Leading Multigenerational Teams… Effectively!

Holly Tate is the Senior VP of Growth at Leadr, a development software with the mission to grow one million leaders. She recently joined the Cause+Effect podcast with insight into what each generation values and how they view the workplace. We hope her wisdom will inspire you to lead with intentionality in 2023.

As a nonprofit or ministry leader, helping those around you work to their fullest potential can be a game-changer. And since each generation tends to see the world differently, how you relate to the members of your team matters.

For many of us, as soon as we identified effective ways to lead Millennials, here came Gen Z with a whole new set of values and views of the workplace.

So the question becomes…

How do I keep everyone engaged?

In the aftermath of Covid, we now find ourselves in an employee-driven market. Our younger employees have an opinion… they want to do their best work when they want to do it and where they want to do it.

This includes a desire for more autonomy and freedom in their workplace. And sometimes this looks like disengagement, especially to previous generations who might not understand this mindset.

But interestingly enough, recent data tells us that 80% of people, regardless of generation, are disengaged in their work.

So even if you have someone coming into the office from nine to five every single day, they may still be disengaged.

Keeping your team connected and motivated really boils down to three questions each employee must ask:

  1. Clarity: What are my goals? (Do I know what it looks like to ‘win’ in my role?)
  2. Maximization: Do I have the tools and resources I need to win?
  3. Report: Do I trust my leader and my team?

When these three things are in place, you have an engaged employee.

Generational views of leadership

The Silent generation along with Boomers grew up in a time of war and they were deeply influenced by militaristic leadership. Because of that, they lean more toward the hierarchy form of leadership.

But Gen X-ers and Millennials see things differently. They are similar in their view of leadership as a flat structure and collaborative, but with the leader still in the middle of the team.

And then there’s Gen Z. They view the team as connected and view their leader as a guide or mentor. The leader is there to suggest and help them along the way as opposed to an authority figure.

It really is all about relationships

Research shows that 70% of an employee’s engagement relies directly on their relationship with their supervisor. The number of Ping Pong tables you have or even salary amounts are not contributing factors here. At the end of the day, it’s the relationship with their manager that matters most.

Do your team members have an effective manager they trust who is growing and developing them intentionally day in and day out?

If you feel overwhelmed with the thought of one-on-ones every week with each of your direct reports, you may have too many direct reports.

Could it be time to promote the next team leader and delegate some responsibility off your shoulders? That next level of leadership empowers your team leaders to get out there and solve problems, freeing you up to do the things only you can do.

Practical strategies for Gen Z 

Gen Z often has the expectation of an individualized experience. They don’t expect to be treated the same way as everyone else on the team because they’ve grown up in a world that tells them that they should be treated differently. 

For your Gen Z team members, give them a clear goal of what you want to accomplish, a problem to solve. Then, ask them to come back to you in a week with some ideas and suggestions as opposed to just assigning them a task.

Rather than thinking of yourself as a manager, think of yourself as a coach. Link arms with that person and look at the goal together. Ask, “What do you need from me to help you get there?”

If we’re going to retain our top performers and our top talent, we’re going to have to provide more autonomy in ways that might make us a bit uncomfortable.

Think about it this way: This is the first generation that can go to YouTube and learn how to do anything. They’re not looking for their boss or manager to teach them a new skill. They have people on Instagram that are already doing that.

They’re looking for the investment of things you can’t learn on YouTube. They’re looking for someone they respect and admire to help them be the best version of themselves. 


For more insight and strategies for leading and relating to the members of your team effectively, listen to the Cause+Effect podcast, Leading an Intergenerational Team with Holly Tate.

+ More Insights on Donor Retention from Dunham+Company

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.