Progress for women in traditional workplaces has been slower than many of us would like. Could how women approach work, specifically how they accept traditional, masculine models of interactions, be part of the problem?
To be clear, the news about women in business isn’t entirely bad. A 2018 article in Inc. reported that over the past twenty years, women-owned firms in the United States have grown by 114 percent. By one account, women start close to 850 businesses each day; this means that women-owned businesses are currently growing 2.5 times faster than the national average. Of course, these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, today’s rapid growth also tells us something about how few women were founding and running businesses just two decades ago. The real question is how can we further accelerate women’s impact on business now. Could the answer be to harness what makes women unique?
Some people might disagree, but in my experience, women are wired somewhat differently than men. As an executive coach who works closely with male and female leaders, this is obvious to me. What is also obvious is that women who tap into their innate differences are also often more likely to maximize their connections, expand their circle of impact, and amplify their business impact. On this basis, this is my advice to female founders.
Tap the Juice
When under stress, the typical male response is elevated cortisol, which moves them into a fight-or-flight mode. This can lead to burnout. Under stress, women’s typical response is escalated oxytocin, which motivated us to get together and bond. Women navigate stress, then, by connecting with others through conversation. While hanging out with friends may not sound like a great business strategy, on a neurochemical level, the impulse to spend time with friends when under stress is a secret weapon we can’t afford to ignore.
Foster Purposeful Connections
Most women have both a unique capacity and need to connect, share, and empathize. Rather than ignore or diminish this need, leverage it and turn it into a strength. Own it. Schedule it. Create opportunities to connect. And be sure to pay attention to which relationships you want to nurture and ensure these connections are both fulfilling and purposeful.
Make Real Asks
To make conversations purposeful and impactful, we have to be aware and own our needs. When I was launching Create More Flow, a method that I discuss in detail in my most recent book, I invited friends and colleagues to beta test the content for free. I asked each person who participated to give candid, real-time feedback to make the content even more effectiveness.
Think about what you need to move forward. Think about what you can realistically ask for from your friends who are also likely already stretched. Be true to yourself about what types of support you require to move forward and excel. Also remember, we are far more powerful when we are authentic in our relationships and committed to leveraging our different wiring and communication skills.
Ask Better Questions
In every conversation, I strive to ask, “What do you need?”, “How can I help?”, and “What are your most important next steps?” Asking purposeful questions both inspires heartfelt connections and drives impact forward. These questions can be simple. You’re not asking these questions to grandstand your own knowledge or offer advice. Your asking these questions to open a door—to trigger ideas, sharing and future collaborative endeavors. And invariably, generosity deepens connections too. Generosity begets more generosity.
What’s the take away? Working like a woman may be different than working like a man, but it doesn’t mean working less or less effectively. At heart, being true to oneself can result in tremendous returns both in business and life. Among other things, working like a woman can enable one to leverage their differences to drive results, nurture their innate strengths, and enjoy the process.
My advice to women entrepreneurs is simple: Harness your differences, be true to yourself, and enjoy amplifying your impact.