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I have worked through most of all ten areas of the masculine-feminine continuum in my posts. Max (representing masculine approaches) and Fran (representing feminine approaches) operate differently in each area on that continuum. Being able to identify masculine vs. feminine approaches enables leaders to understand the strengths — and manage the limitations — of each approach. Depending on the circumstances, one approach may lead to better results than the other. That is not the case, however, with “How We Make Decisions.” (In my book, I called it “Our Primary Work Focus.” In my blog on this area on the continuum, I made it clear that this is really is about individual approaches to decision-making.)

In making a decision, the Max approach is to focus on the goal (achieve “X” outcome by “Y” date). He sees as distractions issues and ideas that are not right on point. In telling you his decision or recommendation, he gets straight to the point. Fran’s approach to making a decision is to focus equally on the process to reach the goal. She gathers and raises related ideas to make sure they are all considered. When she gives you her conclusion, she may first take you through the process by which she reached it.

The advantages of Max’s goal focus are that it is efficient and focused. The limitations of this approach are that important issues or ideas may be missed. By not taking time to hear various points of view, the Max approach may not result in creativity or buy-in. The strengths of the more process-oriented Fran approach are that lots of ideas are considered, and it results in greater buy-in, connection and creativity. But this approach takes longer, may lack focus and can get off track.

The two approaches are closely connected with the Max and Fran approaches to How We Structure Things. Goal focus is often the prevalent style in a hierarchical structure. Both are great when the goal is clear, if there is limited time to make the decision or an emergency exists. Process focus often arises in the flatter network structure that Fran prefers. This structure and approach to decision-making are beneficial when the goal needs definition, when buy-in is necessary and when creativity is more important than speed.

If an important decision were undertaken by a team of all Maxes, the outcome would not be ideal. They might follow orders from the one with most power and drive right to the goal, even if it is not the best goal. If the same decision were considered by a team made up exclusively of Frans, the outcome would also fall short. They might gather input and process it forever, never reaching a decision at all! The best and most sustainable decisions come from teams that balance the Max approach and Fran approach. The Max-like folks will keep the group focused; the Fran-types will be sure all the important aspects of the decision are made.

Have you seen the quality of a decision negatively affected by there being an imbalance of either a goal focus or a process focus?