Baby Boomers and Multi-Generational Leadership
In today’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, we are continuing our multi-generational leadership series taking a closer look at Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials in the workforce today. We are talking with Baby Boomer, Jim Lopresti, president of CohereUS consulting and professor at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. Jim is going to share with us his unique insights as a professor and consultant working with multiple generations.
Full Transcript Below
Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall here, and I am talking today to Jim Lopresti. He is joining us to talk and represent part of the Baby Boomer generation. As we talk about multi-generational leadership and how different generations come and connect and interact with each other in the workforce. Jim, thank you so much for being with us today.
Jim Lopresti: Oh, you’re welcome, Jenn.
Jenn DeWall: Now, Jim, for those that don’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jim Lopresti: Sure. I am a professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, and I teach leadership and management. I teach undergrads, but mostly graduate students. So I get a whole mix of generations in those classes. And I also have my own consulting practice, and I consult and coach professional coach people in all different industries.
Jenn DeWall: On the topics of performance, leadership,
Jim Lopresti: Strategic planning, Management, Development, leadership,
Jenn DeWall: The whole gamut. So what they need to be effective as leaders.
Jim Lopresti: Absolutely. Especially emotional intelligence. That’s my wheelhouse if you will. So emotional and social intelligence, which I’ve been teaching actually to the Denver Police Department. Climate silent scientists for NOAA and UCAR, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and HomeAdvisor.
Jenn DeWall: Oh, wow. Yes. That’s fantastic. I mean, emotional intelligence is something that I think regardless of what generation you belong to; it’s absolutely something that’s essential for all of us to understand.
Jim Lopresti: It’s for every human right walks this planet. If you don’t have it, people know it. And when you do have it, they will know that too.
How Do You Define Leadership?
Jenn DeWall: So let’s start out by just asking you from the Baby Boomer perspective. Jim, how do you define leadership?
Jim Lopresti: You know, I just talked about this yesterday in my management class for my MBA course and I, it just kind of occurred to me when we were speaking in class. I said, guys, I’m going to give you a kind of my take on leadership and management. And I said, particularly leadership: it’s a verb. People consider it a title. I’m a leader, or they consider it a noun: leadership, but it’s a verb. It’s behaviors. So if we consider the behaviors that are necessary for leadership, then suddenly we’re not thinking, well, I’m a leader, so I have to do this or I do that I deserve this, or I don’t deserve that.
So the whole concept of leadership as a verb takes it over and above an organizational kind of context and it means we should behave this way every day. When you leave your corner office, or on the 65th floor of the World Trade Center or whatever, and go out to lunch, you still take those who should take those leadership behaviors, qualities with you to the waitstaff and, and the Maitre D or the woman at the door or what have you. So for me, considering leadership as a verb, it’s a whole set of behaviors that we all should, emotionally intelligent behaviors that we all should practice.
Jenn DeWall: So that’s such a powerful definition because I feel like it’s accessible. It’s a way of being.
Jim Lopresti: It is. It’s exactly what it is because it’s a verb!
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, but I mean, even thinking that it’s not just something where we draw on this behavior, or we show up that way for the eight, nine hours, however long we’re at our jobs, and then when we go home, we show up as someone else. It’s really who are we when we approached that its staff, as you talked about to our children, to the community, to our employee’s leadership is the way that we show up and interact with everyone.
Jim Lopresti: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s what makes for authentic leadership is just being yourself 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Baby Boomers in the Multi-Generational Workforce
Jenn DeWall: I love that you’re a professor and a consultant because it lends itself to meeting with a large group of people that presumably are from different generations. Yes. What differences in leadership do you notice and see across the generations?
Jim Lopresti: So for the Millennials that I have both coached as well as taught, they see leadership in a little different light than say a Baby Boomer or even Gen X. For them, leadership is something you work toward. But you work toward it. And I’m saying generally speaking, because they’re not all like this, I just want to preface at least this talk with, I don’t put everybody in their little generational box and say, these are the qualities that make you a Gen X, Baby Boomer, the Greatest Generation or, or a Millennial. There’s a tendency, I’ll use that word for Millennials, or I guess they’re called Gen Y. To be a little impatient about getting that leadership role. So it’s, it’s okay, I’ve been here for a year. Why aren’t I leading a team yet? And then I actually encountered this with a group that I was working within Pasadena, California last year actually. Um they, I was coaching some Millennials and then some Baby Boomers who were much, much higher up. And it was, an emerging leader program. And my Millennial coachees where we’re saying, you know, I’ve been here for a year, I really should have a much bigger team. I said, you know, you already have a team for your age and experience that I think can teach you how to be better at what you do and how to discover yourself.
