Manage Smarter 81 — Liz Devine Hewson and Mark Lund: How to Manage 4 Generations in 1 Workplace

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Liz Devine Hewson, CPC and Mark Lund, M.D., CPC are Co-​Founders and Principals of Twin Lights Consulting. Their firm helps companies create authentic communication across the chasm dividing the generations at work and managing generations in the workplace. They provide a clear path to authentic communication, developing trust, creating commitment, which leads to improved employee engagement for all ages.

In this episode, Audrey, Lee, Liz and Mark discuss generations in the workplace:

  • What year the number of millennials in the workforce will equal 75% — it's sooner than you might think
  • Identifying and leveraging what generations have to offer each other in the workplace
  • Effectively communicating with different generations to boost profits
  • Why most people listen to respond—How to get them to LISTEN to understand

It’s like trying to play chess with chess pieces on all four sides. Then adding two or three different levels to that in order to play."

-Mark Lund, M.D.

Connect with Liz Devine Hewson and Mark Lund:

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Managing Generations in the Workplace

Manage Smarter 81 Length: 00:22:34

This episode of Manage Smarter is presented by SalesFuel coach. Our adaptive sales coaching featuring five minute quick coaching, personalized to each sales rep. Learn more about SalesFuel coach at salesfuel​.com. 

Welcome to the Manage Smarter podcast with host C. Lee Smith and Audrey Strong. We're glad you're here for discussions on new ways to manage smarter, hire, develop, and retain talent, improve results and propel team performance to new heights. This is the Manage Smarter Podcast.

Audrey Strong: Welcome to the Manage Smarter Podcast, everyone. We're so glad that you came to join us for some excellent discussion today. I'm Audrey Strong. I'm the vice president of communication here at SalesFuel.

C. Lee Smith: And I'm C. Lee Smith, I'm the president and CEO of SalesFuel. 

Audrey Strong: Well today's guests are Liz Devine Hewson, CPC and Dr. Mark Lund the Co-​founders and Principal of Twin Lights Consulting, twinlightsconsulting​.com everyone, their firm. This is a great topic. They help companies create authentic communication across the chasm dividing the generations at work and provide a clear path to authentic communication, developing of trust, creating commitment, which leads to improved employee engagement for all ages and who doesn't want that. So, welcome to the show, Liz and Mark. Thanks for coming. 

Liz Devine Hewson: Thanks for having us.

Mark Lund: Thank you.

C. Lee Smith: And to our listeners out there. We are not going to spend the next 20 minutes bitching about the millennials.

Audrey Strong: No, that's a low hanging fruit. You guys say this can be done through active listening, self-​awareness and vulnerability. And my first reaction to that was, wow that's a tall order, particularly in larger businesses or managers that have like huge departments. So, where do you start with all this?

Mark Lund: Well, I guess the first thing is, is that we need to recognize that yes, we're going to have challenges getting people to communicate differently to build their emotional intelligence and to do things slightly differently. On the other hand, as of next year, about 50% of all employees will be millennials. As of 2025, a short five years after that we are going to have 75% of the workforce represented as millennials. 

C. Lee Smith: Our day is coming. 

Mark Lund: So, we need a way to be able to communicate and to do business and to grow business and to make the employees feel that they are heard, that they are seen, they are understood, and we need the businesses that employ them to be profitable. So, how do we do that? Well, if you look at all of the data that's out there, it becomes this [inaudible 00:02:34]. It's like trying to play chess with chess pieces on all four sides and then adding two or three different levels to that in order to play. So, we believe that we can construct through simple understanding of human psychology ways that we can bring a change.

Audrey Strong: So, it's like one of those 3D chess boards that you see the piece of art? 

C. Lee Smith: How do you do that? 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. How do you do that?  What's the first thing? You say, the first number one mistake everybody makes it's pretty basic everybody, is listen to what people are trying to tell you. 

Liz Devine Hewson: It's so important. And it really is true what Mark was saying, most people are listening to respond. 

C. Lee Smith: Not to understand. 

Liz Devine Hewson: Yes. And when we really take a step back to realize that people need to listen to understand, and the minute you try and understand where somebody's coming from. Whether they are from an older generation or a younger generation, it starts to break the communication blocks and really helps people, as Mark said, to feel like they're seen, heard and understood.

C. Lee Strong: So, are there some ways that each of the generations like to be heard differently? I ask that question with a little bit of in trepidation, because I've always been one is like I don't like to categorize large groups of people together and over generalize, things like that. But do you notice some commonalities though within the generations about how they like to be heard?

