Engaging multiple generations in any context can be challenging, but within established teams and organizations there can be unique barriers to effectively adapting to new expectations and needs. In these contexts, leaders need to be aware of their own mindsets toward younger employees, team members, and clients. It is also important to consider what assumptions we might be making that could result in confusion for those we are hoping to engage and equip. Steve Moore, President of Growing Leaders once said, “When institutional activities last more than one generation of leadership, the assumptions behind those activities become invisible to the current membership.” What is considered “self-evident” to most senior leaders may not be apparent to many new employees or participants. In this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast, I talked with Doug Harrison, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Mission Aviation Fellowship. We identified several key mindsets and action steps critical for leaders and organizations in effectively engaging the next generation. These include the following:
The following is a guest contribution written by leadership coach Dr. Bethany Peters:
Recent research shows us that coaching in the workplace has significant benefits: employees who are coached can experience increased productivity, enhanced clarity, a boost in confidence, and improved communication skills, among other benefits.
But what is coaching, exactly? Sir John Whitmore, a leading contributor to the coaching profession, defined it as a process of “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.” Coaching is distinctly different from other professions such as mentoring, consulting, and therapy. Although all of these are valuable sources of support, coaching employs a more facilitative approach to:
What value does a coach approach have for supporting the next generation? More than ever, an engaging relationship with a manager is vitally important to retaining young adults. When a manager takes an intentional, personalized approach to promote growth and development in the workplace, that style of leadership is much more likely to generate loyalty and commitment from members of Generation Y and Z. The coach approach appeals to young adults with its focus on:
A coach approach is grounded in trust-filled relationships and characterized by a commitment to:
If you are interested in leveling up your coaching skills, and learning how to take a coach approach in your specific setting, consider doing it with a group of other leaders and influencers… Six Weeks to a Coach Approach is an interactive, group coaching program launching this September, facilitated by leadership coach Dr. Bethany Peters.
As we seek to engage Gen Z, the most diverse and global generation in history, we must continue to grow as multicultural leaders and organizations. I recently read a research study by international church planter, Mark McKinstry, that provided some powerful encouragement on multicultural leadership from the Bible. The following is an excerpt from Mark’s Thesis on how the leaders and church at Antioch modeled multicultural leadership:
Musvosvi (2010) wrote, “The church at Antioch was as close to being a model as one gets in its ability to understand and constructively deal with multi-ethnic situations” (p. 48). If this is the case, what did the leadership and membership look like?
Some of our best clues are found in the words of the Bible. Luke, the author of Acts, describes the leadership team of the Church of Antioch, “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul” (Acts 13:1). Based on this, we know the Antioch Church leadership team was formed out of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-class group of people.
Barclay (1957) explains the diverse team further,
Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus; Lucius from Cyrene in North Africa; Simeon was also a Jew but his
other name Niger is given and, since this is a Roman name, it shows that he must have moved in Roman
circles; Manaen was a man with aristocratic connections, and Paul himself a Jew from Tarsus of Cilicia
and a trained rabbi. (p. 115)
Regarding the leadership team, Steel (2018) commented,
Paul and Barnabas were both Jewish but had been raised outside Palestine. Both were fluent in Jewish
language and customs, but they also spoke Aramaic and Greek. Then there’s Manaen, a man who grew
up with incredible opportunity and education within the household of Herod Antipas. Next there’s Lucius
of Cyrene, from North Africa, who may have been one of the initial evangelists who arrived amid
persecution and began \ reaching out to Greeks. And last but not least was Simon called Niger, who
was most likely a black African. (para. 12)
The unity of this diverse leadership team became a powerful symbol to the membership of the church and to the city where they lived (Steel, 2018). Additionally, the membership of the Church of Antioch was a reflection of the leadership team. The members were made up of multiple cultures, language groups, ethnicities, and social classes.
When I interviewed Mark on my podcast, I asked him what lessons leaders today can take from the life of Barnabas, one of the key leaders on the multicultural team in Antioch. He encouraged:
Good questions for each of us to ask ourselves include, “How am I actively engaging those who are different than me or who disagree with me?” “How can I embrace the discomfort and learning that can come with diversity?” “How am I developing and encouraging a multicultural team around me?”
Barclay, W. (1957). The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Westminster John Knox Press.
Musvosvi, J. (2010). Race, ethnicity, and tribal conflicts. Journal of Adventist Mission Studies,6(1), Article 5.
Steel, D. (2018, July 25). What the diverse Church in Antioch can teach us today. Retrieved from
In the midst of what many are calling the "Great Resignation," record numbers of employees are leaving their jobs. In November 2021 alone, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs. While there are a number of reasons for this trend, there are some steps leaders and managers can take to create a work environment that young adults find difficult to leave:
I am often asked how to remain motivated in leading young adults when they often leave an organization despite our best efforts. With this generation, we need to see every engagement as an investment into the future. Even if a young person moves on to another team or organization, they will take memories and lessons (good or bad) with them. May our legacy in the lives of the young people we work with be one of empowerment, wisdom, and encouragement.
