bell curves 2013I continue to work on practicing what I preach, consciously leveraging both masculine and feminine aspects of myself. I look for the “Max” ways I think and act, Max being the prototype of the masculine. I recognize the “Fran” parts of my thinking and behavior; Fran is the prototype representing the typical or average woman. (I use these prototypes rather than stereotyping about how men and women think or act; men and women all have some elements of both masculine and feminine.)

I am still recovering from neck-fusion surgery and resulting nerve damage. My arms and hands still are not functioning at 100%. Nerves heal, I am told, really slowly. For many weeks, I have been unable to operate at my usual (fast) level of multi-tasking. Initially, I could do very little work. Now I am trying to strike the balance – between doing as much as I can and taking care of myself and my long-term healing.

A friend suggested I think about this as the need to balance the Max and Fran parts of myself. The Max or masculine part of me (a big part) wants to dive right in, build my business back up quickly, get results. This part is “lit up” when I am creating a workshop or article or confirming a speaking engagement. My Fran or feminine part is more cautious, less focused on one thing (getting a result), less competitive. This part weighs multiple issues and perspectives. This part assures (or is supposed to assure) I get enough self-nurturing and nurturing generally.

My inclination is to follow my Max elements and get moving. I recognize that I need to honor my Fran nature and avoid speeding up too soon. I am grateful for both parts of myself. Just as balance in the workplace and in leadership style is a good thing, a personal balance of masculine and feminine is good for me!

mindset-massageWhat is a “mindset”? How are mindsets related to diversity and inclusion? Do we all have mindsets – and is that bad?

I talk and write a lot about mindsets. I focus on mindsets that create obstacles for gender diversity at the leadership level of business. I recently recognized how quickly mindsets can develop. I developed a mindset that I need to change.

When I use the term, I refer to a way of thinking that has developed over time and may operate at the sub-conscious level. Brain scientists are learning much about how doing certain things, and thinking certain ways, lay down neuropaths. The more we do or think that way, the more deeply grooved the neuropaths become. This is the root of a habit – a “knee jerk” way of reacting in thought or action.

I have spent the last two months recuperating from surgery and resulting nerve damage. I had to slow way down. Everything (dressing, typing, even eating) takes much longer than normal. What I got done in a day has been far less than before. Prior to this medical challenge, I might feel I had a productive day if I designed or delivered a speech or workshop, followed up with two prospects, wrote a blog and did physical exercise. Now I feel I have had a productive day if I take a shower, dress and make breakfast, do my physical therapy, respond to a few phone calls or e-mails, take a nap, and maybe write for 15 minutes. This has become a new habit of thought. I have just become aware of it!

As I heal and regain physical function, this new, relaxed standard is interfering with my work – my mission. I know it is time to step it up at least a bit – and more and more as I can. But that takes recognizing this (recently developed) mindset about what I can and should do in a day.

Do you see? We should not feel bad or guilty about having unconscious mindsets. They occur naturally. In my case it has occurred in two months. I cannot judge people for having deeply rooted mindsets that create obstacles for women in business leadership. These mindsets are formed over lifetimes and reinforced by strong cultural forces. How much harder they are to bring to conscious awareness – and to change – than my recently developed mindset about productivity!

What mindsets can you identify in yourself? Are there reasons to change them?


future of leadership

“[T]he future of leadership communication is more ‘feminine’ — regardless of your gender ….”

If you have been reading the DifferenceWORKS newsletter, you should recognize this sentiment. The source of the quote is the 2014 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, reviewed by another aligned author in a piece in Fast Company. We all agree with John Gerzema (author of The Athena Doctrine). The old, largely masculine, model of leadership is no longer adequate. Leaders today (man and women) need a tool kit that includes feminine as well as masculine strengths.

The Ketchum study identifies 14 key leadership attributes for today’s workforce and concludes that women score higher on 10 of the 14, including the top attributes identified:

– Leading by example

– Communicating in an open and transparent way

– Admitting mistakes

– Bringing out the best in others.

If you have read my book or attended our workshops, it is no surprise that these attributes show up more in women. They are feminine strengths. Both men and women can develop and use these strengths, but they are more likely to come naturally to more women than men.

Our mission is to create workplaces that value feminine as well as masculine styles of achieving results — and leaders that demonstrate strengths on both sides of the “masculine-feminine continuum.” To raise consciousness of masculine vs. feminine strengths, we use prototypes of the typical woman (“Fran”) to represent feminine approaches and the average man (“Max”) to represent the masculine approach. Fran can be male or female; for ease, I call Fran “she.” We explore how Max and Fran operate in 10 different dimensions of the workplace (communication, influence, decision-making, conflict etc.)

At the core, Fran sees herself (or himself) as part of a network. Relationships matter more than status. She seeks relationships that are intimate and vulnerable. It is less comfortable for Fran to toot her own horn, less important for her to take center stage. She sees power as fluid rather than finite; she shares it and leads through her people — vs. the masculine model of power flowing “down” a hierarchy (with more at the top than at the middle or bottom). Fran appears less competitive than Max and is more self-deprecating (e.g., in her humor) than self-aggrandizing.

As a result, Fran (i.e., more women than men) communicates openly and vulnerably. She is as quick to admit mistakes and shortcomings as her successes and she empowers others, bringing out the best in them.

The Ketchum study confirms the importance of certain feminine ways of leading. DifferenceWORKS helps people understand the roots and faces of masculine vs. feminine ways of working and leading. We raise awareness of the strengths of both. And we teach leaders the importance of exercising both.

I love seeing validation of the importance of what we do!


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