“We need to get on other people’s maps of reality, because if I don’t understand you and I just talk, then there is a disconnect.”
– Steve Napolitan

Welcome to the Steve Show. Today I have Anna Liotta on the show, and we are going to be talking about generations. Not just millennials, because that’s what everyone’s talking about, but how can we all communicate across all generations. The bottom line is we want to look at how can we generationally connect and make deeper connections together.

Why is this important? Different generations value different things, communicate differently, and access different marketing channels using different devices. This is vital information that can help you determine which channels you should be exploring for marketing you and your business. It also of helps with your relationships!

In this post, I’m going to share the top insights Anna Liotta shared.

Forming Our World Views

What we know from knowledge studies, is at about age seven, our brains start to make logic. If this, then that. Between the ages of eight to 18, we’re watching the world, the leaders, the icons, and when there’s an event and it’s paired with an emotion, it creates an imprint. The higher the emotion, the deeper that imprint.

So, when we want to understand how we to lead, sell, serve, and be with the people in our lives professionally or personally, understanding their imprints or their generational codes gives us a beginning. It’s really kind of like they don’t know it, but there’s this whole algorithm running in the background that’s shaping their actions, their reactions, their choices about who to follow, who to trust, who to believe.

The Generations

The four generations that we most have actively in our workplace right now are our traditionalists, our baby boomers, Gen X, and the millennials.

Now, the interesting thing is when you look at their code and their formative conversation, our traditionalists thought of themselves as laborers, right? You got a job. You got on with the job. You were grateful to have the job because there wasn’t enough in their formative years, and they were loyal to the company.  So, they worked 30 years. It was hard work. They knew that they were going to retire with that company.

Our baby boomers come along, and there were 80 million of them born, so pretty much everybody was a competitor, right? This was like a kill or be killed. This is our first generation of workaholics. We didn’t have that word until baby boomers entered into it, because that 80 million competitive state made them constantly bleed company colors and be proud of 80 work weeks like a badge of honor.

So, they came on and they were workaholics. Now the interesting thing is their kids, the Gen X’ers saw their parents bleed company colors and then all of a sudden, in the Gen X’ers formative years, they came home with a little slip of paper. What color was it? Pink.

Gen X’ers no longer were they thinking loyalty is a two-way street. They now knew that loyalty was a broken contract, so our boomers thought of themselves not as laborers, but as employees. You ask a baby boomer what you do, and they say, “I work for…” and they lead with the company.

Gen X’ers are now free agents. They know that the loyalty is not two ways, so they think of signing a contract, and working it, working it hard. Doing a good job, but not being there forever.

Then our millennials come along, and they’re talented. They are not loyal to institutions and organizations, they’re loyal to themselves.  They enter the workforce and for the first time ever they have no expectation or retiring with the company that they’re part of. So as talent, they work gigs, they have a side hustle. They do things they’re passionate about, so they expect work life balance. Now boomers would say, “Well that would’ve been nice. I mean we dreamed of work life balance,” right?

Gen X’ers say, “We desired work life balance,” but only 44 mil in Gen X’ers were ever born, so they couldn’t quite command it. Millennials demand work life balance.

Your kids (Steve’s) who would be what we call the Globals, so there was the placeholder name for the millennials called Gen Y. We always have a placeholder name until they’re fully in their formative years, and now the placeholder name for the next generation after that has been Gen Z, which is, of course, just the next letter in the alphabet.

But what I’m calling them is the Globals because these are the young people who think of themselves as global citizens. They know kids around the world as intimately as they know kids that geographically happen to sit next to them in school, and they think about them, and they worry about them.

You know what the Globals think of when they think of themselves? They’re not even just talent, they’re influencers. They’re the young people that have YouTube channels with 12 million people following along, and Instagram feeds where they’ve got a million people following them.

They influence. They will also not think of work as something as a place that you go. They’ll think about it as something you do from anywhere. So, they will be just expecting, not even demanding, but expecting work-life balance to be an integrated part of their life. How do they stay grounded in their reality?

Communicating with Different Generations

The whole dynamic of generational codes is at play whether we know it or not. So, with my clients, what I’ve been able to do is call it forward such that they have access to impacting it. When it’s operating in the background, and we haven’t distinguished it, we haven’t pulled it forward, it can be running us. Then when we’re kind of confused, why aren’t we getting the results we’ve always gotten with the actions we’ve always taken.

It comes down to communication.  Say we were baby boomers, neither of us are, but say we were both baby boomers, and we went through the sales cycle in the way that we like. So, we’ve got these systems in place, but suddenly, the decision maker is a Gen X’er, and they don’t want to schmooze, and kind of shoot the breeze, and find out all about your vacation, and your kids, and your hobbies. They’re like, “Cut to the chase, get to the bottom line. What’s the value? By when will you deliver it?”

Then you have permission to ask me about my kids. Because Gen X’ers don’t lead in relationships by self-disclosing. They’re all about cut to the chase, get to the bottom line. It’s not that boomers were right and X’ers were wrong, or X’ers are right and boomers are wrong, it’s about being able to recognize their code, and pivot. Be Nimble. Shift. So, what I started noticing is when you are aware of the different generational codes, and you can start to recognize them, people think you’re more handsome. They think you’re smarter.

Family Harmony

During my keynote talks, people often approach me and say, “I know this was supposed to be about my business, but I’m really just thinking about my family.” Because what happens is when you understand this, instead of resisting the way that your mom, or your dad, or your grandparents are approaching something, suddenly, you have this insight of how the world occurs for them and you’re like, “It’s not personal. It’s generational.”

There’s breathing space. So, in our relationship, I want to love you, but if I think, “Oh my goodness, he’s being such a jerk. He’s being so abrupt. So, cut to the chase,” and all of a sudden I realize, “Out of his Gen X’ers code, cutting to the chase is him respecting me,” instead of resenting it with my mother, my father, my siblings, my cousins, now I’m like, “Oh I see how that’s happening.”

What this understanding creates is people have this harmony in their families that, in fact, sometimes clients will get my book, they’ll take it home and their daughter will steal it off the coffee table, and they’re calling me up and they’re like, “You know what signed copy? I need you to send me another one because my daughter stole it. But you know what, over our next dinner, we talked about the codes and we started to understand each other.”


I hope you enjoyed the interview and Anna’s tips! I certainly did! So, remember, understanding our differences and communicating things in terms of what the other person values are a great way to:

  • Build trust.
  • Develop an understanding.
  • Position mutual benefit.

These are the foundations of any healthy relationship or business. No one is wrong, no one is right, and no one is an absolute ‘jerk.’ We are all human beings with very different ways of expressing value and care. Meantime…

Choose Gratitude Create Freedom

Steve Napolitan

1 Comment

  1. Great interview on Generational Coding from two of my favorite people!

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