Do you believe a generation gap exists in our society? Do you complain that the younger generation doesn’t listen, or they don’t care? As a leader entrusted with the care of others, are you bridging or creating generation gaps?
Before retiring from the fire department, I periodically met with another battalion chief from a neighboring department to discuss several items including how our crews cooperated, changes in the fire service, and compare notes about our respective organizations. Inevitably he began to complain about the young people who worked for him and how he didn’t understand them. He said they constantly asked questions and he viewed that as bucking his authority.
At first, I attempted to explore his sense of frustration and asked if the younger members of his organization were merely trying to learn more about their department, gain a greater understanding of expectations, or learn from a senior member. He dismissed that idea and said it was clear to him that they were challenging authority.
After a year of having the same conversation hearing his same answers, I just sat there drinking my coffee, staring at him, while attempting to steer the conversation in another direction. After all, we need to have the wisdom to know when we have hit a brick wall with someone.
In comparison, last year I read a post on LinkedIn about Major Brian Polite of the New Jersey State Police. Accompanying the post were two photos of him with a nine-year old boy who expressed an interest in becoming a police officer. After giving the young man a tour of their facility Major Polite wrote, “I gave him and his mother my number and told him that I will mentor him and hope to give him his badge one day.” Yes, that was one post with two photos and the nine-year old did not work for Major Polite. However, based on his interaction with the individual, most likely Major Polite invests time to interact and mentor the younger members of the New Jersey State Police. That is quite a contrast to the battalion chief described above.
The photo shows the Benjamin Franklin Bridge connecting Philadelphia with Camden, New Jersey. My friend the battalion chief was not interested in building bridges and spanning the gap with the younger people who worked for him. On the other hand, Major Polite is building bridges and investing in the future of not only this young man but the New Jersey State Police and the citizens they serve.
As a leader, are you bridging or creating generation gaps? Reach out and let’s talk about mentoring and developing those people we have an impact on. Also, visit my website at www.impactusleadership.com, watch a short video regarding my services, and read about the solutions I provide.