Last week I read a very interesting article posted by a bride-to-be where Mark Driscoll gave guys at a conference an ear-clipping for not honouring their wives. It was a great read on sooo many levels, and one insightful sentence really got me thinking about the difference between talking to men and talking to women. He writes, “Were this a women’s conference, I would not call you all idiots and imbeciles and fools, that you’re a joke, okay? But you men, this is where it needs to go…. And the real men in the room know it and they see it.”
For me it is astounding that groups of guys respond well to these Alpha Male challenges, but my husband loved it, and I’m told it works for guys generally! They respect a leader who talks straight. Here’s the newsflash though: as Driscoll says, this is not normally the same for women. If you want to get the best out of a woman in your team, you can’t forget that she’s – well – a woman. But very often leaders do forget this.
#1. It’s important to remember that women are sensitive, and that’s ok! Being sensitive doesn’t make us weak or unprofessional, it’s part of our feminine strength. Even A-Type ‘strong’ women struggle to feel feminine when their leaders use the same language on them that they use when giving their male colleagues negative feedback. So, rather than shutting this side of a woman down and asking her to take a tongue-lashing ‘like a man’, leaders can make the whole workplace friendlier and happier by learning to criticise constructively…not just criticise. This way girls are way more likely to make the necessary changes with a smile, than spend their lunch break in tears and overanalysing.
#2. The other thing one can never forget when leading women is that they are relational creatures. We want to know that our relationships are strong and safe – but we also know that work can put a strain things! You may not be able to fulfill all your employees’ expectations, just as they may not fulfill yours, and this in turn can lead to pressure and frustration on either side. If you value a female team member and want to make sure your relationship goes the distance, make investment like remembering her birthday, asking about her family, or checking how she’s doing. That way she’ll know you care about her and not just her function at the office, even when the project isn’t running as smoothly as hoped.
It may be a man’s world out there, but we leaders get to make the choices whether to carry that culture into our teams or not. What ‘tools’ have you found work when leading women?