He Said, She Said: What the Sexes Can Learn from Each Other at Work

Last month I addressed the never-ending debate about whether men or women make better bosses, or whether bad bossery has more to do with leadership skills than chromosomes.

Like me, the employee advocates and management trainers I spoke with felt that assuming one sex makes for better managers is ludicrous.

"The issue that people are missing is that managers, regardless of gender, have to have a certain skill set," said Christopher Flett, author of "What Men Don't Tell Women About Business: Opening Up the Heavily Guarded Alpha Male Playbook."

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"I do think we often confuse a 'good boss' with 'nice person,' said Karen Burns, author of "The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use."

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"A good boss is someone who's predictable, consistent and fair," Burns continued. "It's someone who is clear about what the job entails, supplies you with the resources you need to do it well and gives you helpful feedback. A good boss backs you up and gives you credit when credit is due. You don't have to like your boss, but I guess if the boss is all those things, you couldn't help liking her or him."

Like Flett and Burns, the other experts I spoke with said that trying to feminize men's management styles or make women's managerial tactics more masculine isn't the answer. However, they did agree that there's a lot men and women in the leadership seat can learn from one another. Their best suggestions follow.

Women, Drop the Mother Hen Act

In the workplace, there is such a thing as being too nurturing and too concerned with everyone's feelings and whether you're the kind of person your colleagues would invite to a dinner party. In general, if anyone's guilty of this, it's women.

"When a male manager needs something done, he'll say something like, 'Jones, have this completed and on my desk by the close of business tomorrow,'" said Thomas, a chemist in the cosmetic industry who's been in the workforce three decades and claims he hasn't had a female manager that "didn't end in disaster."

"A female manager in the same situation will say something like, 'Mr. Jones, if you're not too busy, would you mind completing this work as soon as you can? Thanks. I would really appreciate it,'" Thomas continued. "In the female manager's mind, what she just said conveyed exactly the same sense of urgency as the male manager. But that is not what a male worker hears. I hear 'If you're not too busy,' and my mind automatically assigns whatever comes after that a low priority."

Okay, that's just one guy's take. But Flett, founder of Ghost CEO, an international consultancy that's helped more than 3,500 women with their professional development, said that female managers could stand to take a page from their male counterparts in the communication department.

Besides cutting to the chase when doling out orders, Flett said, women would do well to train their eyes on the prize a bit more often.

"Women are so focused on the process," Flett said. "They want to make sure that everyone feels included and that they're getting everyone's feedback."

While there's no denying that a little nurturing goes a long way, Flett argues that too much of it can stand in the way of a woman's career advancement, especially when you consider that men are more goal-driven than concerned about process.

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