Common sense — and studies — confirm that engaged people do better work and are more likely to stay. Engagement is linked with retention, productivity and profitability. Feeling different — like an “outsider” — can undermine engagement.Spending energy figuring out the rules and fitting in takes energy away from quality and efficiency. In today’s diverse workforce, leaders cannot engage everyone the same. Leaders must understand and appreciate difference to have broad engagement.
There are both strengths and limitations to the masculine and feminine forms of making decisions. The prototypical male focuses on the goal and gets straight to the point. That’s great for efficiency, but important issues may be missed. The prototypical female values more process and gathers multiple inputs. That’s great for creativity and buy-in, but it can get bogged down. Either approach alone may get sub-optimal results. The best decisions come from a group that balances masculine and feminine approaches.
Better decisions really do come from diverse groups. The comfort of being with those like ourselves makes us pay attention less; having even one person who is different from the group norm makes people process information more carefully. There is more creativity and innovation, and outcomes are better and more sustainable.
Is one reason that women aren’t proportionally represented at the leadership level in business because they lack the ambition or interest in power to be there? This question was debated a decade ago. Some women have ambition and want power in the masculine way. Other women simply define these terms differently. Typical female behaviors of avoiding taking credit or tooting her own horn mask ambition. Women who do appear ambitious are often caught in the “double bind.” To achieve gender diversity in leadership, we must broaden our definitions of “power” and “ambition.”
The link between inclusion and better business results is about engagement. Higher engagement is linked in research to higher productivity and profitability. Engaging the bulk of workers is complicatedi n today’s diverse workforce. Engagement, which involves a sense of belonging, must be wide and deep. Employees who spend energy on “fitting in” are spending energy that leaders need to be focused on doing great work. Leadership skills of inclusion are about getting the best work out of more of the diverse workforce.
Continuing to explore differences in masculine approaches to work (represented by the prototype Max) and feminine perspectives at work (represented by the prototype Fran), we come to differences in masculine and feminine ways of making decisions. Both approaches focus on goals and tasks. But Max focuses on the goal first and foremost. Fran also focuses on the process for achieving the goal and the connections important to achieving it. The balance of both–the bias for action and the skill of gathering and synthesizing inputs–leads to the best outcomes.