Liz Devine Hewson: Yeah. I can speak for that. Let me just start by saying that Mark and I, he and his wife have two gen Zers, my husband and I have three. So, we're very familiar with generation gen Z and yes, there are the digital natives, which would be the millennials and the gen Zs. And they're the digital immigrants, which are the baby boomers and gen Xers. So, of course there's going to be a little bit of a difference in how we communicate because we, as the older generation didn't grow up with all this technology. So, we're learning it, we're becoming better at it, but it's not something that was natural for us. Whereas you, you go into a grocery store today, you could see a baby working on a mum’s iPhone at the age of two so it's very, very different. And so the first thing to understand is that everybody has something to bring to the table. So, the way Mark and I live, the most important thing is to play to people's strengths and to really understand, okay, so you're a gen Z, you're a millennial, what is it that you have to offer to a baby boomer or a gen Xer? Well, technology is a big part of it. So, the older generations can then say, okay, well we have the experience. And we also communicate differently because we were brought up doing face to face conversations. We were brought up having telephone conversations. And now we need to blend the two together and really explain to each other what our different worlds are were like. And how we can again, by understanding that and looking at things from a different perspective, teaching each generation how to communicate more effectively.

C. Lee Smith: Well, that leads me into something I think that is a topic that we talk a lot about around here, which is, don't have complex conversations via text or slack or teams or whatever it is that you use using your thumbs or whatever. But actually go to someone's office, go out with them or whatever and have a face to face conversation. What are some of the benefits of doing that for the gen Zs and the millennials or whatever, that would much rather do it over a computer screen?

Mark Lund: Sure. So, between 70 and 80% of communication is nonverbal. The intonations, the body language that goes with that is so important. And being able to understand actually, even as specialists in communication, sometimes Liz and I will misinterpret a text or an email. So, you're right. There is so much communication bandwidth that is lost when we are not face to face, when looking at a text or an email. So, it is important to start to bring those conversations from the text and email into at least a telephone conversation. And then into a conversation that's face to face. But it's not just the medium, again, as Liz was saying, communication in the sense is full duplex. So, it's what is not only put out, but is what is being received. And you asked before about how do we do this? And we look at different groups. Well, the millennials like to do something one way, the gen Zers another, the old baby boomers like me, they need to do it a different. Really what it comes down to is understanding that everyone wants to be seen, heard and understood. And how do we do that? We listen, and then we communicate authentically because with authentic communication, you build trust. So, really what is that? Authentic communication is where you're starting to really speak to that individual directly. You're listening to them and you're understanding that multiple realities can exist. What we're trying to do without getting into all of the rabbit holes of it, is something that's explained very simply. And we've all potentially had a situation like this. If we're in New Jersey right now. So, if we were having breakfast and we were sitting in a cafe and a couple next to us were from San Francisco. San Francisco's a beautiful place I've been there. I love it. But we're not going to talk to them because we're in New Jersey. And we're not just going to cross the border. They're different, it's them. They're from someplace else. However, if you take those same four people in the same scenario and put us in Moscow, all of a sudden we are the best friends. Oh my God, you're from America. We're from America. 

Audrey Strong: That's a great example.

C. Lee Strong: Or they wore New York Giants jerseys instead of San Francisco Giants jerseys. Now all over a sudden you got something.

Liz Devine Hewson: Exactly. 

Mark Lund: That's right. 

Audrey Strong: But we're relating as Americans, not as subcultures of America, therefore we're bonding.

C. Lee Smith: Its things more in common versus things that we have that are different. 

Mark Lund: That's right. So, we're moving from them versus us or others versus our self. And we're moving toward us. We're moving towards self. There are so many things, eons that were done in the name of them. You can be really bad to people who might have been Jewish or a different color or different ethnicity or a different sex, because they are them. As soon as it's us, it becomes different. So, the whole premise is we can try to divide this pie into all these individual slices and try to figure out how to play this incredible chess game. Or we can understand that we can bring people together and bring teams together that are cohesive high performing teams, because it's no longer, oh, that's them, but this is all of us.

Audrey Strong: So, I have a question then to that point, one of the things that you talk about both of you is developing the emotional intelligence for all ages. And I have said on this show before, like when I was a younger employee, I don't particularly think I was a very good employee because I did not have emotional intelligence until the last, I'd say 10 years. So, for the younger ages that you're trying to bring along and get to engage in that very culture that you just described and to buy into it, how do you do that when they're younger and they don't have critical thinking [crosstalk 00:10:18] the level that a 40 year old does?

