Beth Conger Of ‘Leadership Excelleration’ On How To Navigate The Generational Differences That Are Disrupting Workplaces

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Adapt Communication and Management Styles: Recognize that different generations may have different communication preferences and work styles. Be flexible in your approach to leadership, adapting your communication and management styles to accommodate the needs and preferences of diverse team members.

Today’s workplaces are a melting pot of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers. Each generation brings its unique perspective, work ethics, communication styles, and values. While this diversity can foster innovation and creativity, it can also lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and productivity challenges. How can businesses effectively bridge these generational gaps to create harmonious and thriving work environments? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Conger, Business Practice Leader & Executive Coach Leadership Execelleration, Inc.

Beth is an expert in advising leaders and organizations who seek solutions-oriented approaches to transformation and aim to inspire growth. Prior to shifting into a career in professional coaching, Beth spent 20 years designing consumer and employment brands, leading human insights research, employee engagement and marketing and communications initiatives for globally renowned companies including EssilorLuxottica and The Kroger Company.

Beth’s coaching focuses on helping leaders understand what they value most, identifying the internal and external factors getting in their way, and coming up with new approaches to live powerful, productive and fulfilling lives. She works with leaders at every level to create cultures where every team member can become their best. She is a Certified Professional Coach, COR.E Leadership Dynamics Specialist and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Syracuse University.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about succession, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

AsI climbed the corporate ladder, my focus was singular: advancement at all costs. This is what I thought I was supposed to want based on societal norms and my upbringing. I prioritized work over family, and ambition over empathy. And it worked (somewhat) at work and (a bit less so) at home. I was able to advance my career, become mom to two wonderful kids and enjoy a lifestyle that met expectations.

It wasn’t until I moved from a 12-year stint at Luxottica Retail to Kroger that I really saw what was going on. I started to take ownership of the frustrations I was experiencing along my career path.

Within my first year at Kroger, I found myself what I call “stubbing my toe” in the exact same ways I had done at Luxottica. My approach, my actions, my thinking were all causing friction amongst my co-workers. And my “at all costs” approach was actually at a personal cost to me. I finally realized I was the common denominator. That’s when I sought out and began receiving executive coaching.

The transformational change I experienced through coaching prompted a significant shift in my thinking and approach to leadership. It also brought so much more joy in my life, both at work and at home, once I implemented a trust and inspire mindset.

So, I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to help others experience the same kind of “toe stubbing” that I had. That’s when I received my executive coaching certification and opened my own executive coaching business.

Soon, however, I realized that solopreneurship is lonely… which is when I met the wonderful Diane Egbers, Founder and CEO of Leadership Exelleration. In this organization, we focus on executive coaching, multi-tiered leadership team development and consulting on everything from strategic planning to culture, helping leaders shift their mindsets by learning invaluable tools to build the skillsets necessary for enduring success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think one of the main differentiators for Leadership Excelleration — and a core reason I joined the company — is that we truly are servant leaders focused on building and supporting purpose-driven organizations. Every person on our team from the top down strives to live authentically and purposefully both in their personal and professional lives. We pride ourselves on “walking the talk,” and it’s so fulfilling for us to see the leaders and organizations we work with become the best versions of themselves and achieve transformational results.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Without a doubt, it’s my tenacity, curiosity and humility.

Let’s start with tenacity. Without it, I probably would have quit my personal executive coach any time she challenged me to really look at myself. I would never have believed I could become a coach myself, and certainly never would have pursued this as a career. And, not having the tenacity and grit to do these things, I never would have met Diane and chosen to join her as Executive Coach and Business Practice Leader at Leadership Excelleration.

Curiosity. I 100% believe this is the anecdote to judgment. And whenever I judge, it closes me off to all possibilities. There are many times I have to coach myself to be more curious and leave judgment behind. And when I do, I’m always happier.

Humility. I can’t imagine anything more humble than taking your career back to the drawing board and starting something new. I’m a firm believer that I am in no way starting from scratch. But instead bringing all of my knowledge to bear on all the great new adventures yet in front of me. However, this means being committed to a posture of humility every day, in every way, including to admit what I don’t know, genuinely listen, and be deeply appreciative of advice and guidance from others. It’s in this combo of humility and appreciation that I get to bring all my knowledge to bear. It also helps eliminate the dreaded imposter syndrome and enables a genuine version of me to show up in every moment.

