Written by a Generation Xer.

Leadership Kenosha’s morning session took place at the beautiful Herzing University campus in downtown Kenosha. It’s the first time the cohort met in person as a group since fall last year.

It is a different experience “of course!,” being able to interact with one another organically, versus being confined to the limitations of Zoom and technology. After attending what seems like hundreds of Zoom meetings this last year, it was refreshing to interact in person. As one of our presenters pointed out, our eyes have become more important than ever as a form of communication…masks still cover our facial expressions and smiles so concentrate on the eyes.

Erin Ginn, a Leadership Kenosha Alumni and the Senior Director of Admissions at Herzing, welcomed the cohort to the Herzing campus.

I am going to sound like I am Tedi Winnett’s sale-person, but I am not. I met her for the first time during this Leadership Kenosha session. She led us through discussions and information on “Generations in the Workplace”. Tedi shared that for all of us, the events that have the biggest life-changing impact happen between the ages of 14-24.

Currently, our oldest living generation is the Silent Generation. They experienced the Second World War and the post-war era. They saw a lot of immigration and integration; they lived through the Great Depression. As a group, they are prolific voters. They were radio babies, and were lucky if they got education beyond the 8th grade! And they saw the rise of Labor Unions. They also saw the acceleration of industrial changes. Due to these experiences, the Silent Generation values frugality, work ethic, they are loyal, and respect chains of command in the workplace. They understand delayed rewards and have a low risk-tolerance.

We had conversation over each and every generation moving from the Silent Generation, to the generation that is still being born: Generation Alpha. The newest entrants to the generational divide are sometimes nick-named screen-agers, and might become a generation of hunch-backs with a tech “neck”. But in spite of their potential physical deformities, they are also likely to be the most transformative generation we have ever had.

Most of us were born between the Silent Generation and Generation Alpha, and you are wondering what Tedi had to say about your generation; what values drive you, and how that affects your work style in the workplace when interacting in a mixed generational workforce?

I recommend you get in touch with Tedi, and ask her to arrange a presentation for your workplace. I would be doing you and her a disservice by attempting to summarize information worth gold, in a few words.

But I will tell you that there are ongoing generational shifts, where between 30 to 40 percent of people are managed by someone younger than they are! And these inter-generational interactions do impact the workplace and there is a shift that needs to be made to address them. For example, the Silent Generation found strength in uniformity and conformity, the Generation Xers may show disapproval and discontent when asked to conform!

One thing we may not be quite aware of is: intergenerational trauma. Covid 19 will leave a major mark on adults and children that will affect how we work today and in the future.

We took a quick break then continued on to an informational session by “Building our Future”, an organization trying to create a more equitable place for students to succeed. This was presented by Tatjana Bicanin and Brandon Morris.

This session was a mind-shift to focusing on the challenges faced by primarily minority populations in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee. We looked at very mind-opening graphs and statistics, and discussed the differences between the reading levels between white students and black students, the differences in high school graduation rates, and the differences in how many minority students go on to college.

On a personal level, it was eye-opening to see how these numbers related to the Kenosha community! I personally wish you could all see what we saw. Maybe some of those graphs can be made into a news article on the Kenosha News, so you all can “see” who your neighbors are.

After lunch, it was a revelation listening to Tom Duncan, the President of the KUSD school board, share how Covid-19 discussions and decisions led to harassment and serious threats to him and his family. We heard a little about the history of the KUSD school board, and how Tom first became interested in getting involved with KUSD when it was fractured, and there was a lot of in-fighting.

I have to say, in regards to Leadership Kenosha, our sessions put the “human” behind the names and leaders that we see on the news; but the articles don’t reveal much about the soul behind the name. If you want to “know” your neighbors, and the people behind the names, I encourage you to think of participating in Leadership Kenosha.

We proceeded to have down-to-earth conversation with Debbie Ford (Chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Parkside) and John Swallow, the President of Carthage College. It was meaningful that Leadership Kenosha participants were able to ask questions and hear about the work Dr. Ford and Dr. Swallow are doing to have educational institutions collaborate and work together in order to support the student population in our part of the state and state-wide.

Holly Pobieke Thomas and Ed Egan, Leadership Kenosha participants, presented material based on the book “The Truth about Leadership!” One of the first statements they made in their fifteen-minute talk, is that: “THE POTENTIAL TO LEAD EXISTS IN YOU!” We have different learning styles, and different leading styles as well, but every one of us, is a potential leader within the fields that we gravitate in. As you explore who you are, I encourage you to explore the leader in you as well.

—Tendayi Esquilin

Leadership Kenosha — March 2021