Mentorship February 17, 2017
Like the concept of Yin-Yang, men and women in the workplace are opposite or contrary forces that are interconnected and interdependent. We are complementary forces that interact to create a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So why aren’t we using this to our advantage? One word: competition.
It seems that these days, everything is a competition: Who can get the promotion at work? Who has the better pitch in the board meeting? Who can gain the upper hand? It’s time to stop this damaging competition in its tracks. Men and women bring different, but equal traits to the board room table and it’s time to start appreciating that.
I have always believed women have the ability and capability as men. Women are becoming our most inspirational and strongest leaders.
— Jim Webster (@jim8601) December 3, 2016
READ MORE: How to Brag Like a Man and Get Away With It
ENTITY spoke to John Keyser, founder of Common Sense Leadership and author of book “Make Way for Women: Men and Women Leading Together Improve Culture and Profits,” to learn more about how men and women lead differently.
He tells us that there are differences in the brain that affect the way men and women think. “Men tend to be bold, decisive, confident (often over-confident), think short term and are sometimes charismatic,” Keyser explains. “Women tend to be relational, care about the team, are inclusive, ask questions for input, are more present and better listeners (which is very important), have a risk awareness (not risk aversion), think long term and encourage more open discussions.”
In other words, men have more of a “rush to the finish line” technique, looking for a solution first, whereas women prefer to explore and communicate their various concerns about something. According to Keyser, this means women are actually phenomenal leaders. “Women do the basics of leadership so very well,” he says. “Every business is a people business and [women] have the relationship skills which help people feel appreciated, valued and heard.”
This doesn’t just concern simple decisions either, but during times of pressure too. In stress situations, men are more likely to take risks for the “big win,” but that win is more costly and less likely to actually to happen. Women instead think about the reward consequences, making safer decisions which ended up actually ensuring success more often.
However, a “glass cliff” has developed, meaning women are asked to lead only in high stress environments, like the crises with Xerox, in which Ursula Burns has managed to “turn a company once only known for paper copies to a viable and profitable business,” according to Forbes.
READ MORE: #WomenThatDo: Ursula Burns
At the outset of the recession in 2007-2008, companies with at least one woman on their board out performed companies with an all-male board. If women help make more decisions all the time, organizations can respond more effectively and efficiently to small stresses overtime, rather than letting them become larger ones.
In fact, the MIT Quarterly Journal of Economics published an article in 2001 about how men in general are more likely to make riskier decisions in the stock market than women. Why? Men are overconfident in their abilities while women are less self-assured. And without a female presence, men often take the less rational approach with regards to trading in the stock markets.
“Psychological research has established that men are more prone to overconfidence than women, particularly so in male-dominated realms such as finance,” concludes the study. “Models of investor overconfidence predict that, since men are more overconfident than women, men will trade more and perform worse than women.”
So why is it that men and women are so reluctant to work together when it’s clear that when they work together they achieve more? “I think often it’s men are are not comfortable with working with women in business and leadership, unconsciously avoid doing so,” says Keyser. “Often it’s women having to fight their way up in a male-dominated environment and then continuing these behaviors when what is needed is listening, caring and relational skills.”
“If we can get male leaders with the humility, inner-confidence and self-awareness to understand and accept that women strengthen a company’s leadership and heighten morale, then there will be collaboration not competition or exclusion,” he says. “Companies that do not embrace this diversity will be left behind and will not flourish in the future!”
Men and women are yin-yang, light and dark, a jigsaw puzzle that, when put together, has infinite potential. It’s time to create an environment where men and women are able to work together to create the best solution. As Keyser says, “Discuss the differences in men’s and women’s leadership and how together they strengthen a company. Discussion is the fuel of change.”
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