Managing Different Generations with Dr. Tim Elmore
Today we’re kicking off the new year with Dr. Tim Elmore, Founder of Growing Leaders to talk about his latest book, A New Kind of Diversity. Through Growing Leaders, Elmore and his team teach middle school, high school, and college students the skills they need to become authentic leaders. He has shared his insights in more than thirty countries and has written more than twenty-five books, including Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes and Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future.
The views, information, or opinions expressed during this show are solely those of the participants involved and do not necessarily represent those of SouthState Bank and its employees.
Caleb Stevens: Well, hey everybody, and welcome back to the Community Bank podcast. Happy New Year. We are rocking some new intro music for the new year. It was time to freshen it up. We’d had the same old music the entire time. If you’re ever going through the Atlanta Airport, by the way, and you hear the PA person over the intercom, say, ”your attention please.” Airport Security alert. That is the same guy who does our intro music. So, we appreciate Tony Maisano, doing that for us, and if this is your first time joining us, this show is all about serving you as the community banker. On this show, we talk about everything from the economy to culture and leadership, to the Federal Reserve and interest rates, to digital banking, M&A, strategy, and credit lending. We want to run the gamut and find as many ways as we can to add value to you, the community banker.
So, thanks for tuning in. We hope every show is a little bit different and brings a unique angle on how you can improve your bank yourself and your profits. Today’s show is with Dr. Tim Elmore. Tim is a leadership expert, he’s a generational expert. And this show is about how do you lead a team that’s got a number of different generations represented. Maybe you’re leading a team that’s got millennials, gen zers, gen Xers, and boomers all on one team. How in the world do you lead in a way that doesn’t stereotype people, but actually promotes learning and progress, and growth more effectively for your company and for your team? Tim, as a new book out on this topic, called A New Kind of Diversity. So, we’ll dive into that and are excited for you to hear this discussion. Before we get there, though, if you are a community bank out there and you are curious, where in the world is my cost of funding headed this year?
We have a model that we can run that’ll show your bank’s historical cost of funding all the way back to 1990 if your bank exists that far back. And it also shows where it’s projected to head over the next 10 years. We believe that managing your cost of funding and having a good handle on how your cost of funding correlates to short-term rates is something that every bank needs to be thinking about in this environment. So, to get your free report, all you’ve got to do is click the link in the show notes of this episode and we will send you a report that outlines your bank’s historical cost of funding relative to short-term rates, and also shows where they’ve projected ahead over the next 10 years. So, get the clarity you need to make better decisions, take control of your balance sheet, and get a free report. All you have to do is click the link in the show notes of this episode. And with that, here is my discussion with Dr. Tim Elmore. Well, Tim, welcome back to the Community Bank Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us today. How are things over at growing leaders?
Tim Elmore: We’re doing well, we’re ready to close out a year and enter a new one. It’s exciting.
Caleb Stevens: Well, we had you back on the show about a year ago, and you were speaking to our audience, which is community bankers all over the country, and you were talking about the eight paradoxes of great leadership, and that was a fascinating discussion. We talked all about things that is required of leaders that may seem opposed, but in reality, complement each other and go together, and in some cases, you really can’t have one without the other. We talked about confidence and humility, we talked about having high standards, but also gracious forgiveness, having a high challenge and high support for folks who missed us on that last show, tell us a little bit about you and growing leaders and what you do, and maybe just a snip a tidbit snippet from your previous work.
Tim Elmore: Yeah, thanks, Caleb. Well, I have been in the leader development industry forever. It feels like this is the 43rd year of my career, 20 years of my early career was spent with John Maxwell. So, John Maxwell’s, this leadership guru that many people have heard of. All the while John was teaching business leaders, corporate leaders, and ministry leaders, I kept thinking what would happen if we could get this to people earlier in their life before they made the mistakes, like maybe in college or high school. So, growing leaders was set up to really help onboard a new generation into the workforce and to really be ready for leadership. So, our bread and butter, Caleb, is something we call habitudes habits or images that form leadership habits and attitudes. So, it’s a way of teaching a timeless principle with an image. So, in all my books, I sprinkle in some of those images. I just think people remember metaphors and pictures faster than they remember lists. So, that’s what growing Leaders is all about. We now partner with over 10,000 organizations and schools and athletic departments around the world, and we love what we get to do.
Caleb Stevens: Give me just quick two or three examples of a habitude for the leaders who aren’t familiar with that curriculum, and leaders, if you’re listening, go check out the habitudes. That is a must-have not only for younger leaders, but I think it’s practical for older leaders as well, a couple of quick habitudes. What are some of your favorites or things that may stick out to our listeners?
