Originally posted at the Christian Leadership Alliance Blog
Shifting from Frustration to Momentum
“Nobody wants that!” These words expressed the sentiment of just about every organizational leader at the end of our annual international convention. Senior leaders left frustrated and exhausted. Younger workers felt devalued and overlooked. I was annoyed… angry…hurt… numb. Did I cause this? How could I have worked against the very ministry I passionately toiled to advance? I replayed their painful words of misunderstanding for days.
The next week our ministry got intentional about creating multi-generational teams. I devoted myself to designing a culture fueled by multi generational leadership. I studied multi generational teams inside and outside of my organization. I added multi generational workshops to our live events. Multi generational teams led these events. We intentionally composed teams representing diverse generational interests and polarizing viewpoints for mission-impacting ministry work.
It’s been years since that pivotal convention catalyzed our multi generational journey. Today, multi generational teams are part of our ministry DNA. As a result, we have increased organizational capacity, generated leader resources and built momentum.
So how do multi generational teams turn frustration into momentum? Here are a few lessons from our journey:
Each generation has unique work habits, motivations, behaviors, values and communication styles. This generates friction in the workplace — even the Christian workplace. International organizational leadership consultant Stan Gryskiewicz challenges organizations that want a competitive advantage in the future to embrace what he calls “positive turbulence.” In fact, he says we ought to create it. My teams create positive turbulence then move through it to momentum-building renewal. It is refreshing to observe a 52-year-old ask a 20-something for input, then use it. To watch it in reverse is inspiring!
Today’s ministry operates in a global society. Digitally connected Millennials and GenZ members like to think globally. Older generations recognize the need to act locally. Our multi-generational teams have gained momentum through what we call “glocal” strategies
— think global, act local. We’re building a stronger global community where more people impact more people.
We are learning to listen to GenZs’ ideas for designing relevant curriculum, media and messaging. They are learning to listen to Boomers’ experiences in event planning and coordination. Millennials offer fresh new approaches. GenX and Boomer leaders share stories of struggle and celebration. Listening leaders grow ministry momentum.
Every conscientious ministry leader I know is looking for successors — emerging leaders to carry the torch when older workers move on. These transitions can be tumultuous, often alienating formerly invested stakeholders. When younger workers serve with and learn from those who paved the way, they are much more prepared to successfully assume greater responsibility — and do so much more gracefully.
In my organization’s culture of intentionality, we encourage members to seek out mentoring relationships. Older leaders, whom we call “wise guides,” share their experiences, missteps, values, best and worst practices, vision and aspirational goals. Junior team members, whom we call “surprise guides,” bring tech savvy, digitally connected, socially aware and relevant perspectives. These young leaders communicate wanting to be known as people rather than projects. Mentees are genuinely interested in learning from older mentors when treated as valuable team members. Mutual mentoring relationships foster unity. Unity always builds momentum.
The ministry is stronger today than at the convention all those years ago. Our ministry leaders have embraced a multi-generational team culture. We know we are better, smarter and stronger together.
Dr. Teresa Moon, founding President and CEO of the Institute for Cultural Communicators, is an internationally-recognized seminar speaker, education consultant, author, and leadership coach. Each year, she travels globally equipping students, teachers, and parents to become “cultural communicators,” transforming ordinary students into extraordinary communicators and authentic leaders.