Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thoughts from Nonprofit Leadership from Every Generation

"You are too young. We can't hire you."
"Managing someone 20 years older than me."

About a week ago, I had the opportunity to attend the YNPN Professional Development event, "Nonprofit Leadership from Every Generation". Professional Development workshops take place every other month. I view them as a great opportunity to foster NP young professionals interactions, tackle some general and day-to-day professional development issues in the non-profit sector and get some great tips from seasoned individuals.

The March workshop was an opportunity to show how one can lead and collaborate successfully within a multi-generational community and possibly help answer some of the questions above.

The moderator was Ryan Feinstein from Next-Gen collaborative and the panelists were Emily Davis (co-founder/chair YNPN San Diego), Sherri Petro from VPI Strategies and John Falchi, former professor and development consultant for NGOs, each of them representing a different facet of the multi-generational leadership.

The workshop began with an intro from each of the panelists showing how they had to deal during their career with multi-generational issues. A couple of anecdotes that stuck:
  • John F. spending some time in a frathouse in his 50's and transforming that in a positive experience where everyone came together to organize the First United Nations Earth Run (commemorating 1986 as the International Year of Peace)
  • Sherri P. managing people from 18 to 65 years old with a person introducing himself as follows: "Hi, I'm Russ and I have all my teeth."
  • The advice of a career counselor to Emily D. about her looking too young: "Put some glasses on and suck it up."
A couple of interesting points that stuck:
  • Its more a question of qualities than age.
  • It comes down to respect and leveraging, not to age.
  • The newcomer in a group has something to prove, i.e., demonstrate success. There is the assumption that with age comes entitlement. Power has to be taken, it's seldom given.
  • Common ground is the mission.
After that introduction of the panelists, the workshop moved to a World Cafe format where the question was "What assumptions do we have and how can we challenge those limited beliefs?"
Through group discussion, the following points were brought up:

  • Lack of understanding
  • Entitlement
  • Tech = younger
  • Older = experience
  • With age comes authority, power, wisdom
  • Young = idealistic
  • "Earn your stripes"
  • Every generation is persuaded they know best
  • Knowledge transfer is unidirectional
Opportunities that come from those limited assumptions:
  • Discuss how to communicate
  • Address/be explicit about different opportunities
  • Come from a place of respect with empathy
  • Be willing to have a friendly conversation
  • Create/build relationships by checking assumptions at the door
  • Ask why someone wants to know about age
  • Owning your age - be confident
  • Learn how people want to be recognized
  • Show your skills, develop credibility
  • Wisdom = experience awareness
  • More diversity = more results for the mission
  • Cross-functional teams create strength
Overall a great workshop! Watch for the next workshop in May with a panel of next gen Executive Directors from San Diego.

Many thanks to Rahul Dangui for the blog contribution!

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