Team Building Across Generations – Proven Approach | #leadership

Diversity on teams generally breeds better results and more success. Is this now true of the generational diversity in the workplace? It can be if you as leaders provide team building across generations. Maximize the value of generational differences and you can realize the potential and success of experience meeting youthful innovation.

There are light, fun ways for team members across generations to get to know each other.   If you want members of multi-generational teams to get to know how they each think, here is a more substantive approach proven to go deeper than the surface.

I developed this exercise, Success is Ageless, to use with one of my customers and I now use it in several variations with many other customers around the globe.

Team Building Across Generations: Image is cross section of tree trunk.

Team Building Across Generations (Istock image)

Team Building Across Generations

Benefits of the Success is Ageless Team Building Exercise:

  1. Common bonds built from both similarity and difference
  2. Fewer fear-based hidden blocks
  3. Respect from common struggles of different journeys
  4. Success from experience meeting innovation

Setting: Simple office training or conference room that allows people to move around and work together.  The setup must encourage interaction. Do not do this exercise around one conference table or in a room with rows of tables/chairs.  These setups do not encourage interaction.

A/V: Internet access, printing capability, flip charts/easels, videoconferencing (if virtual teams).

Approach: Step One – Have each team member select an image from online resources — one image from her/his early childhood or early teenage years.   They should select an image that made an impression on them, say something about them, or changed their outlook in some way.  If for some reason you will not have internet access, ask the team members to do this in advance and bring the image to the team building workshop. 

Once this step is done, break into groups of 3 team members each of mixed generations.  For the image from childhood/adolescence, each one tells a story about what was happening to her/him that coincided with that image.   How did it shape who they are today?

Step Two: Hand out a pre-printed image of a current event.  Team members in each group discuss the image. A current event that suggests struggle and success/achievement works well.

Here are the guided discussion questions for this segment:

  1. What feelings and values do we share about this event?
  2. Where do our outlooks differ?
  3. What do differences represent to each team member — win/lose, right/wrong, need for collaboration/flexibility, chaos/order, fear/courage, hierarchy/teamwork, etc…

To end this team building exercise, highlight how team diversity can breed great success.  It may take longer for teams to gel and get along.  Nonetheless the different talents, knowledge, outlooks, and innovative ideas make teams capable and ready to handle any challenge. Diversity also helps prevent the terrible plague of groupthink.

Pair up one last time.  Write and read aloud one positive statement about the talent, knowledge, and insight that your partner brings to the team’s projects and success. This final step secures the lessons learned of respecting differences and carries them into daily teamwork.

Respect the Differences.

Learn to Love the Differences.

Find the Fit.

Celebrate the Shared Successes!

What variations or additions to this team building exercise would you suggest?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Are These 5 Extremes Harming Your Teamwork?
Teamwork Persona: Are You Someone Others Want to Work With?

©2010-2015 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.


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I invite your questions, welcome your wisdom, and look forward to working with you.
~Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

7 Responses to “Team Building Across Generations – Proven Approach | #leadership”

  1. I love this idea, but thinking about it myself, I think I would have a tough time picking out one image to share. In this case, perhaps a directive suggestion might work better. For example, bring in a photo from when you were high school, or your first car, or from a specific time period in one’s life. Having quite a few years under my belt, I feel as though I have lived several lives. It would be hard to pinpoint just one moment with such an open ended request.

    I would love to see this in action. I think we all have things to learn from each other, regardless of age…or any other differentiating factor.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Interesting suggestion Tracy. It might help bring more focus and success to the exercise. You are right that we all have so much to learn from each other. And in learning, we drop the fears, barriers, and stereotypes that stop teamwork.

      Some people ask me why don’t you just use work issues at the start of the exercise. Isn’t it more efficient? Well effectiveness is more valuable that efficiency. Using work issues at the start of the exercise keeps people thinking in their own box. They don’t learn to stretch and expand their thinking as easily as when they are taken out of the daily issues and given something else to consider.

      Thanks for the suggestion about the image and for stopping by this blog. I welcome your comments on any post that engages your thoughts.
      Best wishes,

  2. I think you’ve raised an important issue despite the fact it can often be overlooked. In an age where diversity is a “hot” issue I think people tend to focus on the most obviously diverse characteristics within a team and focus there. The fact is generational diversity is a critical component of team building and should be leveraged to build strength.

    I wish I had some exercises to add to yours, however I find myself at a loss for anything better than you’ve outlined.

    As usual you’ve shown why you are THE people-skills coach!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Many thanks Richard for your comment and kudos. Generational diversity is front and center with four generations in the workplace. The experience of the generations who have been in the workplace can be engaged and energized by the youth that are entering. Yet to make that happen, there has to be true learning about each other so stereotypes, fears, and skepticism don’t stop the possibilities.


  3. Hey Kate, I know I’m late on this one. But the first line of this post says it all. “Diversity on teams generally breeds better results and more success.” You have to be intentional about this, REGULARLY! It must be on-going and a value of the organization. Think of differences around the table as puzzle pieces that have to work together to find the right fit. How much sense does it make to have the same kind of pieces at the table?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      It’s never too late to add that kind of analogy Joshua. I love your last point — How much sense does it make to have the same kind of pieces at the table? A WOW moment for me and I thank you for that.

      Best wishes for a winning 2011!

  4. Guy Farmer says:

    Great ideas Kate. I especially like the concept of people sharing their perspectives and experiences in a safe environment. It’s amazing what we can learn from each other when we take a moment to listen and celebrate what each of us brings to the table.

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