Tim Elmore: Well, you can see me, Caleb. So, right behind me are two of the chaos. So, this one here is a picture of a flood. It’s a house in the middle of a flood, so it’s kind of engaging BECAUSE that’s weird. But the habitude is simply called rivers and floods. So, here’s the bottom line. Rivers and floods are both bodies of water, but after that, it’s all contrast. Floods are water going in every direction all at once and often doing damage. Rivers, on the other hand, are flowing in one direction because they have banks to them and you could leverage them to do a lot of good. I think people tend to be either rivers or floods, we either flowing in 17 different directions, doing more damage than good five miles wide and one inch deep or we’re a river, we find our river and we flow in that one place, that niche.
The banks are our values, the banks are saying no to things. But I think naturally in America, the land of opportunity, we tend to be flooded, not rivers, we tend to flood, not flow, fuzzy not focused. So, that’s one big idea. And then of course the whole chapter or video on that one is really how do we be more focused people? Another one that I love is chess and checkers. A lot of them are contrast like rivers and floods, chess and checkers. So, those are two games that you play on the same game board. But the big difference is the pieces. When you play checkers, all your pieces look alike. They all move alike. So, you treat them all alike, in checkers if you have any hope of winning in the game, you got to know what his piece can do.
I think great leaders, no, let me start with this. Mediocre leaders play checkers with their people. They treat them all alike and they get average performance. Great leaders have learned to play chess in the relationships of their life and they connect with others, others at the uniqueness of their personality, their strength, and I believe their generation and they bring out the best. So, play chess not checkers, be a river, not a flood. That’s kind of two of the images. They’re simple but you can tell they go as profound as you want them to go. You can start conversations that lead to good…
Caleb Stevens: Very memorable, very portable. Well, you’re known Tim as a generational expert, and I first heard you speak back in 2010. I was 15 years old. It was at booster thos, big summer leadership conference. The Chris Carne and his team host every year, and I remember still to this day, 12 years later, you talking about generation Y, the millennial generation, because at that time they were the generation emerging into the workforce, they were all the buzz about how do you manage this new group of kids, they’ve got these smartphones and they’re tech savvy. It’s funny now Gen Z has sort of taken the place there, and my wife and I, we just had our first son about seven months ago and I found out he’s part of generation alpha. And so, very curious to see in 15 years, you know, 20 years when he’s graduating college, what his generation will we mark by. I think that’s a good segue into your latest book, A New Kind of Diversity. Talk about what led you to write this new book and how do you know when an idea deserves a whole book. Why not just a blog post or a talk? When does an idea fully deserve the full force of a book? And what led you to write this book?
Tim Elmore: Well, I’ll answer the second question first, sir Caleb. I felt like maybe this deserves to be a book instead of a blog. Because I’ll tell you what, blogs are much easier to write. But I kept finding people asking more questions, how do I help these young team members get on board with what we’re doing here at the workplace here, you know, whatever? And the more I found I was answering questions that just led to more questions, and I call it a new kind of diversity because we really get diversity these days. I mean, we’re talking about ethnic diversity and gender diversity, and income diversity, but I think the elephant in the room is generational diversity. We have 4, or 5 generations working together and it’s kind of that elephant room that’s there. We all know it’s there, but nobody knows how to talk about it.
I think this book is a reference guy just to say, we got to talk about this. A 22-year-old is going to think different than a 52-year-old. But you can bring out the best in both. We need both, but oftentimes we think, oh, I just got to put up with these people old to young and young to old. Come on. So, the book was really meant to be really an encyclopedia in many ways. Here’s the builder generation, here’s the boomers, here’s the Xers, here’s the millennials, here’s Gen Zers. I even do a little appendix at the very back where I introduce the alpha generation. These kids that you have now and what are they marked by? Well, if you’re five years old today and part of the alpha generation, half your life has been a pandemic. So, your social skills may be needing to catch up now because you’ve not been socialized yet. It’s just a funky thing that makes you think and go, okay, I need to have a little more empathy as they connect with this person than judgment.
Caleb Stevens: So, for the folks that need a quick refresher, give us just a little preview or a little taste of all the living generations currently and maybe just a couple of things that they’re sort of marked by or known for.
