I also know that this could be a potentially controversial topic but one that merits reflection, dialogue, and constructive disagreement if a coach ultimately wants to be able to comprehend, coach, communicate, and connect with his/her clients.
Fundamentally, experienced coaches know that coaching each person is different. However, if we may generalize, from psychological studies, men and women have different motivators. And, we also know that we obviously communicate differently. And if that isn’t enough, recent studies using fMRI, highlight a long-held suspicion about the brains of males and females. They are not the same. A book called “The Female Brain” actually talks about how male and female brains are wired differently. The combination of these factors makes it important for us to understand how to coach men and women differently.
So, what are the main differences?
Research shows on average men are more motivated by status in hierarchy and women are more motivated by meaning and the ability to make an impact. So, engaging and retaining them is different.
What holds women back is also often unique. They are more often concerned about challenges in balancing their work and family commitments, in finding their authentic voice, in being confident in themselves, in navigating traditional hierarchies, and in defining their unique brand of “power”.
The insights and tools that I have gathered from 20 years of watching myself and others navigate demanding work environments is what I bring to my coaching practice.
What It Means For Coaching Women
Someone asked me a great question a few days ago. “What is it that you love about coaching?” For me it is the moment of shift when someone starts to see their own greatness and move more boldly toward what is meaningful for them. What draws me to coaching women is that so few of them allow themselves to see their own greatness. In the words of Marianne Williamson: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Honestly, coaching women is a challenge. In my many years of gender work, I have discovered that the Deep Masculine and the Deep Feminine are complementary sets of principles, values, and actions… that live within me. Yet as a man, I am essentially unconscious to a good portion of my own feminine aspects. More importantly, what it is like to be a woman remains a mystery to me. There is the wonderful part in me that admires and longs for her, and the shadow part that treats her in the same old dismissive and condescending ways.
Everywhere, I continue to witness the unconscious behaviors of men and women conditioned by the Patriarchy. In her monumental work “The Shadow King“, Sidra Stone interviewed thousands of women and discovered that the voice of the Patriarchy inside the family is predominantly carried by the mother. This is not about men vs. women, it is the essential challenge that BOTH MEN and WOMEN must address together. For indeed the Patriarchy takes no prisoners. It damages BOTH GENDERS. While we are surely evolving in our gender awareness, the subtlety of this discrimination often exists unconscious and unchallenged.
So, what does this mean for us?
Generally speaking, this research shows that a woman’s approach to most things is different to that of a man. Drives and motivations, and the way in which these are fulfilled are, for the most part, different for men and women.
For women, and without trying to oversimplify female behavior choices, this translates into an overall attitude to life based on the following concepts:
- Putting the greater good before their own
- A need to make the environment they work in as safe and appealing as possible
- Added significance to how things and people look
- Thorough decision-making and risk-assessment processes
- A tendency to take responsibility for everything
- Relationships (making and fixing them) matter above everything else
- Collaboration over competition is the main drive within groups.
As previously mentioned, this information is a generalization. Coaches have to ensure that they get to know their clients as individuals and ‘tailor’ the interaction with them to suit their specific needs. It is clear, however, that knowing about some of these proven female ‘tendencies’ or ‘traits’ could be useful in finding the right strategies to engage them not differently but customize your approach to helping them achieving their goals.