Studies of how people engage in retail shopping reveals important gender differences that affect how you may want to manage a diverse staff. If you watch men and women shop for clothes, men are intent on identifying the item they need without fanfare. Women, by contrast, browse and remain open to experience.
In a recent Stanford University study, two researchers distinguish between men’s task-oriented approach and women’s “possibility-driven” preference for browsing. While the study (by S. Christian Wheeler and Jonah Berger) targeted marketers, the findings also relate to.
As you know, you must hold everyone on your team accountable for collective goals without playing favorites. But you should still consider gender differences and adjust your approach accordingly when communicating with staff.
Using the Stanford study as a guidepost, you might want to instruct a male using the “point and delegate” approach: specify what needs to be done and the deadline. Your message boils down to, “Go do this by next Friday.”
Managing a female may call for a different tack. Instead of giving a brief overview of the assignment and attaching a due date, invest another few minutes in a “possibility-driven” dialogue about the organization’s goals and the purpose of the project in question.
Just as women tend to treat shopping as an end in itself and flow from rack to rack with openness and curiosity, they prefer to brainstorm in a more free-flowing, let’s-see-where-this-leads manner. Yet that doesn’t mean they’ll blurt out whatever pops into mind.
Most professional women will briefly weigh how what they’re about to say will sound to the group. They may mentally rehearse it and calculate the likely response.
Men, by contrast, may speak up without much of a pause beforehand. In their goal-driven eagerness to reach resolution or complete an action plan, they tend to invest less time predicting how the audience will react.
It’s dicey to dwell on gender roles to the point where they influence your management style too much. At the same time, however, it’s important to recognize that men and women process information differently and take alternate paths to reach decisions. Armed with awareness, you can appeal to both genders more effectively.