Tim Elmore: Okay, that’ll be fun, I’ll do this quick. So, believe it or not, for the first time in modern history, we are living at a time when there are seven distinct generations alive and well. Seven sociological generations meeting different mindsets because we grew up in different times. So, the senior generation would be my grandparents’ generation, they’re gone now, but it’s also my uncle Gene and Aunt Wanda. Uncle Gene turns 99 this month, 99, and Aunt Wanda’s 97. So, the senior generation would have grown up in the roaring twenties, went through the Great Depression, fought in World War ii, very civic-minded, and very patriotic. Their life paradigm was manifest destiny. Go west, young man, go west because 120 years ago. And then the builder generation came along. They were from 1929 to 1945, they were called builders because they built so much out of so little.
My dad and mom are both part of builder generation, my dad was born in 1930. He just passed away in 2020 at 90 years old. But the first decade of his life was the Great Depression, and the next five years World War ii. So, he is a frugal, conservative, penny pincher, say the wrapping paper, Christmas, we’ll use it next year. You know, all that stuff. So, their live paradigm was more, hey, just be grateful, be grateful you even got a job. You know? Then came the baby boomers, we all have heard about the baby boomers, from 1946 to 1964. They were called baby boomers because right after World War II was over, there was a boom of baby, the soldiers came home and there were 76.4 million kids born in 18 years. We had never seen that before in our country. The baby boomers had a very different mindset because I’m one of them.
Because we were such a large generation, everybody paid attention to us. They wanted our eventual dollar. So, boomers felt, grew up a little bit more audacious, maybe a little bit more entitled. I gave the Boomers a live paradigm. I want more, I want a better life than mom and dad had had. It’s not a time of depression, it’s a time of expansion. After Baby Boomers come, the Baby Busters or Generation X, most of you all know them as at Gen Xers. But the first title that Gen X generation was given was Baby Buster because the first year of their generation’s existence was the public introduction of the birth control pill. So, instead of a boom, it was a bust. In fact, Roe v Wade in 73 along in that same time period, you have a shrinking population, not a booming population.
So, they grew up in the shadow of the baby boomers in the darkness of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, the OPEC gas crisis, even though excess were just children, they saw skeptical parents during their day and they grew up as little more skeptical themselves, even as kids. Latchkey kids after the Gen Xers come, the gen wires or millennials, you just referred to them. They were the people born basically in the eighties and nineties. Give or take a few years. But they grew up in a different time than the Xers. It was a time of hope. Again, Reagan was president, our economy bounced back, and in the nineties, it was even stronger. So, millennials again, more confident, and by the way, grew up as the cell phone grew up as the personal computer grew up.
So, there was a feeling of I can do anything, you know, I’m awesome and more of a free agent mindset, life is a cafeteria and I’m a free agent. You know, that sort of thing. And then comes Gen Z that you just mentioned, the new kids on the block, they’re just now entering the workforce. They were born at to turn of the century to 2015, a darker time. Again, think about the turn of the century. There was the.com era bubble bursting, September 11th, 2001, terrorist attack, and corporate scandals at Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco. It was just… there was some good, but there was a lot of dark, in fact, mass shootings today, our common play, there’s been more mass shootings this year than days in the year. So, kids are in the darker time period again, and then, of course, Jen Alpha. Now, here’s what I want to close this comment with this statement.
Listeners, as you’re listening, you may have noticed a pattern. The pendulum of history swings back and forth like a grandfather clock. The senior generation was a generation of confidence, builders’ generation of caution, boomers back to confidence, Xers back to caution, millennials back to confidence, and gen Z back to caution. So, it’s very intriguing how, well, I like how Mark Twain said it, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme and it’s rhyming now with, you know, so different generations, are just going to feel differently and approach problem solving differently, approach communication differently, maybe be a little bit more skeptical. And I think we just need to understand before we lead, I’d love to use a phrase, we got to read them before we lead them.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah, no, that’s very helpful, and it’s interesting to me too to sort of see the child-parent parenting. Because many times, you know, people think of boomers, they’re the parents of the millennials. What’s funny is I’m sort of on the tail end of the millennials and my parents are older Gen Xers. And so, I even see differences between my parents and my peer’s parents in many cases. I have a coworker here who’s a very old millennial who’s probably even closer in age to my parents than to me. But I told him, I said, when I talk to you, I feel like I’m talking to somebody from my generation. There seems to be more in common that you and I have than with my parents. Even though you’re probably closer in age to them.
Tim Elmore: Well, and what you would be… well oftentimes the explanation for that is there’s such a thing is a tweener. So, you’re a tweener. If you were born in the last five years of one generation or the first five years of another, you’re going to have characteristics of both. I’m one of those, I’m a tweener between boomers and Gen Xers. So, it makes sense, doesn’t it, that you’re adopting the culture that’s shaping you.