In your experience, what are the most distinct characteristics, values, and work preferences of each generation currently present in the workplace?

There are more generations in the workplace than at any other time in history. And my professional experience with goes right along with the stats.

The current make-up, according to Johns Hopkins University, is:

  1. Traditionalists 2.0%
  2. Baby Boomers: 18.6%
  3. Gen X: 34.8%
  4. Millennials: 38.6%
  5. Gen Z: 6.0%

What’s interesting is that each not only has their own characteristics, but their own “Superpower” they bring to the workforce. Here’s how I see it:

Traditionalists (Born 1925–1945):

These workers have a strong work ethic, respect for authority, and are fiercely loyal. They value duty and honor, being respectful, and appreciate stability and security. They prefer hierarchical work structures, stability and routine, and face-to-face communication. These folks can often reject or be slow to adopt new technologies and can be set in their ways.

Their Superpower? Unwavering work ethic, loyalty, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Baby Boomers (Born 1946–1964):

The Boomer generation is generally optimistic, competitive, and work-centric. They value personal fulfillment, success, and celebrate individualism. Like their predecessors, they value face-to-face communication, structured work environments, and prioritize career advancement. We encourage and teach balance to many stereotypical workaholics born from this generation.

Their Superpower? Masters of collaboration and consensus-building, driven by optimism and a passion for social change.

Generation X (Born 1965–1980):

This is an independent, skeptical, yet adaptable generation. Work-life balance is a non-negotiable, as are diversity and pragmatism. They want work flexibility and autonomy, and intentionally prioritize work that aligns with their personal values. This group saw their parents grinding at work, sacrificing personal time, and want to be different.

Their Superpower? Expert navigators of change, blending independence, adaptability, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Millennials (Born 1981–1996):

These are the tech-savvy, socially conscious, collaborative thinkers who value diversity, inclusion, work-life integration, and personal development. They want flexible work arrangements, meaningful work, and seek opportunities for growth and development. They want to do work that has a positive impact in the world and brings them personal fulfillment.

Their Superpower? Tech-savvy innovators with a strong social conscience, advocating for diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability.

Generation Z (Born 1997–2012):

This generation was basically born with iPads in their hands and are digital natives. They are entrepreneurial, realistic, and want authenticity, social responsibility, and diversity. They have little patience for old traditions. They prefer tech-enabled workplaces, value diversity and inclusion, seek entrepreneurial opportunities, desire quick career progression, and value work-life balance and flexibility.

Their Superpower? Digital natives adept at harnessing technology, globally conscious, and pragmatically focused on real-world solutions.

Can you describe a specific instance where generational differences caused a significant challenge in the workplace? How was it addressed, and what lessons were learned?

While I have not witnessed anything significant, there seems to be a tendency of stereotyping each generation — specifically around having a “good” or “poor” work ethic.

As a business owner or C-suite executive, it’s crucial to address the perceived differences in work ethic between generations within your workforce. While Boomers and Millennials may view younger generations as lacking in work ethic, it’s important to understand that this perception is often rooted in different mindsets rather than actual differences in dedication or commitment.

Older generations tend to prioritize a “live to work” mindset, valuing long hours and tenacity to get the job done. Conversely, younger generations often approach work with a “work to live” mentality, prioritizing work-life balance and financial stability to pursue life experiences. It’s essential to recognize that these differences in mindset do not indicate a lack of dedication or desire to perform well, but rather reflect evolving priorities and values.

To address and overcome these generational challenges, I recommend three key strategies:

  1. Training on Generational Differences: Provide training to employees on the unique characteristics, values, perspectives and Superpowers of different generations in the workforce. Emphasize the benefits of generational diversity and the importance of overcoming biases and assumptions through open dialogue and understanding.
  2. Promote Open Dialogue: Encourage respectful and constructive dialogue among employees, fostering curiosity rather than judgment. Create opportunities for employees to engage in meaningful discussions where they can learn from each other’s perspectives and experiences without stereotyping entire generations.
  3. Implement Mentorship and Reverse Mentorship Programs: Pair tenured employees with younger ones for mentorship and knowledge sharing initiatives. This allows tenured employees to impart wisdom and experience while younger employees offer fresh perspectives and technological savvy. By leveraging the strengths of each generation, businesses can foster a culture of learning, collaboration, and mutual respect.

