November 27, 2023

Generational Differences - A Conversation with David Ringwood

In this episode of OnPodcast Zoltán Csigás talks with David Ringwood, who leads Touchstone Executive Assessment, the former VP of Client Development at MRG and faculty member of IMD. David brings a wealth of knowledge about assessments, leadership trends, and research into the coaching world. In this episode, they talk about the topic of generational differences: what data supports their existence, what trends are emerging and what does this all mean to the practitioners.

Transcript

Zoltán Csigás:

Hello, my name is Zoltan Csigás, and this is Zoltan Podcast ON COACHING. . In the series, I'm talking with internationally renowned coaching scientists and coaches. We explore their personal and professional insights on the science of coaching, and on the helping professions. Are you interested in how they got close to this profession? Are you curious about the new frontiers they are exploring right now? Join me and listen to the conversation, inspiration, and some fun is ahead. Please, welcome, I'm so glad to have you here.Today, my guest on the on coaching podcast is David Ringwood? David, I'm delighted to have you here.

David Ringwood:

It's a pleasure.

Zoltán Csigás:

And David is the head of assessment and executive coaching at Touchstone executive assessment. And he's a faculty member at the prestigious IMD in Switzerland. My usual question is that, although we can see your LinkedIn page and all the great things lined up, David, will you give us a quick introduction of yourself?

David Ringwood:

I can, Zoltan and thank you for the invitation to be here. It's a great privilege. And it's a it's a particularly important topic. So I guess I've had a journey in my career I started in investment banking, was with JPMorgan in London, back in the days, when you know, derivatives were a big thing. And it's very interesting, because what you get is the complexity of all of that. But I think what was missing and it's going to show up in our conversation today is that motivation draws us towards certain environments, and certain people and certain types of roles. And there was something in that investment banking environment that really didn't work. For me, I liked the intellectual intrigue of the financial reward was great. But gravity pulls us different places, does it not. And there was something about the doing things in service of others that was not there. And sooner or later that compelled me to go back to university to do lots of different masters and research degrees. And it drew me into the world of psychometrics. So I have spent most of my professional career in the world of psychometrics predominantly with clinical management research group who are a former psychometricians and one of the best in the world, I spent 17 years there. I've retired quite recently from their focus on my own consulting practice, which is touched on executive assessment. And I do have the faculty role at IMD as well. And it just means that in a way that I think most people would want to, it helps to align what we're doing professionally, with what we find personally rewarding and satisfying, and gives us a sense of fulfillment and achievement. And, you know, you can put $1 value on that.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you. And I was not aware of this. But there is a strong parallel between how all creators have started. Of course, mine was a sort of woman extracted in a in a PR agency, that was my very first place to work for. And as a psychologist, I love to work there. But after a while I started to miss. That's kind of human touch. And now I'm not talking bad about my bosses or colleagues. But that person of focusing my work that drew me back to university and then to develop my coaching practice. So I get to see that there is a personal parallel between how we started. And if I may ask, How come that it was, it was psychometrics that Joey was it's because of your background. So was it something that on the magic of the numbers, so visibly, it's good enough to talk about people, but it's, it's a safe space? It's a safe distance from them. So poke on the psychometrics.

David Ringwood:

I think there's a parallel here actually, with a lot of people, not just you and I, I think most people navigate, they don't necessarily know immediately what's right for them. And part of the journey in life is learning, is it not? So for me, I did enjoy the intellectual complexity of investment banking. And I wanted to continue that. So psychometrics certainly has a great deal of complexity, not simply because of the tools and the statistical rigor of the tools, but also the fact that you're measuring people and people in themselves are complex and societal systems are complex. But there was that it was a place where I could get that but also that sense of community. You know, this is a place where people gather this is a place where people seek support and guidance and where they can be helped. And there are many environments where you get that convergence of the complexity and the community and to some extent, the commercial reality, as well. I mean, clinical psychology you can Get over the community and the complexity. But, you know, I've got a commercial site to me as well. So like most people, you're trying to find that optimal place where I feel most authentic to who I am, where I'm doing more of what I want to do than what I don't want to do. And we're just instinctively it feels like the right direction of travel on a longer term basis. It's not only authentic, it's sustainable over time, and this is why I was with management research group for 17 years, I've never been anywhere for 17 years except my marriage.

Zoltán Csigás:

Well, that's a feat in both of the fields for life. So we, we just celebrated our 18th anniversary with my wife. So there is an other parallel here. So I'm like, Well, before we move on, let me ask kind of a secret question, feel free not to answer. So do investment banks use psychometrics for assessing their clients, or investment opportunities? So is the numbers just are the numbers just about the business? Or are the numbers about the people as well?

David Ringwood:

They would use psychometrics for their own internal processes, such as development, succession planning, high potential identification, they would use it for selection, when they're hiring people into the organization. You would not use psychometrics for anything related to their actual clients. And don't forget a lot of what they do. With the exception of people on the kind of the sell side, are there's a lot of trading activity, which is transactional, and it's product driven. The equities or bonds or derivatives, and that has nothing to do with psychometrics. Some of the mathematics are not that different. I have to say it's so they're actually in fact, at some level, are parallels from the computational aspects of investment banking to those of psychometrics. Investment Banking, slightly more mathematical, psychometric slightly more statistical, but there are overlap, certainly.

