One of my greatest ongoing challenges is to think more like a man! Oh yes ladies, they can teach us a few things! For me, it is the very black and white manner in which they process their lives. This binary state of mind is applied across the spectrum of their daily actions and behaviours. While I do not wish to adopt this male perspective to my entire life, I certainly try to apply it to all my business dealings.
Oh the efficiencies I achieve when I adopt a logical mind set to deal with the challenges that beset every day of my working life. I would suggest that the collective gain in efficiency in any large business managed predominately by women would be staggering if we could switch on the 'Black and White Thinking' button.
Can we women be wired so differently? Are we really burdened with an emotionally charged operating system that is locked at its maximum analytical setting? Looking for his best example to highlight the differences between women and men in business, my man references the 'roundabout' syndrome.
"Just watch how differently men and women tackle traffic at a roundabout!" he says.
For men, every roundabout is encountered without regard or consideration. They see it as a momentary impediment. They will simply seek the fastest way past the obstacle. Predicting success, they will approach at pace and if necessary create a gap with scant regard for those around them. A brief moment is given to self-congratulation - job done!
Women are very aware of every roundabout they will encounter on each and every journey they take. Slowing with caution they will come to a halt and begin to evaluate, consider and reflect. Those around them will be prioritised and all possible risks will be assessed. Progress will be slow and careful and once through the roundabout their immediate thoughts will be on the next roundabout they are about to encounter.
A sexist beast he may be but his analogy has merit.
A recent experience I had with a female team member captures well my concern over how we women can unnecessarily burden ourselves with 'emotional' flotsam. Stepping into my office in tears, one of my team asked me why I am so angry with her. Confused, I ask just why she is feeling this way. "You are shouting at me in your emails!" Still confused, I ask her to show me just how I had achieved this? Together we looked at the email concerned. The instructions in the email were very direct and I was brief and to the point but... "Look at the message! It is all in capitals!" Yep, there it was, my angry email. I had hit the caps lock and sent the email off without thought or consideration.
I cannot begin to imagine such a moment between two men in business.
Spending the time in the company of so many women at all levels of business, I absolutely know that we all allow emotion to enter our business thinking at some level at some point in our busy day (apologies to Angela Merkle as I must admit to not having spent time in her presence.) I love being a woman and I celebrate my femininity every day. Motherhood is my greatest gift and time spent with my girlfriends is treasured, but in business there is no place for elongated and emotionally saturated analysis and reflection.
Facts, logic and current data drive sound decision making. Yes, there will always be room for gut feelings and instinct, but the elimination of unreasoned concern will reap rewards of efficiency and progress. I see more and more female world leaders demonstrating an unquestionable balance as women who operate with very 'Black and White' management styles. To me, Hillary Clinton best epitomises the perfect balance between achieving the Black and White management style while retaining her femininity. From a distance, even her dealing of the questionable actions of husband Bill Clinton show her ability to measure moments with a cool and controlled approach.
I still have to reset my attitude during my working day. When my emotional compass begins to 'colour up', I close my eyes and smile as I visualise a roundabout. I switch that binary thinking back on and drive though any obstacles that appear before me that day!
Let's celebrate our femininity while adopting that part of the male make-up that can work to our advantage.
"Men are all alike--except the one you've met who's different." Mae West
I am sure she would have a great reference to men!
About the author
Annah Stretton is the founder of the Annah Stretton fashion label and is a wildly successful New Zealand entrepreneur, author and speaker. In the first year her business turned over $1 million and now with an online following of over 80,000, over 30 retail stores, three books and a strong business leadership programme under her belt, Annah was a worthy recipient of the coveted Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award.