And, and again, this was all led from emotional intelligence because, you know, I would tell the Millennials this is about self-awareness and self-management. Understand who you are first and then manage your emotions, especially the impatience if you will if that’s who you are. And, and as your coach, I see a little more impatiences than I do with some other folks that I’m coaching a little older if you will. And they just look at me kind of confused and baffled and don’t really understand that it takes time to build that self-awareness. And it certainly takes time. Once you understand what your hot buttons are like I’m just not getting promoted in, it’s been three weeks. What’s the story to manage that, to manage that impatience or, or what have you? So Baby Boomers, completely different animal. I’ve coached a heck of a lot of Baby Boomers. I am one, so I can relate to them better. And they have a sense of loyalty that I, I understand most Millennials would have a tendency not to because organizationally the industries have all moved away from loyalty and it’s, Hey, I can always fill this role with somebody else. So if you don’t like it, here, hit the pike.
My father who was the Greatest Generation and in most of my peers and colleagues were treated with respect and in turn we turned that respect to their respected organizations and so they were guaranteed work, if you will, or guaranteed it’s kind of a strange word anymore. They knew that when they got up in the morning, they go into work and they weren’t handed a pink slip and said, Hey, you know, you’re old. We can fill your job with somebody half your age and half your salary. So hit the pike. That happens now, I think far more frequently than it used to say 15, 20 years ago. So Millennials don’t have a sense of loyalty, nor have they any reason to have a sense of loyalty. Whereas Baby Boomers still do, despite the industry has moved away from, “Hey, we’re going to protect you. Don’t you worry about it.” What the hell is a pension?
Jenn DeWall: Right? We’re not guaranteed that anymore. I mean, the last recession in the US definitely showed U S employees that companies are, as you said, are not invested in loyalty anymore. They’re not necessarily going to offer the things that are promised when you initially accept that offer.
Jim Lopresti: Not even close. Yeah. So and I understand that, and I work with them because that’s a good reason to be impatient if you look at it is, you know, I’m not really guaranteed a job here, so I need to just build out my resume, and I can see how they would be impatient. But everything in moderation, as the Greek said, you know take it a little more slowly and, and build that self-awareness and that self-management (which Baby Boomers have had more time to do). Then you start to build the relationships and make that network a lot larger and stronger. And then people see your worth, and you get promoted. So yeah, it’s, it’s interesting the Gen Zs are still very young, so I don’t know. I have a few in my undergraduate class, but I haven’t; I don’t know where they stand on leadership. I suspect they probably carry a lot of the Millennial perspectives with them, especially the loyalty and the impatience.
What about Gen X?
Jenn DeWall: What about the Gen Xers?
Jim Lopresti: Gen Xers are
Jenn DeWall: I know sometimes they get mislabeled as like the forgotten generation. They aren’t the same size as the boomers and the Millennials.
Jim Lopresti: And maybe that’s why I didn’t mention them because I forgot that. No, not really.
Jenn DeWall: We’re teasing. We accept them!
Jim Lopresti: No, and I have a lot of my MBA students are Gen Xers, and quite a few of my friends are Gen Xers, Gen Xers are– they have this kind of, I think they perceive themselves as somewhere between the, and this is a term that I constantly hear about Millennials, that they’re entitled. I have plenty of Millennial students at both graduate undergraduate and clients who don’t feel themselves entitled at all. It’s, I’m going to, I’m going to earn what I receive. I’m not expecting someone to hand it to me. Although I’ve read all of the crap out there that’s been written. Some of it’s good, some of it is, it’s just opinion. That the Millennials are the entitled generation, so everything should be handed to them without doing much work.
Whereas Gen X, I think Gen X are they work very hard, and sometimes I think maybe they’ve been left out of the loop when it comes to understanding that they, they were very different from the Baby Boomers in that the loyalty thing wasn’t really bred into them either because again, the industry has changed. All industries have changed. Organizational behaviors changed towards their employees. So when I worked at Lucent for four years and then went to Sun Microsystems. A lot of Gen Xers, they’re very loyal. All thought this is going to be the job I will retire from. That wasn’t Sun’s idea, nor was it Lucent’s idea and it was their leadership. Their leadership was Baby Boomers, who screwed up, and it was also a Sun Microsystems. They and I, any organization that fails and is either taken over or just goes bankrupt, it’s always leadership. It’ll go back to leadership.
The employees are doing their work; leadership is making the decisions around that work, and people are, are getting laid off in one round after another. And when you see that, especially the folks that I worked with at Sun Microsystems. When they see that, it makes them jaded. And so they get a little more hardened, if you will, and say, well, I’m just going to look after myself. So a lot of my Gen X friends and MBA students take care of themselves. I’m not saying they’re selfish, not, not even close to being selfish. It’s more like self-focused that no one’s going to take care of me, so I have to take care of myself.
