I will never forget a conference I attended a few years ago. It was associated with my church, and one of the attendees asked if there would be sex in heaven. The speaker, a bible scholar, responded with what most would call a disappointing but probably accurate response. He said there would be sex in heaven—there would be both males and females. Ha ha, we laughed, and he never addressed the real reason the person asked the question. Well, Cultureinfusion.com won’t go there either, but we can address sex in our culture, as in the fact that there are both males and females in the workplace. It takes the best of everyone involved to make a workplace excellent and a company successful. How can we leverage our differences to get the best out of those around us and create an environment where gender differences are appreciated?
A healthy work culture should embrace differences. If differences are not embraced, change will never happen. If change does not happen, your organization will soon find itself perfectly equipped to be successful in an environment which no longer exists. If we cannot change with the demands of customers, we will fail. Look at large companies who did not make the change: JC Penney, Sears, Sports Authority, Radio Shack and many others who did not deal with change appropriately. They ignored how the Internet has changed the way people do business. I wonder what the leadership teams of these organizations looked like. I can only imagine that these teams did not embrace change. They were not open-minded. This is not a lack of ability, but a reluctance to look at technology and see how it is making the industry different and to change course. It is a fundamental issue that we all face of embracing differences rather than embracing the change agent du jour.
Technology is just that, a change agent. It is not the only one; there are others. The change agent itself is not really even important relative to your organization’s ability to see that change agent. What does all of this have to do with gender and the differences between men and women in the workplace? Everything! In case you did not notice, men and women are different. Regardless of your views on anything related to gender, you cannot miss this fact — they are different. The difference is not only physical, it is emotional and psychological. I am not even going to categorize or generalize, except to say that they are different. Regardless of gender, every individual, both male and female, has strengths, weaknesses, personality quirks, and character flaws.
In 17 years of parenting, there has never been a time when any of my three children have fallen and scraped their knee and yelled for dad. Even when my wife was out of town and it happened on my watch, they cried for her. The truth is that between my wife and me, she is far more nurturing. I would look at this as a strength of hers. We use that strength in my family to provide our children what they need at that moment. One of the things our family needs to be successful is a nurturing environment. Whether I bring it or my wife does, we feel like we need it for success. In this case, I embrace that difference between my wife and me; in fact, I am very glad for this difference.
We have several differences, and most of the time we leverage them to keep things going in the right direction; other times, we as humans use differences to make excuses. One of my challenges is selfishness. When I get in that mode and focused on me, I can see differences as obstacles. Things that get in the way of what I want. After 18 years of marriage I am learning that I cannot just plow through these differences until I get what I want. I am learning to be patient and leverage the difference to get what we both want.
How are men different from women in your workplace? Is that too general of a question? Well, look at it this way then: do you think you can accomplish all of your organizational goals and not have the ability to address change or differences? Are we talking about the differences between men and women here, or are we talking about being able to see differences in people and leveraging that difference them to achieve the mission? Therein lies some of the problem. Think Sears here. We need to be able to understand the differences in everyone on our team, and instead of trying to plow through these differences, learn to leverage them to get what everyone involved wants. There are innate differences in genders, but that should not lead to a discussion of equality, rather it should lead to a discussion of leveraging differences for progress and considering all of those differences invaluable to the future of your organization.
As our culture focuses right now on gender, is it the best thing for your organization to take a side and join in? As leaders, what should be our focus? I think our focus should always be to try and achieve the balance of financial success and ensuring there is an environment where every individual can have an opportunity to grow and develop, and contribute to the mission. Give up the idea of pleasing everyone, it is never going to happen. Just as you have done in your home since you were a kid, embrace differences in your home and in your place of work. Be patient and try to leverage those differences to get what everyone wants.