Zoltán Csigás:

Well, that could be done in the line of future business for us. And the way I bring this up is that in a previous conversation that we had, we brought up the idea of generational differences. And that's where I started to think about so Qualcomm the financial institutions, so I guess, have funds and resources to find our clients to create even better businesses, for them, and for themselves, how come they are not using such tools, but let's not stay that way. Because why I would like by invited you, was to talk about generational differences, because I'm aware of your work around this area. And I'm a fan of all the results. So I'd like to focus on this, if that's okay for you. I've seen a lot of things on generational differences. Some of them may meet a fair the some of them seem to underpin their claims with serious data and research. And before going there, I would like to ask why is it important? Why do you think that generational differences are important?

David Ringwood:

I gotta tell you, I think that's a very reasonable question. And it? The answer to it is why there is so much research, and why there is so much speculation. And to your point, a lot of it does become anecdotal, quite quickly. So why are generational differences important? Why does this topic matter? To begin with? I think there are a few reasons for that. Firstly, I think it's important to understand that people, broadly speaking, stepping away from generational differences, people are very unique. People are very different. And when we begin to look at the topic of generational differences, or gender differences, or cultural differences, let's recognize that people are not better than each other, they're not worse than each other, they are different to each other. And let's lean into that. Let's enjoy that. Let's embrace that. And if we adopt that mindset, then I think we approach the subject of generational differences quite differently, because we will treat it as a problem we treat it as an area to be curious about to learn more about to understand at a more deep and more practical level. And the truth is that newer generations and I will define what that means, going forward. There are more of them coming into organizations, over time their proportions of them will increase. And the ratio between the previous generations and the newer generations will size in the shift relatively soon. So it matters. If organizations want higher levels of performance than they need, what motivates they need to understand what motivates people to act. They need to understand how to retain Because retention is a core currency in organizational narrative, is it not? They need to drive performance through people, people being their single biggest asset. They need to understand how to keep people engaged organizational engagement. They need to know how to become an employer of choice, the attractive brand people like to work for this organization, they have a heck of a good reputation, because they take the time to get to know what makes people tick, what matters to people. All of these things are fundamental.

Zoltán Csigás:

I absolutely agree with you. And then I'm glad that you started with the everyone is defensive approach. But if I'm taking up my devil's advocate show, then wouldn't it mean that we should be pushing towards the coaching style of leadership and chain everyone who gets into an employee facing role to treat people individually? And shouldn't we just throw out all the research and all the efforts around generation so that we just focus on the everyone is different kind of thing?

David Ringwood:

I think you can take that very literally,

Zoltán Csigás:

step by theism.

David Ringwood:

I think it's a very reasonable approach. And I think, you know, that question has to be asked, and I think you're right to ask it. And I go by what I said, I mean, people are unique, people are different. The question then, is, is that necessarily scalable? If I'm an organization and I have, let's say, 1000 people, is it realistic? To treat every individual, as an individual and to calibrate the way I lead and manage and engage with people at that individual level? I think that's a rhetorical question. We all know the answer to that. So where the research sits, and the value that research adds, is that when you do look at larger populations, what are the common themes that just keep showing up? Whether we're looking at gender differences, or cultural differences or generational differences? There are broader patterns that been an empirical basis. So this is not a matter of opinion. It's not something subjective. This is a matter of fact, these are psychometric measures of living, breathing people, in organizations. And when you look at a larger data set, what are the what are those key differences that just keep showing up, so that you don't have to go right down to that individual level, you can make broader assumptions, recognizing there is always going to be, you know, a frequency distribution statistically or a degree of variety within any population. But it does allow organizations to begin to plan for ways of engaging and communicating and supporting people, it does help previous generations to perhaps understand where other generations are coming from and what matters to them, even if it doesn't necessarily matter to us. One of the things that psychometrics typically do not measure. And it's core to your questions old time, is it does not measure people's expectations of us. And the expectations of newer generations are not the same as previous generations. what good looks like in the mind in the heart, in the view of younger generations, is different, not better, not worse. Time Magazine in May 2013, described Millennials for example, as lazy and titled narcissists, who live with their parents way to be judgmental. So it goes back to the why is this matter? The more organizations can understand what these differences are, and understand factually and empirically, not subjectively, or not a line of sight thing, we only see what's in our media can a locus of control, but based on independent, scientifically validated independently peer reviewed research, which is what I've done with ind that helps to inform some critically important strategic decisions for organizations, and then they have a basis upon which to make those decisions in service of the organizational agenda, but also in service of the needs of all of the generations.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much for saying that. And I tend to hear the extremes when dealing with generation some people really believe in the overpowering, you know, pops open the overpower of research that would say that, okay, this is what Generation X Y Zed would look like, full stop, let's accept them that they at least treat them this way. And other other people in my network. They talk about the individual essay and what I loved in in what you've been saying and how you've been saying it is that we have to find the place of the research, where we can Take a look at these groups of individuals and search and findings will be true for all of them. But we shouldn't let the glasses of individual ITSE go away. And we have to somehow use both of them together to be able to treat people the best way for them and for us. And as a coach, and as our leadership, scintillating. That's what I would like to wish for everyone. And what really caught my attention is that you started to talk about expectations. And yes, they are really not measured. So when you go there for a bit, because I would love to hear about outcomes and research that you will be doing in this field. Well,

