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3 Things Men Need to Know About Leading Women

3 Things Men Need to Know About Leading Women

 

Men, today I’m talking to YOU.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an explosion in women’s leadership groups in both the corporate and entrepreneurial sectors. Some men perceive these movements as separationist or exclusionary.

But in my experience, it’s been precisely the opposite.

One of the more under-reported trends I’ve witnessed is how much emphasis these groups place on bringing men into the discussion.

For example, in the next few weeks I’ve been invited to:

  • Lead a personal performance training for a women’s leadership forum at a Fortune-100 organization.
  • Run a 1.5-day workshop for female entrepreneurs at One More Woman whose mission is to growing more women-owned businesses past the $1M mark.  

With each invitation comes an acknowledgement that men and women need to do a better job working together on these issues. 

Just yesterday I spoke with the Executive Director of the Office of Women’s Advancement for the City of Boston who said it best:

“It can’t just be about women talking to women.”

Gentlemen, it can’t just be men talking to men. it’s time for us to step up our game.

Specifically, male leaders.

As today is International Women’s Day, here are 3 things you need to know about leading women:

1. Make space for women even before they are on your team.

One of my first managerial roles included inheriting a team of 7 men.  As you can imagine, a certain type of cultural language, jokes and rapport were firmly established.

Now let me be clear, these are all upstanding, good-hearted and solid men through and through. But when you have the same 7 guys working together for long enough, norms, language and jokes will form a gender-specific culture if you as a leader don’t consciously watch out for it. The same holds true if you’re a woman leading an entire team of women.

As ex-NFL coach Herm Edwards says, “either you’re coaching it, or allowing it to happen.” In my case, I allowed the culture to happen.

So when the first woman joined our team, I had to have some difficult and sometimes awkward conversations about things that needed to change. While these men were truly awesome about it, it easily could’ve turned into a situation where they resented her for having to change their ways (through no fault of her own, and that would’ve been major BS.)  

So, even if you don’t lead women right now, make sure the space is cleared for that time to come. Because it will.

2.  Stop Manterrupting

Manterrupting: unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man.

Wow fellas, this one happens way more often than you’d imagine. Next time you’re in a group meeting, play a little game: put a tick down every time a man interrupts a woman. (Bring extra paper.)  

Repeated studies conducted over decades highlight that this phenomenon is alive and well. In a study reported on by the NY Times, men were not only twice as likely to interrupt, but three times as likely to interrupt a woman.

Even Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt got called out at SXSW by Google’s own head of global diversity for repeatedly interrupting Megan Smith (Google’s CTO of the Americas) during a panel on diversity and women in tech.

Stop it.

3.  Ask this one question:

“What’s one thing you wish more male leaders knew about leading women?”

I’ve asked this for years and the answers never cease to be illuminating, ultimately informing better leadership decisions on my part.

This question doesn’t have to be reserved solely for the women you lead either. It should also be from the women who lead you. Or peers. Go outside your organization. Heck, go outside your industry. The more perspectives the better.

For the Women Still Reading…

I love the conversations that you’ve brought me into. You’re up to some world-class sh*t, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

I’d love to continue doing more of this work, so if there’s a place where you see I can play a role, you know how to reach me.

Onward!

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