A participant in a recent session Jason Pankau and I were teaching on Connection Cultures and employee engagement shared that she connects with her sons by talking about sports. She follows sports, not out of a love for it, but because it gives her a language to connect with her boys. By contrast, her conversations with women tend to be about what happens in their day-to-day lives.
Her comments reminded me of a recent article in The New York Times entitled “Why Sisterly Chats Make People Happier.” The article noted research has concluded families with sisters are happier. The article’s author believes this is true because women initiate and sustain conversations more than men.
This is consistent with my own personal observations. My brother and I grew up in a neighborhood of boys near Rockford, Illinois. Rather than four seasons, our lives revolved around three: baseball season, football season and basketball season. Today, I live in a home full of females: my wife, our two daughters, and even our dog. I’ve seen that, in general, women are better at relationships than men and it has to do with their being highly verbal. Females converse more in general and they converse more about what’s going on in each other’s lives. These conversations develop emotional connections and convey information that often has an impact on the execution of tasks. Women also tend to be more empathetic which increases connection too.
Although I don’t have any hard research to prove it, I believe the vast majority of organizational cultures that are diverse in terms of the gender of their members, will outperform cultures that are not diverse. Connection/conversation is the lubricant that makes tasks work well. Greater task complexity and velocity/ throughput typically require greater connection and conversation to achieve sustainability and excellence in execution. It’s no wonder then that Coach K at Duke encourages his wife and daughters to be ever-present in the activities of the Duke men’s basketball team. (Michael Sokolove, one of my favorite sports journalists, wrote about this in a wonderful article I encourage you to read entitled “Follow Me.”) It also brought to mind that Atul Gwande’s top recommendation to fellow doctors for improving their performance is to connect with patients by asking questions unrelated to healthcare.
The bottom line here is that if you are a leader you would be wise to make certain women are well-represented throughout your organization. Your organization will more effective and a more pleasant place to work for it.