David Ringwood:

expectations are such an important thing, because you know, as well as I do people measure our performance or people measure our effectiveness relative to their expectations. And expectations is not a static thing, expectations change. As we get older, as we become more senior in the organization, people perhaps expect more gravitas or they expect a more strategic and a less tactical focus, you know, the direction travel shifts, expectations, change, expectations compete, you please one constituents, you irritate the other, managing multiple stakeholders. So this is an area where it's important to really stop and understand as part of a more sophisticated approach to leadership. What I will say before I talk a little bit more about expectations is I think we have to be careful about categorization too much. Because I'm gonna go, I'm going with a devil's advocate part of us all time, which is I think there is a risk of over generalizing, and arguably stereotyping, and I'm not a fan of stereotyping. But there are research insights, which can help us to understand some of the fundamental differences between generations when you look at bigger populations, and they're very real, and they're very significant in their implications. The second thing I will mention is that even the concept of generation, frankly, are a little bit arbitrary. Someone chose to decide that, you know, Generation X, for example, sits somewhere between 1965 and 1976. Where is that written? You know, Generation Z 1977 to 1990. And depending on who you ask those, those boundaries will change. People don't suddenly change from being Gen X to Gen Y. Yes, you know,

Zoltán Csigás:

let me let me interrupt you here for a second, couldn't fields, the psychometric data, whatever profiles we are using to define generations and to get a better insights on the timescales or the timeframes that we should be naming as the areas of generations. So couldn't we change the line of the direction of thinking?

David Ringwood:

We could? And actually, we have, one of the things that management research group did was to look at this really, from an HR point of view, not a generational point of view, because the generation is categorical. Age is more of a continuum. You know, it's less going to discrete in that sense. And how do things evolve as the as the age curve changes? I'm not going to go into that. But But yes, you can do that you can cut the data. But the thing is, you got to have the data. And the data is there, and it can be investigated in any way you want. It's the old cliche in statistics, if you interrogate data long enough, it will eventually tell the truth.

Zoltán Csigás:

I love that analogy for data being chained to our computers. What Yes, you are right. And thank you for saying that. I think that would be a very interesting line of research centers to put another intellectual balloon here, I would be very interested in in interrogating these data about the different learning or change curves of people coming from different generations of people coming from different areas. are the roots of vagues self development different from each other?

David Ringwood:

There certainly are. And to kind of revisit your question about expectations. I think when we talk about expectations, I think it's important to be reasonably specific. Rather than take a very general view of expectations, I think people understand that people are likely to agree that expectations for people can be very varied. And that is part of the filter through which we evaluate situations and people. But what does that mean? In fact, if we were to operationalize this so leaders, living breathing in organizations or people coaching leaders, how can we employ this helpfully in our practice? And this is where specificity helps. So for example, part are the chain During expectations, generations around lift different levels of support. And what does support look like for them? What does it mean for their expectations about information? What does it take to keep a Gen X or a Gen Y informed in a way that may be different than, you know, a boomer. But do they? What are their expectations in terms of career progression? Part of their expectations in terms of levels of risk their risk appetite, because the research indicates that all of these are core areas where there are fundamental differences. And once we understand that, if I'm, for example, a Gen X and it helps me to do two things. alltown. To your question about expectations, it helps me to develop a greater sense of awareness, because now I'm no longer relying on my own assumptions, my own biases, my own expectations, my own mindsets, in fact, I'm beginning to recognize them a little bit more. And self observation is a great skill, not only in leadership, but in life, is it not? It also helps me to be much more aware and observant of my environment, my ability to read the room, my ability to observe other people in an objective way, in a complete way. Now, I was significantly enhanced as a consequence. And on that basis, I tend to now begin to make better behavioral choices. But now their choices, they're intentional. They're cognizant, they're purposeful, they act in service of particular outcomes. Because now I can understand where people may be a little bit different. I judge them less as a consequence, because that descriptive characteristic begins to play out a little bit, they're not better than me, they're not worse than me, they're different to me. And that's not necessarily the way I might approach it, or that is not my natural preference. But I can begin to understand and respect and appreciate the fact that these people may value something different. And what you'll notice, and that's old time is that that gets us a little bit closer to values based leadership, respect, appreciation, mutual understanding, again, you can't put $1 value on that, but it matters a great deal.

Zoltán Csigás:

There are so many questions that you have asked. So I would just simply continue with our q&a, where you answer those beautiful questions, David. But before going there, because all of them are interesting, that is one thing that keeps bugging me and you we are talking about expectations, and reading the room and coaching and helping other people. My question is behaviors. Because how do these expectations according to your knowledge, and your research, how do these translate to behaviors, because I can't really expect people to, or I can imagine people to act very differently based on the same needs. How does the needs and motivation focus research help us in navigating different behaviors?