Jenn DeWall: And I think that you know, that makes total sense given that they’re dubbed that latchkey generation where parents weren’t there, they had to get that key from either that shoestring, which is What I had- a shoestring that was in our backpacks or underneath the doormat. Well, however, that went, and you had to fix yourself your meal, put yourself to bed; however, that worked out. But yeah, there’s a high sense of independence as a Gen X or just based on a lot of how they were raised
Jim Lopresti: And self-reliance, self-reliance. Because they were the latchkey generation, they had to fend for themselves. Now that was something they did at home, but they also carry those behaviors to work with them. So they fend for themselves, they take care of themselves. I have I’ve worked with people in a different context, in different jobs as a consultant, and the Gen X project leads or program leaders took care of their people. They really did. They took very good care of their people. They also took care of themselves while they were doing it. Baby Boomers take care of their people. I think Baby Boomers had a tendency to maybe take care of their people a little bit more than taking care of themselves. Millennials, I don’t even know about them yet.
Jenn DeWall: I think there’s a little bit what you see and it’s, I still think that you know, it’s still out to be determined to see like how they actually make that impact, but knowing that they desire so much of that mentorship connection of a supporter, I imagine. And some of them that I know are actually very attentive to how they can support. Because they want people to feel like they have someone that they can turn to and go to. But you know, in terms of the true, how they end up influencing as higher-level leaders, I think the jury’s still out that, that one. Yeah. And I think it will be up for a little while. Right? There are a lot more experience and time in the workforce.
Jim Lopresti: I think we really, really need to be cautious about pigeonholing everyone just because of their age, when they were born. So I try to avoid that at all costs. Yes, there are tendencies and behaviors that as, as a unit of, you know, 20 years that we all share in a generation that there are trends, there are cultural values and norms that shift and change and that influences who we are and how we behave. But there are plenty of people who are very independent thinkers and don’t follow the crowd. I have students when I ask how many of you have social media? Most of the room, the hands go up.
But I would say typically in a class of both undergraduates and graduates; there’s always between five and 10 in a group of maybe 40 who don’t have social media and don’t care to. And that always strikes me as, wow, that’s unusual because it’s everywhere. It’s ubiquitous. But, and then I had a student with me in my international entrepreneurship program in Barcelona who didn’t even have a smartphone. And this woman is 28. Wow. And she had a flip phone. She said, Nope, it’s, I, it’s too much of a distraction. And I said that’s funny because when I talk about smartphones in all my classes, I say put ’em away. It’s a handheld weapon of mass distraction. So I don’t want you looking at it or wondering who just texted you, who just liked you or tweeted you or what have you, put it away. It’s a distraction.
Multiple Generations Means Multiple Communication Styles
Jenn DeWall: I think the cell phone, and that’s what’s so interesting is initially I think with cell phones, it was very much the younger generations that grabbed onto that heads down in the phones. But now as smartphones are becoming the reality, I feel like you’re seeing that across every single generation where they’re either so immersed in social media or some type of game that they play or something where it’s hard to get anyone to put their phones down and connect into their present life. Which I think, you know, again, you had initially put that as a challenge within the Millennials, but as it’s becoming more and more common, I think it’s, you know, kind of infecting, if you will, all the generations.
Jim Lopresti: It is, it is. And I think as older generations, I think use it more as expression. It’s a tool where you can express yourself in social media as well, smartphones. So whereas I think the younger generations use it for impression. So it’s to build this narrative of who I am. This is me and my bagel in the morning, and this is me walking along the beach, 43 different pictures of me walking along the beach to make everybody wish I were there with you, or oh, you’re so lucky. So there’s a huge difference I’m finding between the younger generations that use social media, which includes smartphones as an impression rather than an expression. Express yourself, you know, texting people and telling them something in whole sentences rather than just a bunch of acronyms, you know, OMG, FYI, a LOL. And on and on it goes. I find my Boomer friends and Gen X friends will actually write me whole sentences, and when they misspell a word, they’ll correct it and send it in the next text. You know, no way will that happen with the younger folks,
Jenn DeWall: There’s not enough time for that. They’ve got all those other people to text.
Jim Lopresti: They’re going to get that award for the best texter, or the best social media entity –
Jenn DeWall: It’s funny, I mean I do know and I, there’s one person coming to mind, and I will just be nice and not out there, but one of the things that I tease her on is, and she is part of the Gen X generation, but she had dictates all of her text messages. So they end up being full paragraphs because she was dictating like five sentences into one thing. And it’s so funny because if you asked a, someone, that’s just a little bit more familiar with texting and emojis and everything, they will do and probably send a very similar type of communication, but it will be a quarter of the information and words.
