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Remember Isla from last month? I introduced her in my post about the benefits of servant leadership. Aside from servant leadership, we can learn more from Isla. Have you ever sat down for an in-depth conversation with someone 10 years older than you? What about someone 10 years younger?

The more Isla and I talked, the more I realized that she had a completely different perspective on the world than me. Growing up in a different economic time, with different world crises and different social norms, meant that Isla and her generation function a little differently than my own generation. . . As a 95-year-old woman, she has seen more, made more mistakes, and lived more than I ever have. Her years of trial and error is knowledge which she happily shares. Isla offers a lifetime’s worth of unique insight.

Not only are our conversations helpful for me, but I’ve been able to help her as well. I’ve shared my insights and opinions, as well as the perspectives of those in my generation. She asked probing questions about why people in my generation behave in certain ways, which gave me a chance to explain some of our most common decisions and actions.  

Intergenerational relationships offer access to knowledge we may not have had before. Understanding those of other generations makes us more effective leaders and teammates. Take an example of a manager hiring someone directly out of college. These fresh employees are not yet jaded by the workforce, and they still have a bit of a “save the world” attitude in them. Young people, early in their careers, bring passion and creative ideas to the table, and that provides the perfect opportunity for businesses to tap into new ideas. Let them energize your teams and help build new processes. 

You can gain benefits from seeing the world through another generation’s eyes. Today, I specifically want to dig into three: 

  • Gain perspective on what truly matters.
    As we age, we spend large amounts of time worrying about how we look, what impressions we give, and if we make enough money. But often, the second half of life becomes more focused on things that make up our overall happiness, like time spent with family, recreation and hobbies, and health. We stop worrying so much about the little things.

    If we can learn the importance of these perspectives at an earlier stage in life, we can spend more time now on aspects that truly make us happy, and less time later on wishing we had lived that way.

  •  Develop a community outside your norm.
    Nowadays, we can easily get caught up in an echo chamber of ideas. Those of us who work remotely don’t even have to leave our homes often. Social media algorithms feed us ideas we “like” or “agree” with. We can quickly end up in a place where we don’t want to hear others’ opinions because we have gotten so used to hearing only from those who agree with us. But when we actively try to build our community beyond its normal generations, demographics, and thought patterns, it negates the effect of the echo chamber. We begin to connect with more people, and we create a life where we better understand those around us and the actions they take. This creates empathy and understanding for others and allows us to become stronger leaders.
  • Better understand the perspective of those around you.

    Refusing to engage with other generations can cause you to fall into the trap of blaming others for issues going on around the world. It’s easy to blame our parents for the way they raised us or the youngsters for destroying the economy. But the truth is, you will never understand the reasons for their actions unless you have a conversation with them about it.Why does someone specifically resist you? Do you act in a way that fits within the scope of fears their generation most likely faces? As an example, older generations sometimes have difficulty speaking to their emotions, sometimes as a result of more authoritative parents. When you understand this, you have a better understanding of how to have a productive conversation. Every generation has different standards, and your generation behaves in specific ways because they don’t want to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.

So, how do you tap into this knowledge? 

If you have a well-established career, remember the younger generation on your team often has something to say. Find ways to channel that young enthusiasm into something the organization can benefit from. With more experience comes the ability to see further ahead, so you can help them aim and direct their passion in a way that generates more success for their career. 

If you are just starting out, take advantage of the experience and wisdom the older generations around you can share. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that likes to write off older people. Stay out of this trap. Jump-start that learning curve by asking someone with years of experience for some of their top tips. Even when boundary issues or harsh differences of opinion come up, you can learn something. Sometimes, you take that situation as an example of how you shouldn’t act.

No matter your stage of life, you will undoubtedly find more success if you allow intergenerational relationships to be a part of your community.