WHY I LOVE WORKING WITH WOMEN LEADERS
This blog might be a bit controversial. I love what I do. I get to work with phenomenal leaders – men and women. I love coaching, training and consulting with individuals, teams and organisations. Every day I spend time helping people get clear about what they want to accomplish. I help leaders build skills that will accelerate their organisational success and I help teams to create the capacity to work well with one another.
The people I love working with the most are women! Yes I said it. Just so we are clear, that doesn’t mean I don’t like working with men.
An article like this is always dangerous because we are dealing in generalities. Let me give you my top 4 reasons why I particularly love working with women. Not all women have the traits I outline below, but my experience (and the research) reveals these as overall tendencies:
1. THEY ARE HUMBLE
I notice that there are very few women who are braggarts. When you meet a man for the first time, often they have to slip in their credentials – maybe their educational degrees, past roles or successes. Women don’t seem as compelled to ‘brag’ as much. Only after digging a bit do I get the fuller story of what they have accomplished etc.
Women seem to ‘get on with things’. If a women works full-time in a responsible leadership job, has aging parents that need attention, volunteers, plus have a family to organise they don’t skite about how great they are. They think it is normal. If anything they think they aren’t doing enough.
It is not uncommon for me, whilst working with a woman, to be amazed by their resilience, skill and accomplishments. When I express my admiration and say something like, “You’re an awesome leader because….” They are truly shocked at my compliments. There is a genuine humility that simply sees the jobs that need to be done and gets on with it.
The flip side was brought home to me recently, when I was talking with a female manager who has a new male executive overseeing her. Her comment to me says it all, “I know to make it work I have to play the ego game, I just can’t be bothered.” The ego game is to make sure the male boss feels competent by not questioning his decisions directly, by giving compliments and deferring decisions to him when this leader is more than capable of making them.
2. THEY ARE TEACHABLE
Humility and being teachable go hand in hand.
Some men are hard work when coaching or training. Us men, and I include myself in that category; have a layer of ego that needs to be dealt with before we are ready to learn. For instance, many men don’t like being seen as anything other than competent. Suggest that they have things to develop, or heaven forbid a weakness and they start shutting down.
As Brene Brown talks about, the ability to be vulnerable is incredibly powerful as a leader. It is also very important when it comes to the ability to learn. My experience is that women simply acknowledge and seek advice/support/resources to move forward quite naturally.
When askedby researchers to explain why women were perceived as more effective as leaders in various areas, what was frequently heard was, “In order to get the same recognition and rewards, I need to do twice as much, never make a mistake and constantly demonstrate my competence.” (The shorter version of what we regularly heard from women was that “we must perform twice as well to be thought half as good.”)
The research data on males and females,reveals a competency called “Practicing Self Development.” This competency measures the extent to which people ask for feedback and make changes based on that feedback. We know that as most people begin their career they are very motivated to ask for feedback and take actions to improve. Over time most people gain competence and tend to not ask for feedback as often.
3. THEY UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE ARE THE MAIN GAME
A 2015 State of the American Manager report reveals that people who work for women leaders are more engaged at work than those who work for male leaders. There a number of reasons why this might be.
Firstly, women are natural cheerleaders. They love discovering what motivates people into action and are excited to hand out words of encouragement, thankyous, gifts for jobs well done and pats on the back
Secondly, women listen. What I am particularly referring to is the ability to listen to others point of view without shutting others down or getting defensive. Various studies tell us that employees with women bosses feel they are compassionate. This is partly because of the ability to be present and show empathy through the skill of listening.
Thirdly, women collaborate. Women have a genuine passion for working with others. We like to share ideas and come up with solutions that will be effective for everyone involved in the process. That means that as leaders, we’re good at giving every team member a chance to voice their opinion and be a part of the conversation.
4. MAKE A DIFFERENCE
In the Peterson Institute for International Economics working paper by Marcus Noland and Tyler Moran, they surveyed of nearly 22,000 firms globally
When they examined the profitable firms in their sample (average net margin of 6.4%), they found that going from having no women in corporate leadership (the CEO, the board, and other C-suite positions) to a 30% female share is associated with a one-percentage-point increase in net margin — which translates to a 15% increase in profitability for a typical firm.
However, it is not just a matter of getting women to the very top ranks of management. Their results indicate that the impact of having more women in the C-suite is bigger than that of having a woman on the board or as the CEO. In fact, they found that female CEOs neither systematically outperform nor underperform their male counterparts.
What does this mean?
Not much, except that people who are humble, teachable, focus on developing others and making a difference will always be rewarding to work with and be seen as others as effective leaders.