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In the last couple of blog posts, I’ve focused on how understanding difference is the starting place for developing inclusive behaviors and how the tool of generalizing can help accelerate understanding.

Inclusive leaders use, appreciate and leverage both masculine and feminine approaches to work. These approaches show up along a continuum, from extremely masculine to extremely feminine. If we placed the U.S. population on this continuum, we would find two overlapping bell curves, one representing masculine approaches, the other representing feminine approaches.

Note that the bell curves overlap a lot. This is because men and women are more alike than they are different. Notice how long the tails to the bell curves are. But the centers of the two bell curves fall on different spots on the continuum. The centers of the bell curves can help us stablish a common understanding of what we mean by “masculine” and “feminine” approaches to work. This understanding can enable us to be more effective working with men and  women—and to be more inclusive, appreciating and leveraging approaches all along the continuum.

The center of one bell curve represents how most men do things (the “masculine” approach). The center of the other bell curve represents how the average woman does things (the “feminine” approach). People hate stereotyping of men and women. However, generalizing is a useful tool. In describing the centers of the bell curves, we’re not talking about any one man or woman—or you. You may operate at various points along the continuum depending on the circumstance.

I introduce one hypothetical person who operates, in all areas, smack dab in the middle of the masculine bell curve. This person is Max, who could be Maxwell or Maxine. And please meet one hypothetical prototype who always, and in every way, operates right in the middle of the feminine bell curve. This is Fran, who could be Frances or Francis.

Although we each have a preference, none of us operate the same way every day and in every circumstance; Max and Fran do, however, because they are helping us define their respective approaches. They are generalizations with a purpose.

I’ll be using Max and Fran as my prototypes in a lot of my future blogs. You’ll get to know them if you follow me or read my upcoming book.

Do you see them as generalizations—and not stereotypes?