David Ringwood:

I think it's probably best if I give you a specific example, rather than just talk conceptually, with things like that. So for example, what are the psychometric measures and the here, what you'll notice all the time is I'm creating the link between the motivational dynamics of an individual, which is what the research measures, and the consequent behavioral implications, or the likely behavioral implications. For example, let's just say for argument's sake, that I am someone who do does not need a great deal of validation, or approval, or recognition from other people. I'll take a compliment, but I'll take it anyway, it doesn't have a great motivational consequence. I'm not an approval seeker, if you like. So if we were to measure psychometrically, I would score relatively low on the consequent scale. The risk of that, and it's only a risk is a category of bias known as an estimation error. That is, I might underestimate other people's need for validation. It may not, in fact, occur to me. Or I walk in the room with assumptions, which is assumption bias, I assume that recognition and validation really doesn't matter to people. That's a huge assumption to make. Whereas other people now as I begin to read the room, if I understand that about myself, I'm beginning to understand that when I say things to people, and they may be higher than me, and that a degree of validation and appreciation and recognition really matters to them. I'm beginning to now understand that the messages I'm sending, it increases the likelihood that they're taking them personally. They think I'm talking about them, not just them in their role. And the fact that it will hit them hard, and it will put them deep and have effects will last a great deal of time. Would I intentionally want to hurt people to be insensitive? No. But if I'm not reading the room, then I may in fact be doing that. Not intentionally, but the effect is the same for those people. So the awareness piece. And the link between the motivation and the behavior is that the more cognizant I am, the more observant I am of myself and other people. It helps me to not only understand, but operationalize, I can now begin to alter the way that I communicate. For example, in classical psychology, the the approach would be validated first, I like the way you did that, I thought that was a great idea. Kind of kind of make a couple of suggestions, permission seeking. That, you know, you're asking to be invited in and you know, permission to kind of add a few of your own thoughts, and it doesn't feel like criticism, it may well be. And I may be saying, listen, that's, that's terrible. That really, I'm not sure sure about all of that. But am I leading with that? No, I'm not, I'm being much more, I make one final point. So time, which is understanding the motivational DNA is actually really, really important. Because if I, for example, have natural motivational orientations, for example, I enjoy helping people I get a sense of personal fulfillment out of doing things in service of other people's needs, and it brings down emotional responsibility. It makes certain behaviors much easier to access, ie, empathetic behaviors, compassionate behaviors, it makes it hard for me to not do that. And if I don't have that characteristic, I then have to go and find energy to go and engage in supportive and empathetic behaviors, I can do it, that's behavior, I can do it really well. But it's going to drain a lot of my energy. So gravity will pull me naturally towards certain sets of behaviors and make those behaviors really to access and hard to resist. And it will make other behaviors a lot less attractive to me. But sometimes we got to do things we don't want to do, because there's a bigger picture. In order to be successful, you kind of have to, or the rules of the game. And this organizations require me to, you know, the way it works.

Zoltán Csigás:

And no, I'm cutting my own trade, because I am super interested in hearing the generational differences. But you just said a word that raises one more question for me, you said, motivational DNA DNA, which implies something that we are born with, or that's what DNA buys for me. And we started the whole conversation around generational differences. And for me, that is the most fixable environmental effects. And I know that this is the no one can finally answer a question of psychology nature or nurture, environmental DNA, whatever. Yeah. What does your research say about this about the importance of nature or nurture? So how big are the differences? Or how big are the changes that you can see on these motivational pictures as people are developing? Is there any insight over there that we could you know, jumping to the big part of answering the final question?

David Ringwood:

I think I can tell you what I know. Because I do get the question. Quite a lot. Is this nature?

Zoltán Csigás:

Be? Oh, I thought they would be very unique with this question. Yes,

David Ringwood:

no, no, every every time is all time. Is it nature? Is it nurture? And the answer is yes. You know, the truth is, it's very hard to know and to quantify and to assign a ratio between which is, which, but I can tell you is this is that these motivational differences, they tend to originate a rather essay, the motivational characteristics tend to originate in the formative years. So for example, the first 10 to 12 years of life can be really instrumental in shaping these characteristics. I mean, they're not arbitrary. There are reasons why people are pointed motivationally in different directions, and some of them will be personality, but the parental influence, the size of the family, the societal context, those and many other considerations tend to certainly influence and fundamentally shaped the core individual in those critical formative years. But they do evolve over time. So I'm not saying that this is fixed. You know, what we find rewarding in our 40s and 50s, compared to our 20s, you know, likely there's going to be some differences. Life teaches us, does it not? We know things. Now, we didn't know back then if only we did. Our emotional equipment is different. As we grow older, we've experienced the world we see things differently. So they do tend to change over time and evolve. But this is where we can no longer rely on assumption. This is where the psychometric measurement can actually help. And frankly, even if my scores all time were mathematically identical to yours, it doesn't mean we're the same people because we come from different backgrounds. Our families are different. Our cultures are different. Our journey in life has been different. That has to play out in the way it shows up in our world and how it affects our emotions. So It's not DNA in the literal sense. But there is something intrinsic about it, there is something which is very different than behaviors. Because behaviors we can choose, I can be formal, I can be serious, I can pay attention to detail, I can be very agile, we get to make the call, we can move the needle based on circumstance, you don't get to change the needle when it comes to the motivational DNA, it's not something we actively choose. So the skill is to understand it.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much. Thank you, I, with all my needs for being unique, I had to ask that question. And I think that's in my motivational DNA to be unique somehow. Thank you very much for that. And as we are talking about the instruments, and as we are getting closer to the answers, will you tell me a few words about the instruments that you were using, or the background, and then I would just love to hear about the findings that you that you had around generational differences. Absolutely.

