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Breaking Out of “Home Base”

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It’s not an absolute rule, but Beatles fans tend to fall into one of two camps: those who favor the early Beatles (She Loves You through roughly the Help! album) and those who prefer the later Beatles (say, Rubber Soul through Abbey Road). It pretty much depends on which iteration of the band you grew up with (or encountered initially, for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to catch them the first time around). Although I’m a huge fan of the entire Beatles oeuvre, I gravitate to the later songs—while those a few years older than I tend to like the earlier material better. See, it turns out that there’s a roughly eight year window that defines us musically. Whatever we were listening to between the ages of 16 and 24 tends to become our musical “home base.” It’s what we put on our iPods, it’s what we listen to on the radio, it’s part of who we are.

I bring this up because yesterday I was coaching a fellow speaker who is an expert in generational communication. If you want to know anything about communicating with Boomers, Xers, or Millenials, Anna Liotta is the person to talk to. In going over her presentation with me, she made it very clear that each generation has different goals and is motivated by different things. Furthermore, if you want to succeed in today’s multi-generational workplace, you need to understand these differences and be able to communicate in each style. If, for example, you’re a Boomer and you want something from a Millenial, you need to understand what makes the Millenial tick and then communicate in their language. And if an Xer wants something from you, they need to speak Boomerese.

We all have our “home bases,” whether it’s in our musical taste or our concept of company loyalty. You like I Want to Hold Your Hand, I like She Came In Through the Bathroom Window; you like Sinatra, I like Nirvana; you think employment means working at one company for 39 years and then retiring on a pension, I think it means keeping all my options open at all times. And the thing is, it’s all valid. There’s no right or wrong.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There is a wrong, and it’s in being so stuck in your own particular “home base” that you can’t—or won’t—respect anybody who has a different point of view. We see it in music (“You like the Jonas Brothers?! Man, you must be an idiot!”), we see it in business (“What—we put all that time and money into training you, and now you’re leaving us? Where’s your loyalty?”), we see it in war (“My God/country/ideas are better than your God/country/ideas, so I need to destroy you.”) If you really want to, as Dale Carnegie said, “win friends and influence people,” you need to be able to venture out of your own “home base” and put yourself in somebody else’s. Think of it as generational, or cultural, or musical versatility. You’ll get better results if you can speak the language of the person you need a favor from.

Hey, it’s okay if you don’t like the same Beatles songs as I do. It’s even okay if you don’t like the Beatles at all. (Really, it is!) But if you need something from me in order to get ahead in your business, you might want to listen to Hey Jude before asking.

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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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