I am very excited to be taking part in the “Women of HR” effort. When I told Trish McFarlane that I wanted to be a part of this project, I was both excited and perplexed. I knew I wanted to try to write in this venue. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would have to say.
For this initial piece, I did what I always do when I am unsure of what direction a topic should take – I decided to write about myself and my own experience. Not as a woman, of course, but the experience of working in a field that has become increasingly female dominated over the course of my career. Recently, I was listening to HR Happy Hour and China Gorman shared that 72% of SHRM members are female.
The Gender of Leadership
Over the years, the gender of managers I have worked for has been almost equal, about 50% male and 50% female. The odd factor here is that I didn’t work for a woman for the first ten years of my career. This means that over the last 15 years, most of the people I reported to were women.
I haven’t experienced much difference in working for a woman versus working for a man. At a high level, it has always been about the work and the results. Probably the most noticeable differences in styles would be in the area of communication. Generally, my female supervisors have been more accessible and open in their approach. There was also a discernible difference in the approach to investigating and reviewing harassment complaints of any sort. The men were all about getting it done, discipline, and legal mitigation. The women were all about looking at the personal aspects of the case – how the parties felt, identifying the root cause, and what was being done systemically to prevent recurrences as we moved forward. I think this is a better approach and may be a simple way of illustrating some of the gender differences of leadership. Your personal experiences and perspectives shape your leadership style, right?
My Personal Leadership Gender
Over the course of my own career, I have been told some version of this statement at least a half dozen times:
“You approach HR and the way you manage like a woman.“
At first, I didn’t know how to take it. Early in my career, it would have been a personal dig. Today, I take it as a very high compliment. Many of the best HR professionals I have worked with have been women and I like to think that I learn something from everyone I work with.
Here is what that statement means to me today:
- Not all problems are nails and you don’t have to bring a hammer to fix them.
- Taking the time to listen and then consider is an essential part of effective leadership.
- Try to look at all sides of the problem, including the underside, where the roots of the issue may still be buried, waiting to grow back, and deal with them.
- Business is teamwork. Teams require cooperation and support more than they do cut-throat competitors.
- Just because you are soft in demeanor doesn’t mean you are soft in getting results.
See you next month!
Photo credit iStock Photo