David Ringwood:

And without going into any technical detail about the tools. I think with any psychometric instrument, I think it's important to understand what you're measuring and not measuring. So with this particular tool, we're measuring what an individual finds emotionally rewarding and fulfilling, which is the essence of motivation. It's not measuring what people are doing. That's behavior. The fact that you do something doesn't necessarily mean that you enjoy it, the fact that you enjoy something doesn't necessarily mean you're doing it, not the same thing. What are the three key critical things also about what this instrument measures from an organizational point of view and from a coach, point of view, these were measuring characteristics you can't observe. You can only observe people's behavior and how whichever behaviors alternatives us, and how much reflects the way we all adapt to suit our environment, or people's expectations or the rules of the game or in order to be successful, you kind of have to, you will never know, toss a coin, tossing a coin actually has a higher predictive value than behavioral measures. At least for tossing a coin, you get a point five coefficient. That's not just a bad statisticians joke. It is anyway, but it is literally true. So it really matters. Because you're getting to know things about people, be it in selection, B's and coaching, be it in hypertension programs, that otherwise you could not observe about them. It's also meant not measuring what people are good or bad at, which is really avoiding that whole evaluative conversation. So high scores doesn't mean it's a strength and low score doesn't mean that it's a weakness, or vice versa. It's descriptive, what you find emotionally rewarding. And if it's a higher score, we're in instruments such as this, it means that this is an individual who will particularly enjoy leaning into that particular area, for example, helping people or satisfaction from being positively perceived by other people, or satisfaction from doing things that are new and different and less trying and less tested the whole creative agenda. And such like the individual directions inventory is the name of the instrument. It's developed by a company called Management Research Group, who are one of the real experts from psychometricians. Globally, they're based out of Portland, Maine. And I speak objectively, I worked with him for 17 years until quite recently, but I don't work with them anymore, I do some work for them. So I can be objective and saying that of all of the instrument I use in my consulting practice, in my assessment practice, I'm pretty clear about who are best in classes. And this is one of them. And it's also one of the expert coaching tools at IMD business school in Switzerland, which, as you mentioned earlier, is one of the most prestigious one of the most accomplished, and they're pretty discerning about the psychometrics that they use, as you can imagine. Yes.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much. And the there was so many questions that you have just put into a conversation previously, what are the differences around achievement relatedness? Lots of questions you have raised and my curiosity zone is around your focus. So in your coaching practice, and then in your practice, as a teacher for future leaders, what motivational differences Did you found to be the most diverse among these generations? And which one of those seem to be the most important for organizations success? So coachability equity, have lots of questions. So I'm just interested in in your personal favorites, let's, let's say this week, what generational differences are your personal favorites? Okay.

David Ringwood:

So I'm going to answer your question in two ways all time. First, is I'm going to talk about Gen Y, which is Millennials which is you know, arguably as we said, it's a bit arbitrary, but kinda late 70s up to arguably the kind of started the 90s there there abouts. And part of the diff For instance, there, the research question We then asked which I will get to, is that the differences we then observe in Generation Z are the changes that we observed in Generation Y continued in Generation Z, which would imply that these changes are actually quite fundamental that this is a quite a significant shift in the direction of travel, it's not a one off, it's not just an arbitrary or random change in Generation Y. But that when Generation Z comes along, if those changes continue, and in fact, if they accelerated, does suggest that there's something really moving here. And again, empirically, that's an important research question. So I'll start with Generation Y millennials, arguably late 70s, up to early 90s, or thereabout. They're fascinating differences older than they really are. Now, I have to be a bit careful, I'm not going to go into the numbers around all of this, because in this format, it's not that exciting. But this is always a question of extent, not fact. So I want to avoid the perception that I'm describing things in a very categorical or absolute way. There are degrees of change going on, and I will do my best to bring some finesse to those descriptions. And I will talk slightly more thematically rather than go into individual psychometric measures. I think that's too granular. So broadly speaking, part of the difference we observed in Generation Y, the millennials? Well, the first thing is that we see a significant change in their informational needs. In a coaching question, we would ask the question around, what does it take for any individual to feel informed on their terms, that if you ask people that they look at you with a slight look of curiosity, and on their face, and they say, I don't know, I just need to know stuff. We can be specific. We can be specific, I mean, the needs that we identify, our number one is a nonspecific need to keep me informed. Keep me in the loop. I like to know what's going on. I like to know that I know if you know what I mean, which indicates that it's a meta cognitive need. These people find that general update that flow of information not only informative, they find it reassuring. They worry. That's one of the big differences. As we begin to see millennials come along. Some people like granular detail to how to know this is a specific information on lead. How do you that? What does that look like? Don't be conceptual, be tangible, be concrete, be specific, and other significant differences. And increasingly, they like all of that information, but they like it well in advance. They like to see things coming. The whole last minute just in time thing really doesn't work with millennials, generally speaking. Now, of course, let's acknowledge there is huge variety within that. And people may say, Well, my son is a genuine, that doesn't sound like him. Sure, it probably probably doesn't. But across a population. These are big differences. And these meet a statistical criteria for being statistically significantly different. That's an objective measure.

