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iStock_000016028943SmallStereotyping differences in men and women does not work. We define “feminine” by how the prototypical woman (we call this person Fran) thinks and does things; we define “masculine” by how the prototypical man (we call this prototype “Max”) thinks and acts. Any one man (including you) may operate at the feminine side of the masculine-feminine continuum. Any one woman (including you) may operate on the masculine side.

Whether you are a man or a woman, you may think and approach decisions like Fran or Max. Fran and Max think differently. Differences in the “female brain” and “male brain” drive some of these differences. Fran’s brain enables her to gather, process and synthesize, shifting quickly from one focus to another. Max’s brain supports more logical, linear thinking; it is structured to enable him to focus, compartmentalize and think sequentially.

Based on this difference, there are differences in how Fran and Max make decisions. Max stays focused on the goal, avoiding distractions. Fran gathers (listens to and synthesizes) others’ ideas; she focuses on the process as well as the goal. She uses this to build relationship. Fran may actually process her thought process aloud and announce her decision or recommendation only at the end.

Understanding both feminine ways (Fran) and masculine ways (Max) and being able to apply that understanding is to be “Frax-wise.”  In the area of decision-making, if I am Frax-wise, I know which decisions should be approached in a Max-like way. For example when time is limited or consistency is critical, there is no time for processing or need for input. I know which decisions are better when approached in a Fran-like way. When I need buy-in or creativity, I will do more processing. If I am a Frax-wise team member, I will recognize and appreciate an approach different from my own — instead of judging or feeling frustrated by it. I will know when the team needs to take a Max approach, when we need a Fran approach and when we need a mix of both – in complex or novel decisions.

Frax-wise leaders (called “sages” in my book), know that these differences in how people make decisions can create obstacles for some. They can work to lower those obstacles. They can watch out that the “comfort principle” and “unconscious images” do not disadvantage those whose decision style is different from the group’s. When an organization has a critical mass of leaders who are Frax-wise, men and women (whether they are more like Fran or Max) will feel valued and included; and gender diversity will happen.

Are you Frax-wise in this area? Have you seen Frax-wise leaders who value both Fran’s and Max’s styles of decision-making?