to his colleagues. She might begin the email with a warm “Good morning” or “Hi Jeff, are you having a good day?” Then, she would make her request.

Similarly, Jeff, knowing Bess’ need to get things done quickly, would interpret her email with a bit more empathy. He may read her original email and think to himself, “Oh boy, she’s ready to cross something from her list and may be a little stressed. I’ll get this report to her quickly so she can mark it off.”

See, a little bit of insight goes a long way.

So, in short:

Team-building – the process of bringing everyone together. (The journey)

Team cohesion – the state of being that enables individuals to feel positively connected to other team members, organizational goals and purposes. (The destination)

Make sense? If so, share!

Teri C.
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