Jim Lopresti: Yes. You know (like other baby boomers), I’m very, very particular about my emails and my texts, so I have to reread them, make sure there are no typos. Maybe it’s because I have a Ph.D. in English and it would look bad. But my grammar has to be perfect. My texting if I, you know, fat finger a word or what have you, and it’s misspelled. I’ll always correct it. And then, you know, immediate text follow up. I’ll get texts from so many different people from so many different generations. Nope. It’s, although the older folks do tend to, they don’t like to misspell cause it makes them look bad.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. That’s how exactly that’s how I was raised. But if you don’t spell correctly or if you don’t have proper grammar,
Jim Lopresti: It’s basic communication skills, especially business communications.
Jenn DeWall: Right. And they are essential. We still need to know how to properly formally communicate. Yeah. We can’t take everything and simplify it down to an emoji. It’s not going to be as effective.
Jim Lopresti: Yeah, Don’t get me going on Emoji!
Jenn DeWall: So in your role as a consultant, business owner, and professor, how do you bridge the generational gaps, or how do you address the generational gaps in your classroom or your business? Do you feel, do you find yourself taking a different approach depending on who you’re coaching or teaching?
Jim Lopresti: I ask them how they perceive themselves, which is probably a good place to start. So how do you perceive yourself, say, as a Millennial you know, you’ve heard plenty of things about Millennials, etc., etc. Do you see yourself as the typical Millennial, and you know, more often than not, most of them say, not really. There are things that I see about myself that that is very typical with my friends, and they’re all Millennials or Baby Boomers. You know, I, there are things about me as a Baby Boomer that I see in my friends and, and how I perceived myself is for the most part pretty close with some variations and such that, you know, the Baby Boomers box. But I want to know what makes them different. And so, especially with the class, I’ll say, how many of you are Millennials? And typically 70% of the room raised their hands.
Jenn DeWall: Do you ask this in your class? Oh, to kind of get an understanding?
Jim Lopresti: Oh, sure. Oh, that’s fantastic. Absolutely. How many of you are Gen X and a couple of nontraditional aged students? And occasionally I have Baby Boomers too who, you know, are going back for a degree or finishing up a degree that they left, you know, behind when they either had a family or, or you know, life interfered while they were making other plans. So, and then we talk about that because I want to understand the different generations, learn things differently, and also how I present my material, and what I say is also contingent on different generational perceptions. So I want to say, okay, well you Millennials, do you perceive yourself as, and I’ll have slides that here’s the Millennial kind of typical definition and then Gen X and then Baby Boomers and how many of these apply to you folks? And we’ll spend an entire 75 minutes or even hours on defining because this is about self-awareness of course, and, and managing how you define yourself and how you present yourself to the world.
So we go through that, and I think that’s critically important. I mean, I’ve, I’ve done consulting on generational leadership and how especially employers can work with different generations on their teams and such. It’s kind of like using the NBTI, the Myers Briggs. Now the ENFPs, same thing with, they all have qualities that define them or those tendencies that define them. And same thing with Millennials and Baby Boomers and Gen Xers and Generation Z. So I want to understand those tendencies, so I can work with them to help them understand themselves better.
Jenn DeWall: What, in your perspective, what do you admire about each generation? I mean, is there anything, I mean, cause we’re talking about how there are different tech, there’s different technology that influenced each generation. There’s different historical events that influenced each generation. And so the generations have been generalized right into specific stereotypes, but they do all have their own, you know, beautiful qualities. What qualities do you admire from the generations?
Baby Boomers and Loyalty in the Workforce
Jim Lopresti: Well, OK. To go back to earlier stuff, I think the loyalty of Baby Boomers is incredibly admirable because, despite, as time has progressed and being a Baby Boomer, I’ve seen where my loyalty has changed. But I still, there’s still this strong inclination to be loyal to an entity, whether it’s an organization or what have you that I know isn’t going to be loyal to me or doesn’t consider me indispensable. And so I find that really admirable because it’s a great quality in leadership is leaders have to be loyal and sometimes you have to sacrifice that loyalty for something much higher. But when you do, you have to let people know and not kind of disguise it or hide it or, or even deny it, if you will. Which takes me to Gen X, which their independence, their self-reliance is sometimes absolutely breathtaking. How they can get things done without going and asking for help, and they figure it out and actually can be far more innovative. I think sometimes in their tendency to be self-reliant than say Baby Boomers who, yeah, I’m going to get help on this because I don’t know how to use a smartphone. And I typically don’t read directions. Therefore I’ll have my son or daughter or someone helps me with it. Or, you know, a friend who’s a generation below me. So and then the Millennials, I think, I think their impatience or this I don’t want to call it impatience cause that has negative connotations for sure. But this ambition,
Jenn DeWall: Accelerated ambition.
