This post is not about why you should focus on how to manage women better. OK, maybe just one sentence on that: Whether you are a first time manager or a seasoned executive, you can make a major contribution to your company and your career by managing women better. There is a lot of data on why that is true. There is less info on how to do it.
Outrage Deflector: Yes, we are all individuals. And..yes, many of these ideas apply to men as well. And… no, not all apply to all women. All that being said, there are patterns that apply to women disproportionally. and bosses who learn them and manage accordingly reap huge benefits. Notice I did not say “men who learn them”; women don’t magically think of this stuff either!
Managing Women Tip #1: Push and Pull Them into Greatness
A boss of mine once proposed a big new job to me. We discussed it and I concluded by saying: “Ok, sounds great! Let me think about whether I am ready for this.” I remember he laughed and said ” You women. Any of your male colleagues would have said “Of course! What took you so long to get around to giving me this kind of opportunity?!”
Women often set a much higher bar for themselves when evaluating an opportunity. They feel like they should already have all the skills and experience to do something before proposing to do it. Men are more likely to believe and act upon their sense of their potential to do something.
Imagine if the women in your company proposed and took on as much responsibility as they are actually capable of fulfilling! You can make that happen.
- Aggressively push stretch projects and jobs to women. Don’t assume that lack of voiced interest in more responsibility reflects a lack of true interest or capability. Go ahead and propose the new roles to qualified women. Hear their reactions and take action. For example, correct misconceptions about what it means to be “ready”: Be clear about why you see them as prepared. Clarify that you know they will be learning certain things as they actually do the job. Make it clear that this is the kind of “75% ready for it” challenge that she should get ready to take on repeatedly in her career.
- In between new roles, teach them to think in terms of their potential rather than their knowledge or experience. Actively communicate the meaning of Potential and its critical role in determining who gets ahead. Stress that in today’s world of continuous change and easy info access, potential is a key hiring and advancement criterion. For help in defining potential in very specific terms, see my post on that subject. Give the women you manage input on the areas of potential in which they are strong. Oh, and by the way, don’t talk about their areas for development in the same conversation — they’ll remember only that part.
- Require high potential women to pick a potential next job. Sure, everyone should do this, but it is particularly helpful for women. They tend to believe that if they do a really fantastic work in their current jobs, good things will happen. Forcing them to pick a next job to research, and potentially prepare for, is a low-stress wrecking ball through that self-erected wall between them and advancement. It can drive the kind of thinking, networking, preparation that can both move them forward and change their self-limiting behaviors for good.
Doing the incredibly easy stuff listed above can unleash huge contributions from the women you manage and make you a hero(ine). That’s good.
More Tips on Managing Women coming soon. Do you have tips you want to share?