January Online Exclusive: Bridging the Gap: Part III

The changing roles of leadership and HR to move from the cultural divide to cultural co-existence


In Part I (http://bit.ly/yWuVDW) of this exclusive three-part on-line series, we looked at why the intergeneration gap is widening and how the cultural characteristics/process side of the house drives success. In Part II (http://bit.ly/uiDvwT) we focused on the people who live with intergenerational tension everyday—young leaders and their experienced counterparts. Both generations bring their strengths & weakness but the key for healthy co-existence is that both young and experienced leaders can leverage this generational gap to develop skills for future success. Now, in this concluding part of the series, we talk about the role HR plays as a change agent and arbiter, senior leadership’s challenge and required commitment to change.  

One may ask the question, how do you know there is a telltale sign of negative conflict one that drags the organization down? Here are 10 questions that can help you find out if your intergenerational gap in Supply Chain producing the right results.

  • Does your ideation process ideas with a certain bent—technology/process/people?
  • Does your organization produce enough workable ideas? Is the enthusiasm and excitement in the organization palpable?
  • Are the ideas generated not well thought through and always subject to excessive rework? Does the time to go from idea to market take exceeding long?
  • Are there frequent start and stops to work, miscommunication, misunderstandings, time spent on unproductive work?
  • Are there clear and visible signs of lack of trust and collaboration within the group? Do the young leader and experienced professional have trouble aligning on any issue?
  • Is there difficulty retaining talent for reasons beyond impatience, promotions and clear career paths?
  • Is there is enough diversity in the group in terms of education, experience and exposure—not just cultural and ethnic diversity?
  • Are people with certain characteristics, background or functional expertise promoted, delaying intergenerational gaps?
  • Are people able to demonstrate & practice candidness during dialogue or group settings, share ideas and thoughts and work with respect/trust?
  • Did the organization relook at incentives, roles, reward/recognitions and measures to foster intergenerational cultural co-existence?

The role of the boss

The role of a boss is just as critical as the role of the young leader or the experienced leader. The boss must ensure that:

  1. He/She practices being a true leader, who demonstrates “walk the talk” style behavior, is fair but tough, and embraces and practices diversity of thoughts and generations. She manages the team effectively by creating stretch goals and setting clear direction/accountability.
  2. He/She performs the duties of a motivator by understanding his players intimately and investing personal time to explore his team’s soft side. He employs a differentiated strategy to motivate his team to work collaboratively and measures them on their effectiveness to deliver results together.
  3. He/She has the ability to be an impactful influencer, a key teachable skill that is important for a boss to practice diligently if he/she wants the team to learn and develop. Influencing and being influenced fosters teamwork spirit and putting team goals ahead of personal goals, think win-win.
  4. He/She serves as an exemplar and role model of ethics, trust and respect, and fosters collaboration with his peers and subordinates. He leads conversation with poise, being non-partisan to any generation and demonstrates the behavior that he wants his team to practice.
  5. He/She plays the role of arbiter, decides fairly and justly in matters of disagreement between the two generations. She practices effective listening, uses Socratic style questioning and effectively blends subjectivity and objectivity to play the role of a peacemaker bridging the gap between two generations.
  6. He/She should play the role of an advisor who uses real-life scenarios to create teachable POV. Boss should provide coaching and guidance, share ideas, and provide feedback and share information on “unwritten rules for success” enhancing his team’s personal development and career growth.
  7. He/She must serves as a key facilitator who effectively orchestrates and organizes cultural setup, building the right mix of expertise, education and experiences to foster diversity. He also facilitates key dialogue with his constituents to understand what is working and creates activities/tasks which forces collaboration.
  8. He/She should assume the role of mentor when appropriate, playing devil's advocate to help his team think through important decisions and strategies. Expand team’s network of contacts increasing their ability to drive change. Create support and resources based on the team members unique development needs.
  9. He/She should exercise the skill of being prescient, and be a great anticipator of sentiments and tension that exists between members of the team. Boss should be on constant look out for visual cues, inclusion, communication and dialogue openness and respect; and act swiftly if it needs correction.
  10. Perhaps one of the most important tasks is that he/she should be a provider of support, resources and tools for his team to be successful. This means that a boss has a deep understanding of his team’s strengths, gaps, efforts to get work done and serves as a source of encouragement and support.
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