Jim Lopresti: There you go. I like that. That’s a beautiful euphemism. It drives them, it drives them to want to change things, and hopefully they’ll change the things that my generation kind of, I’m not going to say we screwed things up, but I don’t think we handled things in the best way because we didn’t have all the information that we needed. And there’s a whole variety of reasons why we are where we are right now in 2019. So I think their drive, their ambition, accelerated ambition I think can really help change the course of not only organizational behavior and politics, but also bleed out into the world too, into political arenas and such. I went to a concert the other night with a good friend of mine who was my coachee. He’s a senior manager at a medical device company in Colorado and his son is freaking brilliant. He won the robotics championship for all of the nation, not just Colorado, but entire nation. We went to a concert the other night, he’s 15 years old, which maybe that’s not even Millennial, that may be Gen Z, but I think that is Gen Z. He is so well-spoken. He’s so thoughtful, he’s attentive, he’s respectful. And, and at the end of the night, I know my friend was always telling me my son Aden really is very special and I’m going, Oh, most parents say that and tell me why. And he says he has these particular qualities. And this man did not lie. He wasn’t exaggerating. This kid really can change the world. And he’s trying, he’s trying to use robotics to help clean up the oceans of plastics. His ideas were so transcendent. He said it’s up to me now because you and my dad (baby boomers) kind of screwed things up. And I said, okay, I’ll admit to that. We tried our best; we recycled when people weren’t recycling. But granted, it was baby boomers that put us here or helped to put us here. So he said it’s up to me now and, and my friends and if his friends are like, he is – Mama Mia, we’re in good shape! Really it gave me- I went home that night feeling incredibly optimistic about the future.
Jenn DeWall: How powerful of a feeling generated by someone that you know is young that is lacking in experience but not in, you know, as you had said, like transcendence, the ability to see what will happen, what everything looks like that we’re not seeing and how far is far, what’s great look like and what’s possible.
Jim Lopresti: I embarrassed myself driving home, thinking what was I doing at 15? I was worried about zits or something.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. What was I doing? I mean, I was not a very cool kid in any way, so I can’t imagine I was doing anything beyond reading books or sitting at home. I was not, and I don’t anything. I had nothing of interest like that and nothing of that impact either at that age at all.
Jim Lopresti: Never won any trophies. And certainly not robotics. Hello. I’m still fascinated that I can Skype people. Oh, this is all Dick Tracy stuff from my generation where you have to watch that a little TV and now, yeah, you have a watch, a smartwatch or the iPhone watch whatever the heck it is and you can talk to people on it. To me, that’s still amazing technology.
Jenn DeWall: It is. I mean, the fact that you can call someone from your wrist, we’re not that far removed from that first cell phone and what that looked like to knowing where it’s at today and how truly mobile we are.
Jim Lopresti: Yeah. And, and technology really has shaped the generations in very, very different ways, very different ways.
Jenn DeWall: You know, one of the things that we touched on earlier when we dubbed it, and I am a Millennial, I’m, I’m that cusper, so in between Gen X and that, and I definitely know the parts of myself as being accelerated, ambitious. That what we coined, I had a lot of accelerated ambition in my twenties, and much of it was way too accelerated for my own benefit. And so absolutely. But I don’t think I had emotional intelligence until I went through the growing pains of learning it. And that’s when I think like EQ or emotional intelligence comes in. But you talked about what motivates Millennials, and yes, a lot of that is that I want to get to the next level. I want to be promoted. I want this. And that was definitely where I was about 15 years ago in my career. What motivated, what motivates you as a Baby Boomer?
Jim Lopresti: Well, as a Baby Boomer, I think I’m a little different than a lot of my friends who are Baby Boomers. I’ve had a lot of different careers, not just jobs change. So change in my personal life, but also change in my professional life. And then change extended outward. I teach because I want to change lives. You don’t teach to get paid? Well, not even close. So I’m continually joking with all my classes. I say I’m not here because I in it for the money. I’m here because it’s important and significant and meaningful to me to at least change one life in this classroom in the next 16 weeks. And it works. It works because I’m so passionate and committed to my teaching. So for me, I’ve always been motivated by changing myself and then changing others by sharing what I found and if it’s useful, great. If it isn’t, you know, ding me on the evaluations at the end, then I’ll get better. They don’t, the evaluations, so it’s working, at least I think I’m teaching in a business school and have for the last 15 years with a Ph.D. in 19th century American literature. Now having said that, my focus has always been Thoreau and Thoreau was a deeply, deeply self-aware, self-managed, emotionally intelligent human being and has a lot to offer philosophically and psychologically. And that’s why he wrote all these books saying, here, folks, check this out and see if it can change your life. I learned from her at a very young age and I have used him as my coach and role model for the last 45 years. I read them at a very young age and knew that he was going to be a part of my life intellectually and personally. So.