Technology adoption varies greatly between generations. How do you recommend companies bridge the tech-savviness gap without alienating any generational group?

The best way to bridge this gap is by bringing people together. Literally. Hands down, I believe pairing two people who are markedly different from one another on a project or through a mentorship program of sorts is the best way to get them talking. Once people start talking, a world of potential opens up.

Now, to be clear, this can also be a recipe for disaster if some ground rules aren’t set. So I really like a quazi-formalized mentorship program approach. Meaning, formalize it by pairing people up and giving them some rules of the road which could include: the importance of deeply listening for understanding and potential common ground versus to simply disregard and brush off. It could also include a commitment to live my second character trait mentioned above of curiosity over judgment including some examples of what that looks like. Then, how the pair approaches their meetings, how often they meet, how they choose to share any learnings etc, is up to them.

How can organizations create cross-generational mentorship programs that allow older and younger employees to learn from each other?

I always encourage a more engaging versus formalized approach to learning. I suggest kicking things off with a facilitated learning session. Think of it as a game where teams can explore generational differences and unique Superpowers in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. This creates an opportunity for lighthearted moments, where we can laugh at ourselves and appreciate the unique strengths that each generation brings to the table. By removing stereotyping and judgment and fostering open dialogue, we create an environment where people feel comfortable and eager to learn from one another.

Once we’ve laid the groundwork for understanding and appreciation, we can transition into a mentoring program that allows individuals to opt in and be paired up. Or even better, self-select their mentors. Provide conversation starters to guide discussions, or simply let the conversation flow naturally. To sustain the momentum, I propose inviting different mentor/mentee pairs to share their experiences at monthly or quarterly meetings, keeping the benefits of generational diversity at the forefront of our collective consciousness. Through this approach, you will harness the power of mentorship to bridge generational divides and foster a culture of collaboration and mutual respect within the organization.

From face-to-face conversations to instant messaging, each generation has its communication preference. How can businesses foster effective communication that caters to these diverse preferences?

In navigating the diverse communication preferences across generations, businesses can foster effective communication by embracing a multi-channel approach. From face-to-face interactions to instant messaging platforms, each generation possesses distinct communication preferences. To accommodate this diversity, it’s essential to provide a range of communication channels within the organization, ensuring employees have options that align with their preferences and needs. By offering flexibility in communication methods, businesses will create an environment where individuals feel empowered to choose the most effective means of communication for any given situation, ultimately enhancing collaboration, productivity, and engagement within the workforce.

How should training and development programs be tailored to cater to the unique learning styles and expectations of different generations?

It’s critical to recognize learning styles are not solely determined by generational differences but rather by individual preferences, abilities, and cognitive processes. The core elements of learning styles are universal and transcend age demographics.

So, rather than targeting specific generations, we design our training to accommodate diverse learning preferences and abilities, incorporating a variety of instructional methods, formats, and delivery modes. This ensures that all employees have the opportunity to engage in ways that are meaningful, relevant, and conducive to their individual learning needs and preferences.

In what ways can leaders ensure they’re being inclusive and not harboring unconscious biases towards one generation over another?

To foster inclusivity and mitigate unconscious biases across generations, I encourage leaders to take proactive steps to promote collaboration, flexibility, and mutual respect within their teams. I recommend intergenerational collaboration on projects so everyone can share their unique perspectives and experiences in a way that allows for understanding and help the team effectively apply these perspectives and experiences to achieve project excellence.

I’m also a big fan of creating feedback channels such as informal employee surveys or casual town hall meetings so employees have a few different ways to provide input and discuss generational dynamics in the workplace openly.

Finally, and most importantly, just lead by example. Make sure you’re always doing your best to actively listen to diverse viewpoints full of curiosity and free of judgment. When you catch yourself allowing judgment or assumptions to creep in, take a beat and invite curiosity to take over. It’s the perfect time to ask a question to clarify what you’re hearing or to hear more.

As we look towards the future and the eventual integration of newer generations into the workforce, what strategies should businesses implement now to be prepared for even more diverse generational dynamics?

I feel very strongly that businesses are in a pivotal moment right now with a crucial decision to make: Pivot to the changing norms of younger generational expectations or struggle moving forward. Millennials and younger generations can’t be more clear — work life balance is a MUST and they are of the mindset that they work to live versus live to work. There is no data to suggest that they don’t want to give work their all. It’s just not ALL they care about. So, my best advice is to meet them where they are.