Liz Devine Hewson: Well, a lot of it comes from, as you said, yes, a lot of it does come from experience. But the one thing that Mark and I have definitely seen is the younger generation wants to do well. They want to be involved in a company, but what they really want is to have an experience. So, as long as we're able to adapt a little bit and understand that again, they want to be successful, they need to learn. So, as the older generations or just a senior person on a team needs to show their vulnerability, they need to model vulnerability. So, that way a younger person will feel comfortable asking the questions they need to ask and having an open forum, which is really truly what people want. It's just it has to start from the top down because we can't expect younger people to just get out of college or first, second job, Z or millennials to know exactly what to do. They have a lot to offer, but they don't have that experience. So, they are counting on the people above them to show them how to do it. It really does start from the top down. 

C. Lee Smith: Now there's something though I believe that boomers and even gen Xers do that doesn't necessarily work these days. When you talk about authentic communication, the fact that we like to have everything buttoned up, everything should be polished up or whatever, every word should be. I mean, there should be equal spacing on everything. It needs to look good. We need to pick the right colors. It's like everything just needs to be absolutely perfect when we put it out there because that's our image, but that doesn't necessarily work these days, does it?

Mark Lund: It really doesn't. And again, a little bit of plasticity in the environment. The ability to adapt and overcome is very important. The ability to again, be vulnerable, some of this is actually because what we're doing is we want to be perfect, right? We want to have that ability to say, this is what we are and to be able to, in a sense put out that perfect product, and again, being vulnerable, being able to walk up in front of your team, being able to say, look, there's a mistake. I own it. Or tell you what? I did this and I got it, right. I had to pay for that. You're going to have to pay for it, but I've done the same thing. It's not punitive. Let's just go ahead. That vulnerability, that ability to connect on a human level is really important. And I think that what you just described in a sense puts up again a barrier to that communication. There are times in places, you want your copyright editor to make sure that the copyrights done perfectly, but the person who's handing that first level in, or the second level in, they need that plasticity.

Audrey Strong: Because the podcast is called Manage Smarter and our listeners, a lot of them are managers. I guess I would love to hear an example for our listeners of the way you talk about the things that bring us together. What's an example of, so somebody who's about to retire, so a boomer and a gen Z, somebody just coming in, what's an example of something that culturally would bring them together and highly engage them in the workplace?

Mark Lund: Sure. So, one of the things that we would do again my background is I'm a physician. And in the intensive care unit where minutes and seconds were life and death, and people came in from all backgrounds, ages, et cetera. So, what it is, is really creating that opportunity to say, look, I respect you. And to start the foundation from there, the baby boomer has to look at the manual or the brand new wet behind the ears gen Z, and say, tell you what I respect you. I respect what you're going to bring here, but please respect me. And in a sense that gen Z needs to have that same approach. I've got a lot to offer, but I want to learn from you. So, if you can, again, start, and it starts at the top by creating a culture of really wanting to listen and learn to people and to bring those people together, then you have an ability to create an incredibly high performing team because people have come together. And all of a sudden, my executive coach, when I was working with him, he was a former Navy seal. And he'd say, look, before we do anything, you look at your teammate. It was a simple nod of the head. My life is in your hands, your life is in my hands. We're going to do this. I've got your back. And in a sense that doesn't take place as much in the workplace, that ability to have cohesion and trust. And that sort of vulnerability is really what allows you to create the highest performing teams when you have a team like that, that's when the magic happens.

Liz Devine Hewson: And as we were saying before, too, if you're talking about, your podcast has a lot of managers listening. It really does have to start with them. They have to be willing to take that step to say, I'm going to be vulnerable. I'm going to model that for the people who are working on my team. And it's amazing what happens when people are willing to admit to a failure or admit to something that's not a strength. When you sit around a table with a group of people of all different ages, it's important to say, you know what, hey, I'm your manager. And here are my strengths. Here are a few of my weaknesses. I may be somebody who has a little bit of an issue with time management, or I have a little bit of an issue with prioritization, but you know what? Young millennial, that was one of the things that you showed up and showed how that was a strength for you. I need you on this team because I need you to help me with that. And your weakness might be a little bit of whatever, being new, being fresh, whatever the weakness is. Point is once people start to, again, it's back to vulnerability, but it works to be able to say, I'm not perfect.

Mark Lund: Well, I'm going to take a crack at answer in Audrey's question then too, because if, once you get beyond that and you've successfully achieved that you can actually then get to the point of, oh, you like dogs. I like dogs too. I have Schnauzers. What do you have? And then it's dogs, cats, sports, theater, books, whatever the case may be, where you're actually then relating to each other as a human being, regardless of that age divide that's there, you guys have similar interest.

Liz Devine Hewson: Bingo. Exactly. Bingo. That's exactly, exactly it. And again, if people can open up their mind to it and not feel like we have to — I'm senior, so I have to be ego and all this. If you can just release that a little bit, it's amazing what you can get out of people.