Jenn DeWall: No. I know that you said yours maybe a little bit different than your peers and this is going to be dicey because I don’t want to say this in any way that could be misconstrued, but do you feel that, you know, if you’re thinking about what motivates you, what do you think motivates your peers? Do you think it’s, they have that same level of self-awareness and they want to make that same impact of changing the world? Or do you feel like it’s, it’s that financial piece, which I think is where they’re kind of dubbed as, you know, they want to do live to work to make that money, right. Provide for their family and less about the self-awareness and growth. Not that some of them wouldn’t desire that, but that wasn’t always the first priority.
Jim Lopresti: No. And, and I think my peers are more focused on being secure. And that goes back to the loyalty piece too. If I’m loyal to you, you’ll be loyal to me and secure me a job for the rest of my life. And that’s basically what’s happened to a lot of them. And as far as to change, I, so many, so many of my friends are resistant. I have three friends who are Baby Boomers who worked with me at Sun Microsystems. One of them was my manager and he, all three of them hate their jobs – And um they hate their jobs. They loathe their jobs, but they won’t change. I say, why don’t you look for, you have so much experience, and insight, wisdom from the industry and all three of them say I’m afraid to go out there now because there are so many younger people who know a heck of a lot more than I do. They have forgotten more than I know because they grew up with the technology. They grew up with all this stuff, and we adapted to it. We had stereo systems that were the size of, you know, a coffin. Had the record player in it and the whole deal. Whereas, you know, color TV, they never knew when there wasn’t colored TV. And that’s just way, way, way back for us as Baby Boomers. You didn’t grow up with black and white television. You didn’t grow up with a dial telephone.
Jenn DeWall: I had a dial, telephone.
Jim Lopresti: Was it a princess phone?
Jenn DeWall: Ha! No, it was not a princess phone. Actually my dad had a rotary phone, so I didn’t know how to use that. And then we had, but you know, the advancement in technology in terms of the phone for me was the cordless phone.
Jim Lopresti: Okay. There you go. Cordless phones that as you’re talking to a friend, you start walking in the other rooms in order to hear you, and the phone would pull you back. Well, you pulled it out of the wall. Sure. Been there, done that.
How Technology Shaped Generations
Jenn DeWall: Then, I mean when I was 16 or 17, that’s when cell phones kind of hit like the market at the mall. Like there would be a kiosk, and I remember I did have a part-time job, so I bought a cell phone, and I had that number for probably one month because that’s about as long as could afford it, then I didn’t get one until college. And I think it’s so crazy because my niece and nephew are all, you know, 12 or 10- they have phones. Yeah.
Jim Lopresti: Oh yeah. I was at a restaurant the other night, and these three little children, none of which exceeded the age of 10, all had their little computers, and their parents were sitting there at the table with their smartphones while the kids all sat there with the computers. And I’m thinking, why the heck don’t they talk to each other? What did they say? Hey kids, how was your day? Well, I killed three orcs on my a video game, but there was no engagement. They were all isolated in their little units, and I’m assuming the parents were probably late Millennials, not late, but I guess early Millennials, the older Millennials, and these were, you know, small children all with their computers.
Jenn DeWall: Do you think in this maybe something that we end up going off the record on and not including, but do you think that pressures at work have changed between a Baby Boomer to a Gen X to a Millennial? Do you feel like the expectations that you know where Baby Boomers had the loyalty, but you worked hard because you know there was going to be hopefully something that you could gain in that partnership with the organization? And right now it feels that and this just seems kind of epidemic around, every generation is expected to do more with less, maybe in a way that they weren’t once doing it. And so you think about how we’re supposed to do more, we’re more plugged in, we’re more stressed out, we’re processing more information than ever. And so yeah, I guess if I were that exhausted, maybe I would give a computer to the, like to my kiddos, I don’t have kids, but like, you know, like knowing that there, that work itself has changed and even just our culturally how work has impacted, and our community and our cultural system is also impacted our mental health. I don’t think we have the same capacity to handle things sometimes. Like there’s that point of exhaustion, which I just think hits earlier in the day than what it may used to. That could be a generalization or just my level of, but I’m just curious, like is there something there like
Jim Lopresti: I think there, well, technology in itself has bled into everything. So I have to be technical at school and also in my consulting practice. And again, I think each generation has a certain proficiency and then especially Baby Boomers can run into a wall and go, Oh, okay, I’m not going there. That’s way too advanced for me. I’m good with just knowing these applications, but don’t get me to, you know, adopt any more because I already know Excel or whatever. Whereas gen Gen X is as far more, I think a lot of them could be far more advanced than Baby Boomers and Millennials have it all at this point in Gen Z, so, and they can run rings around people technologically, especially Baby Boomers for the most part. But I think it does bleed into everything and I think yes, you do tend to get exhausted. When I go home, typically I’ll pick up a book, and I’ll read it. I don’t want to look at a monitor anymore, and I have a house of about 3,400 books, so I have plenty to choose from.
