The point of exploring differences on the masculine-feminine continuum is to enable you to create an inclusive work environment. I call this area of difference “Our Primary Work Focus.” The two sides of the continuum are “Goal” and “Process.” Max and Fran, prototypes of masculine and feminine approaches, respectively, represent the two sides of the continuum. While both accomplish goals and complete tasks, what is forefront to each is different. Max focuses on achieving the goal first and foremost while Fran focuses on the goal and the steps of the process and the connections important to accomplishing it.
This difference may have roots in differences in brain structure. Max has a “male brain,” which is structured for sequential thought. As a caveman, this enabled him to focus on his primary task, kill dinner. Fran’s is a “female brain,” which is structured to multitask and gather. As a cave-woman, Fran had more tasks to juggle as she gathered her contribution to dinner, such as nuts and berries.
In the work world, Max has a bias for action. He wants to avoid getting distracted by issues that he sees as ancillary and which might slow things down. Fran has more tolerance for process. She seeks and listens to others, gathering and synthesizing ideas in reaching her conclusion. In the process, she builds connections and buy-in.
Fran may actually process her thinking out loud or take her listener through her thought process before giving her conclusion. This drives Max crazy; he wants the answer first! If Fran presents a problem to Max, he assumes he must fix it. Instead, she might have just wanted conversation or collaboration.
The two sides of the continuum in the area of Our Primary Work Focus are:
MAX – GOAL
FRAN – PROCESS
|Focuses on goal/results||Focuses on process to get the result|
|Gets result more quickly||Gets result in a way that builds connection|
|Pushes aside distracting ideas||Gathers more ideas|
|Gets to the answer first||May get to the answer last|
|Assumes he must fix the problem presented||Presents a problem as an invitation to discuss, process and connect|
If a team is made up only of Maxes, they may pursue the ideas of the “alpha” leader; avoiding ideas they think aren’t on a linear path to the goal, they may overlook key issues or impacts of their decision on people. If only Frans are on a project, they will involve people and build consensus, but they may get paralyzed by process or trying to build consensus and take longer to accomplish the task. If the team has a balance of Maxes and Frans (as is more likely if both men and women are on the team), the Maxes will keep the group focused on the goal, and the Frans will raise issues and perspectives that may make the outcome both better and more sustainable.
Have you seen these differences? Share your stories or examples in a comment!