Thursday, 10 December 2015

What Difference does Age make to our Impact at Work?


The privilege of working with my clients is diversity. Different industries, different countries, different roles, different cultures, different products or services and different leadership styles.

In addition, I work with professional men and women who are in their first role out of university, and at the same time I work with those enjoying 40+ years at work.

So what? As 2015 draws to a close; it strikes me that my primary focus this year has been research – and I am absorbed once more by fascinating data that has been published exploring the notion of strengths and gaps of different generations at work. To remind ourselves, Baby Boomers were born before 1963, Generation X was born between 1963 and 1980 and Millennials were born between 1980 and 1995. Recently I came across a study of 1200 workers which delineated the pros and cons of different generations, and their findings are fascinating.

Baby Boomers were seen as being productive and hardworking but also seen as less adaptable and less collaborative. Generation X was seen as having more managerial skills and good at problem solving. However, they were also seen as less cost effective and as having less ‘Executive Presence’. Millennials were viewed as being enthusiastic and technically savvy, but also viewed as being lazy, unproductive and self-absorbed.

So, what’s my point?

Well, as a Generation X-er myself, I paused at the notion of being identified in a category that has less ‘Executive Presence’. The research suggests that we have more than Millennials, but not as much as Baby Boomers.

Even so, what does this all mean? My view is that whatever our age, the reality is that we need to convey confidence, authority, credibility, humility and poise at work. We need to command, but not demand attention. We need to maximise our strengths and continue to work on our gaps. We need to inspire and engage those around us and be willing to evolve and grow. Our ability to thrive and succeed at work is built on the assumption that we are technically competent. However, that alone won’t guarantee success. We need to convey authority and wisdom (harder to do when we are young), as well as humility and a willingness to continue to grow and develop (harder to do when we are older). We have to learn skills of behavioural flexibility that simply weren’t needed in the past. Positional power won’t cut it; personal power does. And that’s at any age. Remember, Executive Presence isn’t about style over substance. It’s about exquisite influence.

So, as the festive season is here, I invite you all – irrespective of the generation to which you belong – to celebrate the strengths of your age, and equally I invite you all to consider how you, no matter your age, your role, your industry, your company or your position can enhance your Executive Presence still further in 2016.

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