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Alumni in Action

Alumni Webinar Series: Managing Multi-Generational Teams

By Alumni Relations

February 21, 2020

Artell Smith, vice president of talent at Quad and principal and managing director of WatchWorks Management Consulting LLC, knows what makes a good multi-generational manager. Managers need to know a good amount about generational characteristics. For example, a millennial prefers immediate feedback. While that may be true in some cases, this is a generalization and Smith recognizes that these labels are not the end all be all. He suggests setting these generalities aside and dealing with the person in their “onlyness.” Onlyness refers to the distinct intersection of a person’s various identities where only they stand. Smith thinks the journey to this distinct spot is where managers and employees build their relationship.

Smith suggests four strategies to build bridges to find employees in their onlyness:

  1. Apply a micro community frame

    Managers need to manage the intimacy of a team while integrating into the larger whole of an organization. They must put people first and ground all relationships in the individual, instead of in social constructs such as hierarchy. To do this, Smith suggests managers use productive camaraderie to build a feeling of mutual trust. Productive camaraderie occurs when employees can accomplish goals with help from the manager while also having a friendship with that manager. This can help the employee realize that they are more important than the work being done.

  2. Model authentic leadership behaviors

    Managers can build authenticity by understanding their own purpose and practicing solid values. A good manager leads with their heart while establishing connected relationships and demonstrating self-discipline. An employee should be able to approach a manager and know that they value integrity and honesty. Managers should be as consistent as possible to build authenticity.

  3. Employ simple interaction models

    Smith refers to the six conversations model. This model suggests that what employees want from managers is simple. They want to be treated with respect, and be treated fairly. Beyond respect and fairness, there are six questions employees want their managers to help them answer:

    – What is expected of me?
    – What and how should I develop?
    – How am I doing?
    – How did I do?
    – How will I be rewarded?
    – What is next for me?

    If a manager can help employees answer these questions, those employees will be productive and engaged at work.

  4. Leverage basic personality assessments

    Smith suggests using personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs, Gallup CliftonStregths, DiSC, and TrueColor Personality Assessment to do team building. Having a team complete these assessments can help mangers understand what kind of behaviors are more typical in an employee and help them adapt in a non-defensive way.

Artell Smith delivered these insights as part of the WSB Alumni Webinar Series. Our Alumni Webinar series provides accessible, ongoing continuing education and professional development opportunities for Wisconsin Business Alumni and features content provided by the Center for Professional & Executive Development (CPED). For more information, including upcoming presentations and a library of past topics, visit our website.