Leading a multi-generational team in the age of anxiety

people, heart

As a small-business owner, I understand the complexities of running a business and the challenges that come with leading a small team – limited resources, limited funding, limited time. Throw into the mix a multi-generational team and the fact that anxiety is at an all-time high, and you may find yourself trying to navigate uncharted territories.

Going back to basics

From my experience, leading a multi-generational team in the age of anxiety isn’t a matter of following the latest corporate leadership program. It’s about going back to basics.

We all have wants, needs, desires and fears that differ from one another. This is what makes us humans the wonderful, intricate beings that we are. It’s this basic understanding that turns everyday business owners and managers into empathetic, supportive and inspirational leaders that can make for a harmonious workplace and highly productive team.

The differences in work ethic and mindset across different generations are subtle but present. Gen Z values mental health, purpose and work-life balance more than any previous generation. A recent study by Gallup.com claimed that Millennials are often called the job-hopping generation, with only 29 per cent of them emotionally and behaviourally engaged with their work due to poor leadership and not understanding the role that they play in the greater vision of the business. But many businesses overlook these differences and paint their employees with the same broad brush.

Going back to basics is critical to leading a multi-generational team. Set aside those old, traditional leadership methods and take a more human-centric approach. Learn more about your employees as people. What are their learning styles? What drives them to succeed? With this information, you can tailor your leadership style to suit the personalities of your team, getting the best out of them while building a trusting, collaborative relationship.

Tackling anxiety

Anxiety is not a taboo topic in our office. If you met me, you’d never think it, but I suffer from anxiety. A specific type of anxiety that many people don’t know about high-functioning anxiety, a form of anxiety that is common in high-performing individuals.

While no one else in my team has anxiety, it doesn’t mean that I don’t encourage an open dialogue about the subject. My personal experience makes me feel more equipped to have these discussions. And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt being a business owner with anxiety, it’s that understanding who your team are as people and having the right systems and processes in place can help eliminate any necessary stress.

Your team needs to be clear on your expectations, as well as any steps they need to take if they’re feeling overwhelmed. My staff know that they can speak directly to me to help re-prioritise their workload or to take a much-needed mental health day.

Understanding different personality types

Regardless of their age, background or belief system, your team do share personality traits and qualities. I require all potential candidates to complete the Brain C.O.D.E test. A test developed by American brain coach Jim Kwik who uses animals to define four personality types.

Tests like these help you gain a deeper understanding and insight into who your team members are as people. My head copywriter, Kate, is a millennial who has been in the workforce for years, while my newest Gen Z employee, Megan, is fresh out of university. According to Kwik’s quiz, both are elephants. ‘Elephants’ are loyal, value integrity and like working in a team. As a leader, I need to adapt my leadership styles for them to achieve their full potential.

Fortunately for us small-business owners, embracing human-centric leadership does not cost an arm and a leg and can lead to a highly satisfied, motivated and productive workplace.