Zoltán Csigás:

I know that we could have a very long conversation if we reflected in on all the pieces that you're going to share. But as I was listening to what you were saying, the word that came to my mind was anxiety, when you just highlighted reassurance, and you know, predictability of being informed that that's the thing that came to my mind. Second, of course, we are not going to say that Gen Y has a higher level of anxiety, because that will be measuring. This is what we are talking about. But that's my impression that the my line of thought would be around, okay, it's the environment get more turbulent these days, are in those days, that would throw us into the psychological position of needing more reassurance and even more safety. And that safety needs, translating to anxiety, big words from my side as well.

David Ringwood:

So let's talk a little bit about that. And it does kind of raise one of the fundamental questions here. And it does also give me a very nice segue into the second theme. So the first theme is informational needs, they're different, and they're higher. What it takes to keep these people informed, is different. It's more significant than previous generations and the risk of previous generations is that they met on understand this may feel slightly higher maintenance, if you know what I mean. The second thing, and actually to your point is they're more cautious, they value more predictability, they value more specificity. So the second theme is themes of caution. And for that reason, and to your exact point, creating psychological safety becomes an increasingly important organizational currency. We can coach them that we can train for that we can teach that there's problems that I end, for example, around resilience building, part of which is understanding where we're vulnerable, understanding how to self regulate more effectively. And as leaders, we can lead by example, coming out as coaches, we can counsel people in that place, we got to be careful about anything, which may imply that it necessarily means that they experience more anxiety, if they're not getting what they need. They may well feel more anxious than previous generations in a way that previous generations may not fully understand. We're also not measuring anything, which is of a clinical or pathological nature, hear all of these instruments correctly assume normal personality. So people, again, shouldn't get the wrong idea. This doesn't mean that you have an anxiety disorder, or such like, it just means that if they don't feel connected or in the loop, they're likely to kind of feel a bit anxious, I'll tell you why. Turn the Wi Fi off on a 15 year old, and watch what happens.

Zoltán Csigás:

You do it with me? And I'm 42. I get anxious as well. So yeah, usually one of the first things I do, after, you know, getting people know, after getting to know people in the room, I usually check if my connection is there, yes, to make sure that I can safely exit the situation if something goes wrong. So So again, it goes to

David Ringwood:

something. Before I go on to the third kind of overarching theme, I do want to get to what was implied by your previous question, which is causality. We don't actually measure causality. Why these differences are here is an area for reasonable debate. We could conjecture that this is arguably and I'm not suggesting this, because there's this can become politicized very, very quickly, is that this is possibly indicative of more recent parenting styles, it could be indicative of the influence of technology, the always on environment. I mean, I grew up in an environment, showing my age a little bit here, where there were no mobile phones, where there weren't breaks, we had a TV with no remote control, you had to physically get up and press the button, there was no internet, you had to if you want to call someone either have a landline at home or find a phone box down the road. The world we live in now, is fundamentally different. And I've grown up and I suspect you've grown up where you've had that migration, you've seen the difference. newer generations have grown up knowing nothing else. And these days, possibly one of the factors and possibly substantially so that has given rise to these differences, because it would make sense that I don't get I can't empirically prove that because we don't measure the causality we measure the effect size, the outcome measure. But it's a very reasonable area for conjectures. If not,

Zoltán Csigás:

thank you. And thank you very much, again, for for being very precise on what the measurement instrument what the measurement instruments are telling us. Because that's, you know, this could be a side conversation, one of the things that I'm experiencing, we're in discussion with, with leaders or professionals is that we tend to overthink the messages of these instruments. And some people tend to see a lot more into the numbers then, but they are really telling us. And that's where the boundaries that get gray on how and what to use for and more on how to use these measurement instruments.

David Ringwood:

So there's one final kind of theme I'll get to so the themes we've seen so far are the themes of informational needs. The themes of caution, they are more cautious, they're more risk adverse, they value more predictability, they don't like surprises. So the final two things that indicate is one is another theme, and the other is a area for potential conflict. Now, people think motivation is all good. Isn't this what you find personally rewarding and fulfilling? And that gives you a sense of energy? Sure it does. But if it conflicts with itself, what if within ourselves, we have drivers, which don't always dance very well, as we say, it's quite normal. It's why it's such an expert coaching tool. It explains often why we have mixed feelings about things or we feel pulled in different directions at the same time, people are complex. And these empirical insights really help. So the larger kind of the final larger theme is one around achievement is that they have much higher expectations around achievement, which brings often a greater sense of immediacy. And I think you and I both heard organization saying that these people expect to go up the ladder much more quickly than before. And that's what often gives that sense or the perception of a sense of entitlement because I come from a generation where you earn the right you don't assume the right. And concurrently with that, they have far higher expectations of support from other people in achieving all of that. Whereas I understand that my own two feet, which again reinforces this perception, which I wouldn't go as far as to say lazy, entitled narcissists, I mean, that was a little bit strong. But you could understand why someone who came from a different journey, and is looking at people who have this mindset would interpret it in that way. But that's a judgmental perspective. They're only different. They grew up in a world that's different to us. Let's stop and understand that a little bit, because it's too easy to target. Is it not? The conflict? Perhaps tension is a better word conflict. But let's not get into the semantics of that. Yeah, tension, you know, and it's not unusual for people. So there's nothing problematic about this. But it does recreate a legitimate challenge. And it creates a great coaching opportunity, as well, is the CO occurrence of a desire to achieve with a desire to achieve a degree of predictability, which is what we see both of at the same time in Gen Y. Now, that most definitely is entirely a mixed feeling, I want success. But I want success for the least risk possible, because that always works out. If I reach out for bigger and better and more, and the mindset bias associated with that is what's known as the never good enough mentality, it can dismiss achievement very quickly. I get there. Yeah, yeah, now what, no, I want this and I get there. Now I want that never good enough. That's the parents. So if I reach into that, and I reach out for bigger and better and more, and I push hard to achieve, that, that side of me that values, predictability will say, Hold on a second there, you know, cool it down, stick to watch, you know, don't take risk, leave it alone, if I leave it alone, and don't take risk. That's not good enough. I want more than this, the never good enough mentality will I won't I. So now with a significant desire for achievement comes in elevated fear of failure. That's difficult. And that's why organizations really need to understand some of these people, coaches often really benefit from some of these insights, because you're really getting under the skin. And we're looking into things which otherwise you could never observe. And often, frankly, the individual may not have themselves have quite put their finger on. That explains a great deal to me. This is why I keep worrying about these things. This is why I can't make a decision because I do not will I won't die decision making dynamic. That explains I certain I think of things in certain ways. The whole cognitive, emotional, behavioral, dynamic lives and breeds in the space does

