Did you know that men and women think differently about a problem? I recently ran into this issue with one of my clients. I was in a board room where I had just made a proposal. I sat down and one of the women competitors was in the company
So of course at the end of the meeting the CEO had this unreadable look on his face.
“Well thank you Mrs. Smith,” he said “You’ve made some good points and I think we should table the decision on this issue until we better understand the situation. ”
The women in the room were aghast. The men in the room, if you could read their faces were relieved. Almost as if they had no idea what Mrs. Smith was talking about? So what just happened? Was it sexism? Was it Office Politics? After talking with the men and women in the room I think I understand.
The men were confused by the presentation. The woman understood perfectly. So if the same words were spoken why were only the men lost? If you are a man or a woman and you’ve been in a relationship with someone from the opposite sex you know this isn’t just a board room question. As women come into the work place though, the same communication break downs occur now in the workplace as they do at home. So what really happened?
Let me use the classic analogy and compare the brain with a desktop computer. I’m sorry if this sounds politically incorrect but bear with me. On the computer we can open a window on the computer and start working in an application. Now we need to work in another application. The male brain will close the first window, and then open a new window for the new application. The woman’s brain will actually open a new window without closing the first window. So now the woman will have two windows open while the man has one window open. If the woman needs to open another application, she will open a third window. The window will remain open until the issue is resolved. Until that issue is resolved the woman’s brain will continue to keep the window open and used the resources required to keep that window open.
So going back to the meeting… When the woman began speaking she was opening window after window and expecting everyone in the audience to open the same windows in their minds. Then she would move from window to window during the discussion. The women in the room could easily keep up because they had opened the same windows in their own minds.
On the men’s side it was much different. Each time the woman went to a new window, the men had to close the first window and open the next window. Then close that window and open another window. For the next 15 minutes the woman was charging through referring to each open window. The men were struggling just to follow her conversation. The women got it, the men didn’t.
In the book, The Collaborative Enterprise, Robert Nitschke explains that collaboration requires cooperation, commitment and finally communication. Without communication, collaboration can’t occur. When men and women can’t communicate in the boardroom they can’t collaborate.
I’m curious what tools you are putting in place to solve this problem? I have a Seattle IT Consulting company and the way we solve the problem is by distributing information before the meeting. I work with Fuse Networks to build collaborative platforms in the cloud that allow men and women to collaborate on problems in their own communication style. Then when the board meeting occurs, the CEO and the men come prepared already understanding each presentation. In this way both the men and the women are on equal footing when presenting to the board.