#73 Generational Profiling

by Steven Cerri on September 22, 2008

“Forget generations X, Y, and Z.”

Hello everyone!

There is no doubt that we can put “groups” of people into certain “groups”.

The simplest group, of course, is Homo sapiens. We are all part of that group.

Then there are the groups of men and women. We can go further, such as male child, female child, female adult, male adult.

In business management these distinctions are less useful and even less acceptable than the Myers-Briggs categories, or the DiSC categories, or the Enneagram categories. Many people find Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and the Enneagram useful in providing a false sense of how people move through the world, how they want to be treated, and what management approach is best. They all work, to varying degrees, in varying situations. But then again, sometimes they don’t.

These “systems”, Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Enneagram, and others, are all attempts to allow the grouping categories to supersede thinking and to assist managers who don’t really know how to manage well, to feel they can manage. I’m not saying these systems are not useful for broad, general management decision-making. They are… just not for day-to-day management.

You see, if a manager knows that a direct report is a Myers-Briggs “INTJ” then the manager can treat the direct report in a certain way and abdicate their responsibility as a good manager.

For example, if the direct report is an INTJ and the manager treats him or her accordingly and the direct report doesn’t respond the way an INTJ is “supposed to”, or if the direct report responds in ways that are “in addition to” INTJ behaviors, it’s now the direct report’s fault. The manager is off the hook. “I thought you were a INTJ and you just didn’t respond like a good INTJ is supposed to”, is the managers position.

Of course the latest categories to hit the “management street” are represented by Gen-X, Gen-Y, and Gen-Z (I’ll stop there). These are all attempts by demographers and others to figure out “broad implications” of certain large populations. It makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of things. I’m all for it.

However, what do I do if I’ve got a team of ten people. Lets say five are baby boomers, two are of Gen-X and three are of Gen-Z. Now what do I do? How do I manage the team? Do I treat each “group” differently? Do I “expect” conflict between the groups?

If I use the current, generally accepted descriptive behavioral information provided for each group, I’m going to be in big trouble. Hence, why many managers have difficulty managing people in generations not their own. If you want to be successful managing teams across generations you must treat everyone as an individual, not tied to any specific generation. There is probably as much variation between people WITHIN generations as there is BETWEEN generations.

By treating each person based on his or her behavioral traits, the generational generalizations disappear. They vanish. And if you know how to manage people based on their behaviors, maps of the world, and focuses of attention, then cross-cultural, cross-generational, and cross-gender management becomes a much easier process.

My suggestion, if you are a manager, forget whether you have baby-boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y, or Gen-Z on your team. Start treating them as individual people and your management process will be much easier and much more successful. I’ve done it. It works.

Be well,

Steven Cerri

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