UNDERSTANDING FEMALE STAFF AND COLLEAGUES

10 TIPS TO UNDERSTANDING YOUR FEMALE STAFF AND CO-WORKERS, AND ENHANCING THEIR PERFORMANCE.   
By LYNETTE ALLEN.   

1. Let her explain
In general Women learn best through discussion and if you give her an opportunity to talk something through, she’ll learn valuable information – valuable information for your company and department. Men generally want short snippets of information, however, most women want you to understand a ‘situation’, so let her explain. Don’t talk over her, give her the opportunity to tell you the story. This doesn’t require a huge time investment, just two minutes of your complete attention as oppose to 30 seconds of vague acknowledgement, peppered with interruptions will give you a staff member who goes the extra mile to put the work in – you’ll have her respect.

2. She’s a multi-tasker…acknowledge how much she juggles
Working women manage and juggle personal and professional commitments – both are highly important to her and it’s likely that she’ll be the main caretaker at home as well as being a valued team player at work. She’ll put herself under huge pressure to excel both areas. To feel in control and perform at her optimum, your acknowledgement will go miles. A verbal appreciation of her other roles – it’s no more complicated than that. A simple, ”You juggle a lot in your day” is all it needs. It’s a myth that women need long drawn out conversations and a sympathetic ear – she doesn’t have time. She’ll work harder for you knowing that you acknowledge and recognise ALL her commitments – not just her work ones.

3. Don’t presume to know what’s best for her. …. don’t jump in with solutions
I’ve never known ANY woman to appreciate being told what’s best for her and certainly not from someone who has never walked in her shoes! You may think you have the answer to her problem or issue but trust me…you don’t. You’ll gain huge respect by asking her what she thinks she could do differently. Enquire and ask with genuine interest – you’ll learn how her mind works that way and she’ll respect you for taking the time to find out – brownie points all the way chaps!

4. She’s savvy and will spot your doubt in her ability a mile off!
Women are very visual and therefore extremely tuned into the faintest sense that you don’t believe in them. The slightest raised eyebrow, eye flicker or smirk that says ‘You don’t stand a chance’ even if your mouth is forming the words, ‘Great – sounds like a plan!’ and she’ll suss you out immediately. At best you’ll irritate her, at worst, she’ll question her own ability and won’t perform to her anywhere near her best. Authenticity is required guys – not lip service.

5. She expects you to be straight with her
If you genuinely don’t agreed with her viewpoint or her plan – be up front. A woman would far rather you were honest and said ‘I don’t think that’ll work for these reasons…’ than saying the right things and thinking something different. Just like I advise women to do, make sure your argument is equally well thought through, stick to the topic and be clear.

6. Male colleagues – be a grown up! She’s not your mum or your PA
For many women, (whether it’s nature or nurture), her tendency is to make sure that those around her have everything they need. In a work sense, this may mean that she’ll easily fall into ‘caring’ mode – translated into actions that means she wants to ensure everyone is comfortable. She may well write and circulate notes from a meeting, make sure everyone has refreshments, that lunch has been organised, that everyone has a pen and paper. But if she’s not the PA, guys, that is NOT her job role. You’ll get huge respect by taking the lead here or simply by not expecting her to ‘care’ for you. There is no place anymore for the old adage of a ‘work wife’. Be a grown up and actively look after yourself to gain an equal and respectful working partnership.

7. Women are very self critical of their performance
Talk to a group of men about poor figures and they’ll assume that someone else in at fault. Talk to a mixed group about poor performance and the women in the room will assume you’re talking about them. Giving feedback in a professional environment is vital and if it’s not good news, be honest, be clear, be straight but don’t labour the point. Focus instead on asking her opinion, making sure she knows you value and trust her judgement for creating future solutions.

8. Actually listen to what she’s saying
Your voice may naturally be louder, don’t use it against her. I’ve seen this many times before and it’s destructive at work. Listen to the words she uses and if something doesn’t ‘add up’, then ask her to clarify her version of a certain word. Her meaning of words may differ from yours, so make sure you’re on the same page. Clarify, clarify, clarify.

9. Be aware of the space you take up
Women are generally smaller in size and stature than men. Men tend to take up more room around a meeting table and their height can feel intimidating. As a man in business, be very aware of how you use your body language. Don’t block a view in a meeting, don’t take over the meeting room table, be aware of your own personal space when you’re stood up in corridor discussions and you’ll come across as respectful, enhancing your chances of creating an equal team with your female colleagues.

10. Ask, enquire or acknowledge personal achievement
A woman won’t naturally feel comfortable explaining her achievements, her natural tendency will be push the achievements of her team. If she’s the team leader though, rest assured, her organisational abilities and effective communication will have driven those results. Make sure she realises that you value her personal input in that project and her unique leadership skills. You’ll get more and more from her as a direct result of recognising her personal achievement.

About the Author
Lynette is a recognised coach, author and speaker with over a decade’s experience of working with women in business. She focuses predominantly in coaching female business owners and senior professionals within corporate industries.

How to Coach a Woman is available from Amazon and book stores prices £29.50 and is published by Crown House Publishing Ltd.

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