77% of organisations report they are experiencing a leadership gap as 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every single day. According to the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 80% of respondents rated leadership a high priority for their organisations, but only 41% think they are ready or very ready to meet their leadership requirements. Clearly there is an issue that is not going away no matter how much it is being ignored.

Mentoring seems so to be a logical way of helping the next generation of leaders, however there is a serious mindset gap there. Most people have that personal experience when our parents wanted to teach us how to do something “properly”, we got defensive and agitated, it turned into an argument and both sides drew their own conclusions:

  • millennials have no common sense and they are entitled with no life skills.
  • Baby boomers are so patronising, they think they know everything, they have no idea how the new world works.

Excellent options. Mentorship is often a one-sided relationship where a more experienced person shares experience and wisdom with someone who has less experience in a certain area. There is nothing wrong with that if you are an entrepreneur and it is voluntary. But it does not seem to work in a corporate environment where it is often forced onto senior leaders

By definition, a mentor relationship demands the mentor’s time and energy. When it’s a one-sided relationship, the mentor will eventually resent the intrusion.  When a relationship spins out of balance in any way, it breaks down.

This is where the ICQ mindset is crucial and the two-way mentoring becomes the way forward. We revere wisdom and experience, both of which tend to come with age, but we devalue the insights younger, less experienced people can provide. The new generation might not know how things used to be done and they get frustrated by the rules dragged over 2-3 decades ago. The older generation might get frustrated by the evolution of technology and the gig-economy. Instead of trying to prove who is right, it would make much more sense to realise that both sides can equally teach and learn from from each other and combining the expertise of 2 generations could create the kind of synergy they were hoping to have by investing in new technology and fancy employee engagement programs.

The challenge is that leadership programs based on Baby Boomer experience in a world without internet and cultural intelligence ones making them believe same nationalities are more similar than same generations of different countries are not designed to address the new challenges of the 21st century.

That is the reason why measuring cognitive diversity and the mindset gap between any two cultural groups can be enlightening. We have run dozens of team reports and compared women vs men, millennials vs baby boomers, different nationalities within the same departments in different countries and most of the time they were much more similar inside than they expected it to be. Once they understood that they had very similar values and needs but they were conditioned in different environments where they had to learn how to be efficient, how to conform to different norms even if it was not natural to them, everything changed. They realised they had similar goals and different best practices to achieve them. That is how differences can be turned into synergy instead of liability.

Diversity can be a gold mine or…minefield. It depends on how much those people, especially their leaders, understand themselves and others. That is ICQ, the science of uncommon sense as cultural differences are just clashes of common senses, not a binary battle to decide who is right and who is wrong.

Csaba Toth
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Csaba Toth

Founder at ICQ Global
Author of Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times, developer of the multi award-winning Global DISC model
Csaba Toth
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