Why Mindfulness is Crucial in Leading Intergenerational Teams

October 30, 2017

My bet is that you’ve seen these 2 words thrown around heavily in the HR universe as of late; millennials and mindfulness. Now, of course, there is a reason for this, but it is easy to forget what is behind this trend and go on with our normal days in our normal ways, wondering why we still butt up against similar challenges.

Of course, during this information era, it is increasingly becoming the knowledge and intelligence of our team and their performance that is our differentiator. This means that maintaining strong relationships and connection between the ‘elders’ of your organisation and the rising leadership is crucial to building bridges for the transfer and retention of knowledge.

Much like our ancestors used to have a circle with all generations to ensure retention of knowledge and wisdom, we must learn to create these relationships within our organisations.

As Charles Spurgeon wisely said, “every generation needs regeneration.” So as someone who has worked with over 10,000 ‘millennials’ and within a number of intergenerational teams helping leadership create places that perform, I’m going to shed some light on the role mindfulness plays in creating places of collaboration across generations.

Let’s begin by understanding firstly that a generation gap is formed predominantly by a difference in worldview or paradigm between two generations. Each generation forms a collective identity, worldview of ‘paradigm’ based on the worldly events that take place during that era. These shared experiences lead to the people within a generation leaning towards and tending to hold similar values and beliefs.

With most ‘millennials’ being born into the technology revolution, having experienced the great rise of advertising and mass-marketing, and the rise of cause-marketing and ‘change the world’ messaging; you can start to see why this generation holds the worldview we do; moving towards a greater sense of purpose and authenticity.

I wanted to note this so we can bring to the forefront of our minds why generations hold these different and sometimes seemingly ‘opposing’ opinions. With understanding hopefully, can come a new and more mindful way of managing and working with our teams.


Moving from ‘either, or’ towards ‘both, and.’

”Stay with the contradiction. If you stay, you will see that there is always something more than two opposing truths. The whole truth always includes a third part, which is the reconciliation.” – Jacob Needleman

Sometimes my conversations with my father or really anyone with a different opinion can shift very quickly from being productive conversations to competitions. We both end up fighting to protect our perspective and never ending up with a productive resolution whilst maintaining the trust and fabric of our relationship. I’m sure you may have had many experiences like this?

To be mindful is to be aware of our own thoughts, emotions, and feelings in each moment, objectively. In this way we learn to take a pause between stimulus and response, moving from reaction to conscious response. The pause in between is a moment for us to notice if we are simply protecting our view, or if we are also acknowledging someone else’s and including them in the exploration.

Knowing that our adaptability, innovation and creativity and therefore the pool of diverse perspectives is crucial for the thriving of our teams; mindfulness allows us to consciously take these pauses in our interactions and more harmoniously work together toward solutions with our common goal in mind.

What we call a generation gap is usually a result of interaction gap! Through these interactions, being mindful and aware of our subjective opinions and communicating with a sense of mindfulness allows us to both acknowledge and include both narratives into our solutions. We move from the ‘either, or’ towards the ‘yes, and’ era.


A simple way to bring mindfulness to your conversations.

Our 5 senses are a great way to bring our attention back to the body and therefore out of our minds and whirlwind of subjectivity, judgment and sometimes anxiety. So by bringing our attention back to one of our 5 senses, we start to become more grounded in the present moment and able to become objectively mindful of our thoughts and emotions, and how these are influencing our communication.

Do you know your primary learning style? Are you more visual, auditory or kinesthetic? By being aware of this you can become aware of which sense might be your strongest to anchor yourself with. Next time you find yourself in a state of reactivity, try choosing a sense and asking yourself, ‘what can I see/feel/hear right now?’ Simply let this bring you back to the present moment, and with this, enjoy a conversation with more awareness and space for possibility, listening and therefore collaboration.



Article by Al Jeffery 

Al Jeffery is an international facilitator and communicator; creating spaces for community, potential and creative progress. Having worked with the likes of Apple, Google and Telstra among others, Al helps leaders integrate presence and vulnerability to effectively lead intergenerational teams. Learn more about Al at www.aljeffery.com!

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