Baby Boomers and Communication
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Well, it’s the same for reading, but like the technology piece for what? For the develop proficiency that Millennials and Gen Z have with technology. I mean there is a little bit, to some extent of a compromise in their ability to socialize so that, that boomer though they may not be as quick to pick up a certain technology, they can form a relationship, handle a conflict, have a conversation, whereas the Millennial is so dependent on having that medium be the medium, you know, that medium piece in their conversation. Like everything goes through the phone instead of around the phone.
Jim Lopresti: Right. When I talk about managing different generations, uh, when I do my consulting or, or even when I, when I’m in my classrooms or in, in the, uh, training room, I’ll say, folks have been full-blooded Italian. Having been to Italy countless times. And having taught there for a year in Rome, I realized that social media began, at least for me, in Italy where the piazza was the original Facebook if you will. So the Italians would get together, sit in the Piazza and every village, no matter how large, and then how small, if it’s a city if it’s a town or Hilltown, they all have a piazza. They have several Piazza’s. And people go, and they sit, they have their coffee, they have wine, and they talk about their families. They talk about their jobs, they talk about their lives, and they look each other in the eyes, and they smile, and they gesture. Now this is what brought on emojis is because people can’t gesture. They can’t see your face as you’re talking.
So intimacy is lost in technology. And I say that’s why emojis were invented, to try to replace the intimacy of a face to face personal one on one or a group setting where people are smiling at each other. We see their body language and, and cues that they’re displaying in their behavior that you don’t see in an email and a text. Even if you do a video of yourself, it still doesn’t; it doesn’t bring in that glorious intimacy that I think we’re losing because we’re relying on technology to do everything for us to express ourselves. But worse to impress others with ourselves. So there needs to be far more expression in the world through technology and, and we’re not there yet. We’re not even close to it. I think it’s being subtracted rather than added. So,
Jenn DeWall: No, and that’s a big, you know, that is just a big issue. How people do use in younger generations do use social media technology to impress, you know, and that you could talk about that for a long time because there are a lot of issues that are coming out as that, as a result of using that to impress. But I want to go back to, and this, you know, is just, you may or may not have an answer, but I know that, so you’ve been to Italy a few times. You’ve spoken, or excuse me; you teach in Barcelona. Do you notice generational differences across different, it’s culture?
Jim Lopresti: Cultures? Yeah. Yeah. The funny thing about Italy is I’ve been in Italy 26 times.
Jenn DeWall: Holy cow. I’ve been there one time
Jim Lopresti: And one of those times actually lived there for a year. So I’m very Italian. I was brought up in a culture of Italians in Philadelphia. My grandparents, even two of my great parents who great grandparents who were still alive, were very, very Italian. And although they, they learned English rudimentary English, at least my great grandparents they still continued to the culture. And, and just because I was living in a different country doesn’t mean I leave my culture behind. So I assimilate incredibly well in Italy except when it comes to the technology, at least the Italian Millennials, it’s socially unacceptable to own one cell phone. The more cell phones you, you own, the higher up on the social ladder you are raised. So if you have three, you are so bloody cool, you should run for parliament or just be considered a hero among friends and peers.
So that’s where technology has taken now they’ve had cell phones for longer than we have because we resisted as a nation because we had all this infrastructure of telephone poles, right? So we had above-ground telephone and cables and underground fiber networks. They weren’t going to just rip all that stuff out because of cell technology. So most of Europe is so advanced and cell technology than we are and will have been for a long time. So I’ve noticed that they too rely very heavily on technology, but the cell phone is just kind of a social status symbol. They still sit down at five o’clock, where you have a little glass of wine, you have free food. So it’s happy hour, Italian style, and they all get together, and they share their day, and they’re not loud. I can always tell American culture from Italian culture, especially in restaurants, in outdoor settings like Piazzas.