Audrey Strong: I feel like too, this way that you all go at this could also help managers manage some of the characteristics of at least the millennials in that they kind of view the employer, employee arrangement as weighted on their side and they want to move up a lot faster. I've been here six months, give me a raise, promote me, kind of thing. And that you can actually push back gently and have those conversations going your way, doing it your way than just saying, whoa, nilly, no, no, no, no, no. Been here three or four months. You can actually have a friendly conversation relating to that, doing it your way, right?

Mark Lund: 100%. And that comes into this concept of accepting multiple realities and being able to listen and to have what I call integrative thinking, which is so important. And that's really the third leg of that tripod of authentic communication, active listen and integrative thinking. So, just because you're right, doesn't mean that I'm necessarily wrong. And if you're standing on both ends of a nine or a six, depends how you're looking at it, you're both right. If we're both standing at the shore, having a conversation, the entire environment around us is identical, but if I'm looking due west and you're looking to east, it's five o'clock in the morning, I'm seeing a very dark sky still to the west, and you're seeing a brilliant sunrise. The perception of what is happening in that conversation is tainted a little bit or brightened a little bit based upon what's going on. There are multiple realities. And if we can understand that and step back from it, in those positions instead of conflict, what we can create is therefore a viewing point, no longer a point of view. And if you create a viewing point, rather than a point of view, you have the ability to really step things forward.

Audrey Strong: I love that. 

C. Lee Smith: And also I'd like to resist the urge to join teams like, okay, I'm on team sunrise. Well, I'm on team darkness and it's like [inaudible 00:18:56] and now we're going to battle with each other, something like that. We don't necessarily have to do that. 

Mark Lund: You're a hundred percent correct.

Audrey Strong: I was going to say, so tell us about Twin Lights Consulting and some of the programs that you guys have.

Mark Lund: Sure. So, we do everything from brief presentations that are an hour long to half day, all the way up to three day workshops and retreats. And then we have full company engagements. We work with companies that are middle market that have teams and we also work in family businesses. And the reason for family businesses is again, this cross generation, grandpa and dad started the business. And now we have a company that grandson and son are really there.

C. Lee Smith: That got handed off really.

Audrey Strong: [Crosstalk 00:19:47] with family businesses and succession with family businesses, it's a whole different animal, right? 

Liz Devine Hewson: Yes. Sorry. A lot of times they really do need help getting through it because the older generation has a different idea because they were the ones who had the blood, sweat, and tears to get it going. And often they want things to stay the same and the newer generation has all these different ideas. So, it can cause a lot of conflict.

C. Lee Smith: And I see a lot of times that that hand off doesn't go so well. Like you'll see that this company that's flourished for 50, 60 years or something like that, the kids take over or whatever, and then it goes south. How do you stop that from happening?

Mark Lund: You know a couple things. Number one is, again, the leadership starts at the top, the family owned it. So, we're looking to create that harmony again. And the communication, if not the harmony that really allows the family to lead the business forward and understand.  The second is making sure that the receiver of the information and that what used to be called a crucial conversation has the ability to understand that people are not throwing arrows at him or her, let's get the training. Maybe we need to bring in an interim CEO because that younger generation doesn't have the experience of operations to step up yet, but let's put a program together. So, a lot of different things can come together to really help that family either make a decision to stay and grow in it, to change with the future, or to help them to agree that an exit is needed.

C. Lee Smith: Or I'll just sum it up, Audrey. I know you want me to wrap on this one but it's like the younger generations that are coming into the business need to understand that they don't know everything. And the older generations need to understand that they don't know nothing. 

Liz Devine Hewson: Exactly.

Mark Lund: I love it. 

Audrey Strong: You guys must have some stories that would make our hair curl. Just thinking about your breath and work and all your clients. We really hope everybody listening will reach out to Liz and Mark. And it's been a pleasure having you both on the show.

Liz Devine Hewson: Thank you so much. 

Mark Lund: Yes. Thank you. 

C. Lee Smith: Thanks for coming. 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. And I just like to mention, you can really help us here at Manage Smart by sharing or recommending this podcast the friend, or a colleague or peer even better here comes the plug, subscribe rate and review this. Give it five stars on Apple podcast, which helps boost our reach, the reach of the show. We appreciate it. And we'll see you the next time. Liz and Mark. It's been a pleasure.

Mark Lund: Thank you so much. 

Audrey Strong: Thank you.

Thanks for listening to our episode on managing generations in the workplace and a multi-​generation workforce. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and recommend on iTunes, overcast, or wherever you get your podcast, you can also get more great information at SalesFfuel​.com.

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