Caleb Stevens: No doubt. Well, I heard a stat recently, and I think this was back in 2018, that the average community bank CEO is 57, which at that time would’ve put them squarely as a boomer. 2018 being 57, I think that would be right. Maybe a younger boomer. So, that’s probably many of the folks who are listening today, of course, there are other leaders who are not of the boomer generation but talk about for the leaders listening, they’ve got a variety of generations on their team. What are some of the common pitfalls that you see leaders falling into when it comes to leading generations on their team and maybe just a few practical applications for how they can improve their leadership amongst a variety of diversity generation-wise?
Tim Elmore: That’s a great question, Caleb. Let me do justice to it if I can. Well, because I am a boomer and might be right in the mean age of that CEO of a community bank the greatest temptation for us is to have succeeded to a level and just keep doing it the same way, and culture evolves. You know, demographics evolve, it’s just time keep moving forward. So, the greatest temptation we have is to not be open to the ideas, fact of the matters is our brains work a little bit like wet cement, our neural pathways are very pliable in the very beginning. And then they begin to set like concrete, you know, and it’s not that we can’t change after 30 or 35 years old, but like a sidewalk takes a jackhammer to change.
Sometimes it takes a jackhammer to change us guys. So, I think I find myself saying, I want to stay open. I need to make sure I’m not make anybody feel dumb for some new idea. Because I go, well, I know what to do. I’ve been doing this for four to three years now. That’s called gaslighting, where we make someone feels foolish for even not knowing something or having a different idea, and I think we got to stop that, I think we need to stop stereotyping, I think for boomers it’s very easy to stereotype. You hear one little piece of data on Gen Zers, you go, ah, they’re all fragile snowflakes. You know, we say that all the time, and yet they’re not. There are some, but there are some great kids that are very creative, and by the way, we could use their marketing savvy on social media for that bank if we would just be open.
So, I think that’s probably obvious, but clearly, we’re going to have to stay open and curious. You know what, this might be helpful for your listeners. When I think about the three qualities that I need as an older, seasoned veteran in my career to stay connected to younger generations, there are three of them. One is humility, even though I think I know a lot and I actually think I do, I need to stay humble. That screams to someone else. Wow, you’re still open to growth, you don’t think you have all the answers and you need the help of others. And every leader ought to be admitting that daily. So, humility’s huge. The second one is respect; I know that’s an old word. Thank you, Aretha Franklin. But I think respect is just necessary for both sides.
And if we older leaders will start with respect for a 22-year-old just coming into the bank or the workplace, it’s almost always reciprocated, but we have to lead before they’ve earned it, yet lead with respect. And then the third one is curiosity. If I can stay curious to new ways, new methods, new strategies, and new ideas, I know everybody is nodding in agreement because we all know that’s right. But think about it, if we would lead with humility, respect, and curiosity. I’m going to connect with anybody of any generation. So, of course in the book, I talk about some of these skill sets, and how we can develop them. So, Caleb, you just ask how can we, what are some steps we can do to do that? Well, I’ll tell you what, one of them is reverse mentoring. I think Jack Welch first started doing this way back in the nineties at General Electric.
But it’s brilliant and we do it at growing leaders on a regular basis. Reverse mentoring is when an older veteran on the job and a young rookie on the job get together. They meet for coffee and they swap stories. You can always find some common ground when you swap stories. But then the older mentor pours into the younger rookie, how to succeed at this workplace, here’s how you build your career here. Just they share stuff that they picked up over the years, but then they take the mentor hat off and they put the mentee hat on and the younger person is now the mentor in areas that they are strong in. Like, how do we monetize the latest social media app? How can we use TikTok for marketing or whatever? But there are always modern elders and young geniuses that have something to offer to each other.
I meet with Andrew at Growing Leaders. He’s 30 years younger than me. Cam is 40 years younger than me, and I learn something every time and I give something every time. It’s a great assignment, and this new kind of diversity book, I actually give an entire chapter on how to do this well. So, two websites, the book can be found and a free assessment, you can assess your generational fluency if you go to GQ, it’s called the GQ, but the website is simply newdiversitybook.com. You can find the assessment and the book there, newdiversitybook.com, and then you can find me in the habitudes at growing leaders.com.
Caleb Stevens: Fantastic. Well, we appreciate your time. Always good to chat with you and hopefully we’ll talk to you when the next book comes out.
Tim Elmore: You bet. Thanks, Caleb. Good to see you.
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