Male Versus Female
Moderator (Linda): Are there differences in the needs of male verses female leaders? If so, what are they?
Val: Tricky question. Male verses female. I don’t want to sound sexist so I’m going to make an observation from my personal practice. I’m not saying this about all women or all men, but I react to this question by saying that I coach senior executives who are about 60 percent male and 40 percent female. That is just how it is. There is one thing I tend to coach women executives on more than men: I find my women clients (even at really high levels) are often asking for permission to get in the game. They’re qualified, they have the skill, but it’s not about that. They’re still holding back a little bit. One of my favorite lines for my female clients, men too, but female much more is: “Are you going to be a player or are you going to be a pawn?” Which is it? And I have to push really hard like there’s not going to be an engraved invitation to play, jump in. I’m surprised at this point with so much progress for women, and it’s subtle at the higher levels, but it’s still there, they’re waiting for permission. So, that is one difference I’ve seen.
Bill: A majority of the people in this room are women. In executive coaching, the majority of people who do executive coaching are women. The majority of the people being coached are men. So, one of the interesting things about our profession is the fact that male executives are more often than not being coached by a woman. I’ve given a number of speeches over the years and the one that has generated the most attention is one I did in Los Angeles several years ago, on the subject of gender-the relationship of male coaches to female clients or colleagues we call them–vice versa. I think it’s such a critical point for women as coaches who are coaching men. Often, for the men there is a powerful (and sometimes disturbing) realization: this is a woman who they wish their significant other could be like. I think this is an important issue. I see this again and again. I talk with men who have female coaches and they say: “I wish my wife could listen to me the way my coach does.” That’s profoundly unfair to the wife because they’re involved in the issue. Many of the women I work with as coaches say one of the first things they do is they want to meet with the man’s significant other, at least once, so they recognize that this female coach is not a threat.
Mary Beth: Here is one distinction I see when I talk to the bosses of my clients, who are impatient with their direct reports for not displaying more executive potential. I find that the bosses of men can get frustrated that these men don’t take more initiative when the opportunity arises. They seem to want more direction. Whereas the women seem to take a lot of initiative but they’re not good at setting boundaries they take on way too many things. And then they don’t have an executive presence because now they’re running around trying to be all things to all people. They can easily become burned out because they’re taking on too many things.
Bob: One of the biggest challenges for the male executives is how they have to shift when it’s time for women to come into the boy’s club. There are very significant coaching needs so they can clearly understand how to make that shift.
Jeannine: Female executives who have grown up with a really rough male model present interesting challenges. Some have gone so far beyond their own original tendencies to play the game as it used to be five or ten years ago, that they have even gotten tougher, meaner, than their male colleagues. It’s hard for them to come back into the game on a level playing field. This is where I have run into the most interesting and complex dynamics. I seldom have difficulty with the male client. I grew up in a male world I’m an only child that grew up in my father’s business. So, for many years I had no concept of this kind of a distinction. So, I would walk into briar patches without realizing I was in one. It’s actually served me well because the expectation is that I’m coming in as a human being working with another human being. That served me well until I was actually working in Europe and Asia some 10-15 years ago where I had to take, really quickly, a completely different stance of honoring that culture. So, I look at this now as, am I bilingual both in the culture and the diversity much beyond the male or the female agenda. And going from that platform, there is very little difficulty or at least you can name it and deal with it when you’re simply looking at differences versus tying it back to a gender.
- Posted by Bill Bergquist
- On November 17, 2021
- 0 Comment