Consider how to invite everyone on the team to the table, to be part of the planning and brainstorming. When you’re at the table and your voice can be heard, you inherently feel more bought in to the project. And when you’re bought in, you give more of yourself to the work.

Be more focused on what gets accomplished in a day versus when employees show up to work or leave work. I’m not at all advocating for a 10am start/3:30pm departure, but why is 8am — 6pm what we expect?

Finally take the time to ASK what works best for your employees. I’m also not intimating that you can do something different for every member of your team, but you CAN hear them all out and seek compromises and collaborative approaches when possible.

What are your “Five Things Leaders Need to Know About How to Navigate the Generational Differences that are Disrupting Workplaces”?

  1. Acknowledge and Embrace Diversity: Recognize that generational diversity brings a variety of perspectives, values, and work styles to the table. And, remember that each generations brings their own Superpower! Embrace this diversity as a strength rather than a challenge and create a culture of inclusion where all generations feel valued and respected.

Tips to succeed:

  • Create cross-generational teams.
  • Provide forums for dialog without judgment.

2. Avoid Stereotyping: Avoid making assumptions or generalizations about individuals based on their generational cohort. While generational trends may exist, every person is unique, and their experiences and preferences are shaped by a variety of factors beyond their generation.

Tips to succeed:

  • Focus on individual strengths vs. generation-based assumptions
  • Openly share and encourage self-reflection of biases and stereotyping

3. Focus on Common Goals: Instead of dwelling on differences, focus on common goals and shared values that unite employees across generations. Emphasize the organization’s mission, vision, and objectives as a rallying point for collaboration and teamwork.

Tips to succeed:

  • Align team objectives with corporate values which transcend generations.
  • Invite the whole team to set goals that require cross-functional, cross-generational cooperation and mutual support.

4. Promote Cross-Generational Learning: Encourage knowledge sharing and mentorship programs that facilitate learning and collaboration between employees of different generations. Provide opportunities for reverse mentoring, where younger employees can share their expertise with older colleagues, and vice versa.

Tips to succeed:

  • Invest time in the type of learning session I mentioned above.
  • Support ongoing, informal mentorship with periodic share-outs of experiences and learnings for team-wide growth.

5. Adapt Communication and Management Styles: Recognize that different generations may have different communication preferences and work styles. Be flexible in your approach to leadership, adapting your communication and management styles to accommodate the needs and preferences of diverse team members.

Tips to succeed:

  • Offer a variety of communication options, including face-to-face meetings, email, instant messaging, and video conferencing, to accommodate diverse preferences.
  • Walk the talk by demonstrating adaptive leadership skills, including effective communication, active listening, and flexibility.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Two significant life lessons resonate strongly with me: “Stop looking back, you’re not going that way,” and “Intelligent failures are wins in disguise.” These principles are deeply intertwined. A startling statistic reveals that individuals spend approximately 8,000 hours, equating to 333 days, consumed by regret throughout their lives. Regret, however, offers no opportunity for correction; dwelling on past mistakes only diverts attention from current productivity and general peace of mind.

Reflecting on my own regrets, the majority stem from perceived failures. Yet, upon embracing the concept of “intelligent failures,” (a setback resulting from well-planned and executed efforts, where valuable insights are gained despite the outcome not meeting the intended goals my perspective shifted) I realized that many of these supposed failures were, in fact, legitimate attempts or approaches based on my knowledge and circumstances at the time.

While hindsight may suggest alternative actions, these experiences have contributed to my growth and learning. With newfound awareness, I acknowledge that failures are not setbacks but steppingstones towards greater understanding and achievement.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Curiosity is the anecdote to animosity. I coach leaders all the time to remain curious, checking assumptions, biases and judgment at the door. When I find myself veering away from curiosity, I pause and check my thinking to reframe it into the form of a question. It can be as simple as “what do you mean by that?” or “this is very different from the way I’m thinking. Tell me more.” These two re-directs are powerful tools to keep me judgment free and the conversation moving forward towards understanding.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Really listen, seek to understand, stay curious and quiet judgment. If we could become part of this movement, the world would be a more joyful place.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Learn about my work at Leadership Excelleration at And connect with me on Linkedin at I look forward to any feedback your readers may have on this important conversation!

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.