Despite many schools and work activities being back in person, virtual classes, training, and work meetings continue to be a significant part of our daily interactions, and will likely continue indefinitely. As a result, we must constantly hone our virtual interaction skills. Her are four of my favorite tips for communicating and building relationships in virtual contexts.
-Tip 1: “Push” Important Info to Students/Team Members
We live in a world where notifications and reminders help us focus on what is important amid the onslaught of information we encounter. As a result, we need to “push” important information to students and colleagues. Extra reminders to team members on upcoming meetings or tasks can be helpful. Students may need support as they navigate online learning. I do this by posting and emailing weekly updates, highlighting what is important in each module. During the first couple of weeks of class, or when there is a new type of assignment or activity, I post/send a special reminder or explanation, even though all this info is also clearly posted online. Students benefit from knowing what to focus on, understanding how to manage their time, and getting information that minimizes mistakes or confusion.
-Tip 2: Be Present/Engaged
In the online context, students and employees cannot “see” us the way they do in a classroom or office, so we need to be intentional to show we are present and engaged. We can do this by contributing to discussion on forums, liking or responding to comments, and making specific comments unique to each student or participant when responding. I also try to reference student comments or insights when giving video lectures or facilitating discussions to show I am paying attention to what they are saying and doing.
-Tip 3: Be Personable/Authentic
Being personable online requires us to really express our personality. Including some videos and facilitating live discussions helps convey our teaching style. I always host a virtual orientation the first week of class so we can see facial expressions and hear voices. We can let our personality shine through in videos, posts, and comments by sharing personal fun facts and stories or using emojis. Also, responding to employee or student needs and requests for help with empathy goes a long way toward building rapport.
-Tip 4: Connect Individually
Learn specifics about each student or team member, reference these, share resources they might find interesting given their interests, etc. I create an introduction forum and ask everyone to post a short bio during the first week of my courses. This helps me learn and remember names and backgrounds. Responding promptly to questions and creating times or opportunities for appointments if students or staff need to connect via phone or video chat communicates you are available to help them.
Almost two decades ago, futurist and inventor, Ray Kurzwelli stated, "We're entering an age of acceleration. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace."
As we look at the world around us today, we can see evidence of rapid change. Change in technology, society, and generations requires leaders and organizations to adapt and innovate. This month, I had the honor of sitting down and chatting about innovation with Jacob Hancock, Executive Director at Seeds Global Innovation Lab. To hear our full discussion, check out this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast. Jacob gave the following definition of innovation: "proactively generating and executing new ideas that create value." He went on to explain, "If we solve for challenges in the future, we are so much more prepared than if we remain in a reactive posture."
One of the challenges of innovation is the fact that it requires some tolerance of failure as we seek to learn what will work in a new context. William Pollard indicated why being willing to learn is so critical: "Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is believing what you did yesterday will be sufficient tomorrow."
As we consider engaging, equipping, and encouraging a new generation of young leaders, we must be willing to innovate and model what courageous learning and growth look like in a complex and rapidly changing world. Below I have listed some great resources on innovation, growth and design thinking! I encourage you to add one or two to your reading list for 2022!
Resources on Creativity, Innovation & Growth:
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Kelley & Kelley
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Catmull & Wallace
Innovation by Design: How Any Organization Can Leverage Design Thinking to Produce Change, Drive New Ideas, and Deliver Meaningful Solutions by Lockwood & Papke
Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Kit for Managers by Liedtka & Ogilvie
101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization by Vijay Kumar
The Census Bureau reported that 48% of Generation Z is non-Caucasian. Today's youth and young adults represent the most diverse generation in our history. In addition, they live in a world of globalization and technology that connects us to diverse people in our communities and around the world. As we seek to engage the next generation in our ministries, workplaces, and communities, we must be leaders who value and embrace diversity, and who model effective multicultural leadership. This month, Charlotte Kassis and Bethany Peters joined me on The Leading Tomorrow Podcast to discuss tips and strategies for growing as multicultural leaders. Here are a couple of key takeaways from our discussion:
As we discussed multicultural leadership, Charlotte reminded us that it can be harmful to ignore differences that exist, to work alongside someone and not know their story. It is important to acknowledge diversity, appreciate it, and seek to understand the perspectives and stories of those who come from different backgrounds. It is also critical to ask ourselves, "Do my activities, interests, relationships, and learning pursuits show that I truly value diversity? How can I grow in this?" To hear the full discussion, check out this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.
May we continue to develop our cultural competency as we engage a diverse Generation Z!
There is an African Proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Healthy, productive teams, however, require time, energy, and intentional leadership. This is especially true of multigenerational teams. I appreciate the perspective of former basketball coach, Pat Summitt who once said, “To me, teamwork is a lot like being part of a family. It comes with obligations, entanglements, headaches, and quarrels. But the rewards are worth the cost.”
