Years ago I joined an organization and discovered a character who worked there. He was an interesting blend of wisdom, mischief, creativity, and crazy. You know that type. I’d find him engaged in some strange activity, or distilling some semi-absurd piece of advice, and think, “What in the world??!!?!” I’d walk away and invariably the idea or activity would start to unfold in my mind; and what seemed like utter nonsense started to bloom into genius. So here’s one of his “crazy” ideas.
One day I walked into his office for some reason, and he immediately started in with an idea he was toying with. “People who train in short bursts are vastly more effective at creating behavior change.” I thought to myself, “Did he just say training in short bursts? What in the world?” I listened politely as he went on to describe that breaking training into small chunks and delivering it over a spaced period of time allows participants to assimilate the learning points and have them incorporate the new ideas into their everyday routine. All the while I was generating reasons why the idea was more crazy than practical. And can you blame me? Even the term “short bursts” was a little on the “far out there” side (ok, maybe a lot on the “far out there” side). Some of my other colleagues confirmed my original thoughts when they came up with the slightly mocking slogan, “Look Mom! I’m training in short bursts!”
Fast forward some years. I was working on particularly difficult training rollout design. We were trying to transform training’s image from learning event to learning experience. We need to make sure that leaders, especially the mid-level group, were having more regular learning experiences. I was wrestling with how to do this when it hit me, “We need to take this program and spread it out over a longer period of time. We need to ‘train in short bursts!’” The idea had come full circle. We did it, and it worked.
Since that time, a lot of research has emerged confirming the results we experienced in that organizational initiative. Anders Ericsson, for one, in his research, demonstrates the benefit of breaking ideas and concepts into small pieces (I wonder if he researched in short bursts?).
It’s a funny thing to consider how what once was a crazy, outlandish, radical idea is now one of the best-proven ways to go about training. So now I say to you, “Go forth and train in short bursts!”
We work in a three-generational workplace. Each generation is different and we often struggle to dialogue well across generations. What tips do you have to bridge this gap in our crucial conversations?
First let me compliment you in attempting to proactively seek ways to bridge this “generational gap.” Many people have just assumed that the gap is too great or too much trouble. So thanks for taking the time to make this inquiry!
You might be interested to learn that VitalSmarts conducted a study early last year called: The Great Generational Divide. This study showed that unaddressed resentment between Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials saps productivity by as much as 12 percent. You can see the results of the study here:
Let me make a couple of observations and suggestions to add to these very helpful insights on attempting to engage in dialogue across this generational divide.
It has been said that conflict is inevitable, but resentment is optional. We often encounter conflict because our background, our education and experiences differ so greatly. But how we choose to handle these conflicts can either lead to talking it out or acting it out.
Start With Heart
The greatest skills and strategies designed to bridge these generational gaps will fail if our heart, or motive is not continually focused on the larger picture of finding a way to connect with the other person. This is an exercise in emotional maturity. In the midst of high stakes, opposing opinions, and strong emotions, can we find a way to change the motives of avoiding or attacking to those of listening and learning? Can we come to these generational encounters with a heart of genuine curiosity to learn about others, to lean into their reality and seek first to understand their world?
Once you’ve paid attention to your heart and adjusted your motive, the following skills from this research study will serve you well:
1. Make it safe. Begin by clarifying your respect as well as your intent to achieve a mutual goal.
2. Start with the facts. Describe your concerns facts first. Don’t lead with your judgments about others’ age or conclusions as to why they behaved the way they did. Start by describing in non-judgmental and objective terms the actual behaviors that create problems.
3. Don’t pile on. If your colleague becomes defensive, pause for a moment and check in. Reassure him or her of your positive intentions and allow him or her to express concerns.
4. Invite dialogue. After sharing your concerns, encourage your colleague to share his or her perspective. Inviting dialogue will result in greater openness.