The Americans are much louder than Italian. So Italians, they consider it rude to be Raucous in public, especially to display any drunken behavior. So you can tell foreigners anyway, in Italy and also in Spain when I was in Barcelona. Spaniards or Catalans, since they consider themselves cattle lines do not display present themselves in any abbreviated manner. In public. You don’t do that. It’s just low class. So it’s disrespectful to the culture. Well, the American students, what two, at least that I had brought with me, or I’d have to say, guys, behave, you’re not back home now. You’re not in Denver. You’re in Barcelona. So they got the message after a while. But again, you know, I think technology, as far as international cultures, they have advanced technology. They rely on it, but they still go back to the intimacy piece because it’s so deeply embedded in the culture and you will never replace it with technology. They will not dismantle Piazza’s and say, okay folks, you can do all the same thing you’re doing here on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and everything else. Not even close, not even close.
Jenn DeWall: You’re making me want to go and sit in a piazza.
Jim Lopresti: Oh, I want to go and sit in a piazza right now. Trust me; I’m Asian. Culture’s a little bit different there, there the Instagram group whether they’re Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese a Chinese very much into intendancy of the Instagram- sort of taking all those pictures. It was funny because when we were in Barcelona, there were lines and lines of Asian tourists and they were younger tourists in front of the Gothic cathedral and the Gothic quarter in downtown Barcelona. And they were taking pictures, continuous pictures, the same person. No, not do this pose and do that pose. And it was orchestrated. It was like, a fashion shoot. And they would take, I don’t know, well maybe 20 pictures and I said, what the heck? And then the next, the next person would come up, and the next person is what’s going on here. And one of my students that actually, the one who doesn’t have the smartphone, Caitlin said, Oh, that’s for Instagram. You’ve got to get the perfect picture. And then you post it on Instagram. Now I got to be kidding. I’m so far behind on that.
Jenn DeWall: I am so far behind it. Every time people ask me for tech things, I mean, I’m sure if my friends are listening, they can attest to the fact that I’m awful at texting. My husband always makes fun of me because I don’t know how to use a GIF or an emoji. And it’s not that I don’t know-how. I just do not like it, and I don’t want to sit and look for the person because, to me, that like I’m just spending more time on something. If I’m trying to make fast communication, I don’t want to search for five minutes to find the perfect picture that’s gonna support my message. I don’t even have better things to do so much as I just don’t want to invest my time that way. No way.
Jim Lopresti: I’m the same way, just not interested in doing it. Although I found it unusual that somebody was joking with me and sent me an emoji and they, it was flipping me the bird. Why is this an emoji for everybody to use for that matter? You know, but it’s out there.
What is Your Leadership Habit?
Jenn DeWall: Well, Jim, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, and we like to wrap up every single interview with one final question, which is what is your leadership habit for success?
Jim Lopresti: My leadership habit for success is to continually be seeking change in myself and in the people that I lead. If you consider my students, I am basically their leader, both MBAs and undergraduates, and in the people. When I’m in training organizations is, it again goes back to my whole Baby Boomers concept about, for me, change is, is one of the most important elements for me. When I want to, if I’m going to be sharing information to change people’s lives, I want them to share back so I can help change mine. I’m not just this vessel of all this wisdom and insight.
I wish I were, ultimately. Hopefully I get there, I die, but it’s going to take a hell of a long time. But I want to change too. So it’s not a transaction for me. Leadership, it’s gotta be transformational, and especially in my coaching is yes, you hired me in, you’re paying me to help change the way you behave as a manager, as a leader. But I, I will also seek to change in this too in, in how I present myself to you and how you respond to me and how you change or don’t change. If you don’t, I’ve got to change the way I come and present myself to you and the questions that I ask and, and, and how our relationship continues to develop. So no changes. The only thing that’s constant so will stick with it.
Jim Lopresti: Each person you meet is your teacher and your student. And your commitment to being objective. Right. I mean, especially along the topic of generations and saying that we aren’t. So Jim and I have talked a lot, and just because we’re talking about some of the generalizations out there does not mean that you are necessarily in this box. We know that there are plenty of people that don’t identify within those constructs constraints. But I, you know, it’s really, it was really nice for me to hear your commitment to just seeing people as people and meeting them where they are and seeing what type of impact you can have on that as well as the impact that they can have on you.
Jim Lopresti: Absolutely. And everyone can change. Absolutely.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. You’re not a tree. Right.
Jim Lopresti: I like just to be a little more assertively ambitious.
Jenn DeWall: Accelerated Ambition.
Jim Lopresti: Yeah, that too!
Jim Lopresti: Well, thank you so much, Jim, for being here. I enjoyed our conversation.
Jim Lopresti: Thanks so much.
Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode and our conversation with Jim Lopresti. If you’d like to get to know more about Jim, connect with him on LinkedIn, and you can find his information in our show notes. If you’re looking for opportunities to develop your leadership skill set, go to crestcom.com. There, you can learn more about our 12-month leadership development program and find out how to schedule a leadership skills workshop for your team. Stay tuned for next week as we interview Steve Born as he shares his Gen X perspective on working in a generationally diverse workforce.