The level of complexity and change in our world is increasing the need for self-directed and empowered teams. In his book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal, explains, “Much of what a leader must be, and do, has fundamentally changed. The heroic “hands-on” leader whose personal competence and force of will dominated battlefields and boardrooms for generations has been overwhelmed by accelerating speed, swelling complexity, and interdependence.” McChrystal and his co-authors describe the need for team leaders to begin viewing themselves more as gardeners, and less as chess masters. The new environment in which leaders today must operate requires less of the “move-by-move control” of a chess master, the approach more common in traditional team leadership. Instead, team leaders today can be more effective when they operate as gardeners, “nurturing the organization—its structure, processes, and culture” to allow team members to function with confidence, resources, understanding, and support that enable maximum motivation, collaboration, and innovation.
Tony Dungy, in his book, The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People & Teams that Win Consistently, echoes the importance of the leader’s role in creating an environment where teams can thrive. He explains that leaders must “engage, educate, equip, encourage, empower, energize, and elevate. Those are the methods for maximizing the potential of any individual, team, organization, or institution for ultimate success and significance. Those are the methods of a mentor leader.” Tony Dungy encourages leaders to walk alongside their teams. He explains, “If you want to make a difference in the lives of the people you lead, you must be willing to walk alongside them, to lift and encourage them, to share moments of understanding with them, and to spend time with them, not just shout down at them from on high.”
A lack of support from the leader is a key reason young people struggle on teams. Multigenerational teams thrive most when they have a leader who nurtures like a gardener, caring for the individuals on the team as a gardener cares and provides for the plants in a garden.
Reflect on teams where you lead or have influence. What about the culture or environment is healthy and empowering? What is unhealthy? Do you lead and influence like a gardener, who nurtures and supports the individuals and team? How could you do this more intentionally?
This month, we are celebrating the release of Daniel Generation in Spanish and Audiobook (English)! The print edition of the Spanish book is now available on our website. The Spanish ebook and English audiobook are coming later this month. Watch for updates! To celebrate, we are including an excerpt from the book below. Check out this month's The Leading Tomorrow Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts for more on Gen Z's pursuit of happiness!
From Daniel Generation, chapter five:
In 1985, 25 years before the iPad, NYU professor, Neil Postman wrote an insightful little book titled Amusing Ourselves to Death. In it, he discusses the power of technology to create a culture of “uninformed pleasure seekers.” He further explains how media has slowly infiltrated our culture resulting in the promotion of entertainment as the standard of truth. Postman discusses writer Aldous Huxley’s vision described in Brave New World. The book was published in 1932 and set in London in the year 2540. Huxley understood that no “Big Brother is required to deprive people…people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.” In Brave New World, Huxley depicts the reality of people controlled by their desire for pleasure, rather than by tyranny or pain. A century ago, Huxley feared that what we love, our need for pleasure, would ruin us.
Technology presents several real dangers for us today. First, is its highly addictive nature. Nicholas Kardaras, in his book Glow Kids, explains what he calls the “dopamine tickle.” “Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter that’s the most critical element in the addiction process. When a person performs an action that satisfies a need or fulfills a desire, dopamine is released…into a cluster of nerve cells that are associated with pleasure and reward, also known as the brain’s pleasure center.” This triggers a signal to repeat the activity again.
Technology consistently provides a “dopamine” tickle. Simon Sinek discusses its addictive impact. “The youth of today want to do good…the problem is…they're all addicted to dopamine. We pretty much raised an entire generation addicted to the ding, buzz, beep or flash of their phone.” Text message and social media notifications give us the same dopamine reaction as gambling, drugs, and alcohol. In some cases, we can’t wait a few minutes to look at our phone. Playing video games, posting to social media, or watching YouTube videos can produce addictions if we fail to manage our actions and time.
Technology’s power includes its pervading influence. It guides our behaviors and perspectives by getting us to click on ads, buy things online, or read the articles fed to us. Technology today allows companies to track our every click and enables the constant barrage of personalized ads, products and information right to the device in our pocket or under our pillow. Daniel encountered a powerful program of training that sought to influence his loyalties and attention. He completed the training but controlled its power to inform or control him. We must do the same with technology. Technology provides us with valuable tools, but possesses the power to manipulate our time, attention, and loyalties. If we simply respond to, rather than manage, its influence in our lives we risk responding to the powerful dings, beeps, and flashes of our devices rather than to God.
The National Student Clearinghouse released their latest college enrollment numbers on October 15, 2020. They are showing that a month or so into the fall 2020 semester, undergraduate enrollment is running 4% below last year’s numbers. “Most strikingly, freshman students are by far the biggest decline of any group from last year, with a decrease of 16.1% nationally and a 22.7% drop at community colleges in particular. First-time students account for 69% of the total drop in undergraduate enrollment.”
It is not surprising that many undergraduate students may be putting their college plans on hold amid uncertain times. This means a lot of students who might otherwise be in college are doing something else right now. I couldn’t help but wonder what this season looks like for those who are waiting to reengage their college plans. While mental health risks for college students were high prior to the pandemic, we are now seeing an increase in depression rates for college students since the beginning of the pandemic. It is critical for students today to have support and encouragement in this season as they make decisions that will allow them to thrive amid the uncertainty.
If you know a college-aged student who has put their plans on hold, or who is reconsidering their plans, here are a few ways to encourage them:
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!