Zoltán Csigás:

not. Absolutely thing. Thank you very much. And, and I know that looking at data would be easier here. So I'm just interested in your in your impression. So we're talking about the difference between Gen X and Gen Y. So there are these key things. So what is the magnitude? In the differences? Should I be walking on eggshells? When I'm informing these people? Or is it just the, okay, you need a bit of more, you know, support that more of smiles and whatever. So what is the magnitude of difference between the generations. So

David Ringwood:

the biggest areas of difference without going into the actual metrics and percentile values are around their need for predictability is much more elevated. So it's a step change than previous generations and their need for structure and process and granular detail. Similarly, both of these are associated also, with a theme of caution. Don't just do it, do it right, do it. Well do it this way. And don't do that last minute thing. I want to see things coming. Those are the bigger differences. The desire to achieve. It is a significant gap. It's less than the other two, but it's an interesting change in direction of travel. But it does lead us into the next question, of course, which is okay, so generally Generation Z Now come along.

Zoltán Csigás:

Yeah, definitely have been my next question. So, you know, how does the picture look for them in comparison with Gen Y.

David Ringwood:

So this goes back to this brings us back to the original kind of question about the research question that is, which is let's look at how millennials Generation Y are different than previous generations. Let's understand that first, then let's look at Gen Z, and are the changes we observe and Gen Z consistent with the changes we've begun to observe with Gen Y. And if that is the case, that tells us a completely different story, or word, millennials just a one off and we can expect something a bit more arbitrary more random in every single case, without going into the measures that changes we saw in Gen Y, continue with Gen Z, and in many cases accelerate significantly. For example, that keep me in the loop, I like to know what's going on, I like to know that I know. The gap between, for example, Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, Gen Y were a little bit higher in this one. The gap between Gen Y and Gen Z in that area is more than twice what it had been in that previous generation. And it's increasing. So it continues to increase, but it's accelerating. So generous, the that whole keep me in the loop thing now becomes a core currency. Organizations need to understand and coaches really need to understand that that need to know that constant update, keep me in the loop, I'd like to know what's going on. It's a nonspecific informational need. Here's the thing, it's all time, if I scored low on this relevant dimension, you know, the constant update people copy me on emails, or they BCC me or they include me in that committee. For me, that's, that's noise. Why would people want that? What is the matter with them, there's nothing the matter with them, there's nothing wrong with them, they're different to me. So this is part of the awareness scale, and the less judgmental approach, which is that nothing's going to change for me, you know, I still won't enjoy all this stuff, it will still feel like noise to me, because I'm beginning to appreciate the fact that for other people, it really helps to make them feel included, and reassured and involved. It doesn't take a great deal of mine, if I'm time if I'm truthful, and what I intentionally want to make people feel anxious. Not important. So that's one big one. A big difference we haven't seen before, is the need for inclusion, it does go towards a broader theme of interpersonal sensitivity. People are very sensitive in different ways, and all of us are unique. And remember, none of this is observable. So we can't expect people to know these things about us. So Gen Z, are very sensitive to feeling unsupported. And they will feel much more unsupported much more quickly than the next person because the bar is beginner higher to begin with. With Generation Z, their sensitivity support is higher, and they will feel unsupported much more quickly than the next person because that bar is higher to begin with Generation Z are much more sensitive to feeling excluded. They value a sense of togetherness and community. Now you'll notice there's a big difference between feeling unsupported and feeling excluded, we can be specific,

Zoltán Csigás:

the pay for them, and listening to all these motivational thoughts, then, of course, we are not talking about consequences. And I can see stronger communities being created. Because if there's a lot of people out there who share the need for being recognized as individuals and who share the need of support will share the need of, of connectedness and continuous updates, then, for me, the logical next step would be the formation of idle, loosely needs, but very active networks between people are some very close networks of people who are really moving around. And then I mean, we're really moving around together. So I can imagine that the next generation workplaces will be a lot more community based, a lot more interactive at that. And that feels good for me. Well,

