Listen to Jim Tolbert, CEO of Vista College, talk about working across different generations. He goes into stereotypes of different generations and the value add that each can provide unique perspectives on. Listen to the audio clip below or read through the transcript.
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So let’s switch gears here because I’m fascinated by kind of the way you’ve been able to move throughout your career and then become a leader of influence inside of the educational space. And so I’m curious to know about maybe some of the misconceptions because obviously, as you mentioned, there’s stereotypes, and stereotypes have some bit of truth laced in a lot of just general assumptions. But I’m interested in maybe the misconceptions. As a baby boomer, what misconceptions do you think are sitting out there that you would want to speak to, based on what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard that make you go, “You know what? That’s not actually true about how we operate,” and probably is a little irritating.
Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s even funny hearing our generation in stereotypes because when I think of generations, I think of the previous generation, which I think we’ve come to call the greatest generation. They conquered the Depression. They beat back fascism and won World War II. And I always look at that generation, and I have stereotypes about them. So I’ve never really thought about us baby boomers and who we are. And I will, in full disclosure, tell you I’m at the very, very end of the baby-boomer generation. So my dad fought in Vietnam. He didn’t fight in World War II. And so as I think about this generation that basically spanned from 1945 to 1965, who we are, and kind of how we’re perceived, I think there was a lot of changes in our generation. I think we were open to a lot of new ideas. Great accomplishments occurred during our generation in a variety of social issues and otherwise, in technology. So we lived through that. We were a very adaptable generation, as broad as that generation is.
“I think we were open to a lot of new ideas. Great accomplishments occurred during our generation in a variety of social issues and otherwise, in technology.” – Jim Tolbert, CEO of Vista College
And so if I had to say there was two stereotypes, one is our physical endurance. I think we’ve done a much greater job of taking care of ourselves than the previous generation. And I think, physically, we can keep up with the best of them. And then second thing is our ability to adapt and particularly adapt to technology. Someone would say, “Oh, you’re over X years old. You must not know how to do Twitter,” or whatever is out there. And then I’m not sure I’d put myself in this category personally, but my peers, I think, are very adept at technology, and are very good at, and have adapted at it, have adapted to it rather, and have done a great job of having that mindset of technology that a younger person wouldn’t necessarily assume.
Absolutely. And one of the things that I think is important is to point those types of misconceptions out. And part of it is because, I think, one of the things that we don’t do a great job of in the workplace today is– I have this really big mission behind part of what we’re doing with this podcast, and what we’re sharing, and being able to have people like yourself on, is that I think it’s important that we learn to celebrate people as opposed to kind of poking holes in every approach. And you, being a baby boomer, you’ve seen the workforce change dramatically. And not only have you been an individual contributor, but now, you are a major influence in that space. And I kind of think about how it’s a lot easier to find the problems with people as opposed to, more importantly, finding what’s right with them. And I think one of the things that I’ve– I’ve seen this several times, and I’m sure you’ve seen it too, right? Bob raises his hand, he says he’s retiring, we gather all the information we can, and he might walk out with a gold pin or a watch, right? And that’s literally the extent of his 35 years [laughter], in a nutshell sometimes, and it’s unfortunate.