How to Influence Across Generations
So how can we close the generational gap? How can the older generation motivate and engage the younger generation? How can the younger generation quietly and respectfully influence the older generation?
Here are a few things we should all keep in mind.
1. Acknowledge a generational gapPerhaps the biggest mistake in relating inter-generationally is assuming there is no difference, no gap in understanding between older leaders and younger leaders. Ignoring the disconnect that exists here is dangerous because, when we admit the difference exists, it can be fairly easy to overcome.
Remember that differences in generations (leadership styles, ideas about money, differences in theological opinions, etc) aren’t about “good” and “bad” but simply about seeing the world differently. The more we can work to see it this way, the more likely it will be that we can find common ground.
2. Be willing to step outside your own reality.Work to see the value in the people on your team who see the world differently from you. Rather than feeling frustrated by different leadership styles or perspectives, step outside of your own reality to consider how you might celebrate and honor someone who operates differently than you.
Ask yourself what values the other person brings to the team that aren’t being celebrated, developed or utilized in some way.
3. Seek to give honorWe also must be willing to step outside of ourselves in order to give honor to another. Most of us are seeking to be honored more than we are seeking to give honor; and when everyone is seeking to be honored, no one is honored at all.
Seek to give the honor you hope to receive.
It’s simple. It’s the Golden Rule, and it’s Biblical. Treat others how you want to be treated. You’ll be surprised how quickly this will melt a difficult person’s tough outer shell and influence them in a positive direction.
4. Focus on building relationshipOur focus should always be on building and maintaining relationships with those around us, especially those God has called us to do ministry with. This is what Romans 12:18 is urging when it says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
The advantage here is that influence is always more powerful in the context of relationship. When I’m friends with someone, I’m much more likely to offer my attention, love and devotion.
I’m more likely to give the benefit of the doubt, even when I don’t understand.
5. Don’t give upThe worst thing we can do, with any difficult task, is give up too soon. “Let us not become weary,” Paul says in Galatians 6:9 “of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I’ve seen this to be true in my many years of ministry, and continue to experience the fruit of this as older leaders continually invest in their relationship with me, and as I continue to support and engage younger leaders.
This is a journey worth walking. Don’t give up.