Learning how to work together to accomplish the same goal began for all of us at an early age. In the classroom, one of the most important lessons a teacher could enforce was for students to embrace joint efforts through assigning “group projects.” As the years go on, and we begin to learn more complex material, the group projects become more intricate, and students are no longer able to choose their own teammates. At this point, we must learn to “deal with the cards we’ve been dealt.” In other words, figure out how to efficiently break the tasks into parts based on each group member’s unique advantages and disadvantages. In sports, it’s also quite similar. We practice with one another day in and day out to eventually discover what plays work best, or to reveal who should fill each position in order to achieve the greater good for the team as a whole. So with all of these group projects and team goals that get thrown at us from teachers and coaches throughout the years, why does the challenge of working together in the workforce suddenly feel so new?
It feels new because you’re no longer sitting in a classroom behind the same neighbor that you grew up playing four-square with; it feels new because you’re no longer breaking a sweat on the field with the same crowd you went to prom with. In fact, it feels so new because some of these teammates are either old enough to have been your teacher, or young enough to have graduated college with your son. For so long, we’ve been challenged to work together with colleagues who were born the same year that we were, and in the workforce, we must now re-learn how to communicate and collaborate in order to achieve a common goal despite a potential age-barrier.
Today, successful companies are seeing that an “age barrier” in a workplace in turn, becomes of valuable assistance to a multigenerational team. Taking a baby boomer and placing them on a team with a millennial may sound unpredictable on the surface; but it instead allows a company to combine credibility and innovation, and pair wisdom with creativity. It’s the “I can learn from you, and you can learn from me” theory, the “best of both worlds” team culture, and meeting at a round table to merge ideas that all derived from opposite backgrounds… It’s a brilliant recipe for success, but only if the company allows it to be.
Just as discussed in the beginning of this article, when projects started to become more complex in school and we weren’t able to choose our teammates any longer, we had to learn how to adapt and “deal with the cards we’d been dealt.” Your lab partner in your science assignment may not have been your best friend, but when you sat down and listened to what he or she had to say, more often than not, you’d learn that the both of you had different capabilities to bring to the table from which to benefit. If we all learn to apply this in a multigenerational workforce today, it’s inevitable that we’ll realize no matter the age, each generation has something to bring to the table. We may not be able to change our circumstances in the workplace, but we can certainly change the way we view these circumstances.