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new bell curve 2013I avoid stereotypes of men and women. First, it turns people off. No one likes to be stereotyped; we like to be seen as individuals. Second, stereotypes just are not true. I specialize in differences in masculine and feminine approaches to work. I cannot look at a woman and know that she operates in a feminine way. I cannot assume a man operates in a masculine way. Both men and women operate along a “masculine-feminine continuum.” So I talk about “masculine” and “feminine” in both men and women.

To establish a common definition of these terms, I introduce two prototypes – Max and Fran. Max represents how the “average” man tends to think and act – the masculine approach. Fran represents the feminine approach – how the “average” woman is most likely to think and act. In my workshops, both men and women discover the “Max” and the “Fran” in them. They learn that, in some circumstances, they operate like Max; in others, like Fran. And men have an easier time “claiming their Fran” than confessing to having feminine strengths!

I have, over time, been told that it would be better to have a man and a woman lead workshops on masculine-feminine differences. I understand this. Having a woman present the topic can set it up as a “woman’s issue” – rather than what it is, a business issue. I also understand that having both genders in front of the room adds credibility for certain mixed audiences. For all audiences, it adds richness. There are two voices and two perspectives.

Recently I formed a working relationship with Dr. Rich Grenhart. He and I are collaborating on delivering workshops to help leaders appreciate both masculine and feminine approaches at work. One might think that I would bring a feminine perspective and Rich would bring a masculine one. Sometimes — but not always. Often I am more “Max-like” and Rich is more “Fran-like.” We illustrate the point! Male does not equal “masculine” and female does not equal “feminine.” We each have both strengths and can move along the masculine-feminine continuum effectively. That’s what we want to teach our participants.

Gender diversity in leadership is highly correlated with better results. That is not, we believe, because women have some kind of magic. It is because, with a balance of men and women at the top, an organization or team is more likely to have a balance of masculine and feminine approaches. It gets the advantages of both. That is why companies with gender diversity do better! We teach leaders and managers to leverage both – in themselves and in others.

In what ways do you utilize masculine and feminine strengths?