David Ringwood:

at some point in the future is alternative different podcasts, we should probably talk about the effects of remote working, and COVID, and all of that, because these differences are deep and intrinsic. And then along comes COVID. And the whole technology, World of zoom and MS teams and all this kind of stuff and borders that done. That's a whole different conversation. I'm not going to go there today, but I will continue. So there are more sensitivities. Gen Z also may feel less comfortable opening up. You know, there's introversion or extroversion occur at different levels. And some people it's more introversion at the level of disclosure, they may prefer to be more specific and what they share with whom they shared or extent under what circumstances in what formats. They valued degree of privacy. But they're also motivated to do things for the sake of appearance. Now, I kind of wonder, and again, this is the causality thing, which we don't measure. Is this effective things like Facebook or Instagram where people want to present a certain face to the world that they live in? But it's all for show? does it really mean anything? Are they increasingly cautious about being truthful and being open about the realities of the world which may be less glamorous? I don't know all of this, but there's probably a couple of doctoral theses in here and people who want to take this research and run with it. The other big differences and the continuity of change of the direction of travel with Gen, y to Gen Z. Gen Z, of course, is those born from the kind of early 90s Onward. So they will now be in the workforce, the expectations around achievement. Double. It's almost as high as I mean, if I was to go to the psychometrics, the median score on the psychometric scale is at the 80th percentile, which means being the median 50% or above that, you're at the top end of the scale, their desire to achieve their expectations around success and immediacy of success. There's a natural sense of urgency around all of this, and the extent to which they value support from other people, triples, if I was to try and quantify it.

Zoltán Csigás:

So we will need to defend scales.

David Ringwood:

We may sooner or later need a slightly different magnitude of scales. Absolutely. But, you know, some people value standing on their own two feet, and they like to be self reliant and self sufficient. newer generations, go to the other end of that scale, that that doesn't make them needy, I want to be clear about this. This is not a weakness or vulnerability or a judgment of them. They are simply receptive to the support of other people, support from other people does not constitute a form of interference or control for these people. But they may feel less comfortable in roles or environments, where they have to be self reliant and self sufficient. So the expectation around success is more elevated. Their expectations around support getting there from other people are equally, if not even more elevated, which possibly, and maybe coincidentally further feeds this perception that this is a sense of entitlement. I don't believe it is. But it can come across to that way to people who are different. The need for predictability is, again, higher. Now, it's slightly more incremental, but it was high to begin with. But it does the direction of travel, every single one of the changes we saw in Gen Y, either increased or increased substantially in Generation Z, which means this is not random. This is the direction of travel, this is probably how things are going to change. The caveat I have around this is that this is where people are today. These are people with Gen Z who are probably now in their early 20s. I don't know what they look like in 10 years or 20 years, I'm trained to not make assumptions. So let's not assume that this is the cards we've been dealt this is the way it is let's not adopt a fatalistic view that this is the way things will always be. We don't know, we don't know, what these people will look like and how the motivational dynamics may evolve over the next 10 to 12 years. We don't know what's going to happen in the world, but something has happened in the world. And the final point I would make is this. If we look from a research perspective, at Boomers and Gen X, which arguably is kind of the mid 40s, right up to the mid 70s. The differences between those generations are not that significant. At the median level, which is interesting when you consider everything that changed in the world since the post war years, societal change, cultural change, technology change, globalization, I mean, traveled the world change fundamentally Europe to the mid 70s. And yet the motivational dynamics tended not to have a big shift, they're almost I mean, the differences are close to zero in terms of a realistic effect size, alone come Gen Y. And we begin to see differences that are not only significant but unprecedented. There have to be reasons for that. There have to be something going on in the world now or since the early 90s, which has given rise to these changes. And similarly with Generation Z, it further reinforces the fact that the rules of the game have changed. What is that? We don't measure that. But it's an area for enormous curiosity and intrigue and debate, no doubt, but there's something happening. It's not random.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much, David. I would I would love to continue this. I'm just aware of time. So I would like to thank you for all your insights, all the grace, how you have expressed them. I will really call them but I just like the way how you have a code for your work when you've presented these differences. And I just love the approach that came through all your words that we shouldn't be categorizing. We should Keep up or curiosity about people. And this reinforces my view about the use of theories and, and tools, that they are just lenses for the moment that help us all, to read the room to have ideas, to have hypotheses, but we need to test those hypotheses. I shouldn't say I have, you know, unmovable assumptions in my mind. And although sometimes I'm, I could see that I was a skeptic around the generational differences, all the insights that you have shared with me changing my viewpoint as well. So thank you very much again. And then looking forward to have another session with you, hopefully, in the future. Thank you very much, David.

David Ringwood:

It's a pleasure Alltel and thank you once again for the invitation. I really enjoyed it. That was helpful. It's a very interesting topic and there's many others as you say that we can possibly explore. So let's look forward to that. Thank you. Thank you.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you for listening to on coaching podcast where I have curious conversations with virginal coaches and researchers. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to rate us and subscribe. I also invite you to visit Zoltan she guides.com where you can access more resources regarding the coaching industry very well.

Hosted By

Zoltán Csigás

Executive Coach
I am a Coach, psychologist, podcaster and Official curious person. Supporting you in reaching relational leadership mastery.
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