Before they take to the beach for the rest of their natural lives, you might want to take aside your soon-to-retire executives from the Baby Boomer generation and learn a few things from their experience.
Consider, for example, the following kinds of questions:
Change is a constant that younger workers have not had the time to experience or fully appreciate. Boomers understand change. They once collected 45-rpm singles, moved up to LP phonograph records, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs. Today’s young have no concept of how dramatically the technology they use today will change tomorrow.
Ask older executives and employees what they would have done, given a second chance, to deal with social, political, technological, and workplace change.
Technology threatens to blind every generation to the previous level of interdependence among people. Boomers remember having to ask a librarian for help finding information. When you can retrieve the answer to just about any question instantly on your smartphone, it’s easier than ever to forget that we’re all in this together and how critically we depend on each other.
Ask your Boomers what they think we’re missing in terms of personal interaction as we become more dependent on our machines and seemingly less independent on each other. What values should we work to preserve? And how?
Your youngest coworkers report to their first or second boss. This can’t help but limit their perspective with regard to leadership. Most Boomers have have had to deal with every kind of manager. They’ve navigated all manner of organizational management fads, read shelves of books on leadership, and watched management theories fall into and out of fashion.
Ask them to help you identify what values have persisted, endured the onslaught of capricious management fads, and still stand as timeless and true. How can we recognize value in new ideas and spot those that will bloom and burst?