Men Must Do Business Like Women To Keep Up

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In business, men need to learn from their female counterparts.

This is a conclusion I reached after nearly fifteen years in the work force -- several working for others, many working for myself. And over 30 years of being a brother to two sisters (all working for them), a pattern has emerged.

Certain strategies work. Getting to yes has morphed into a science. And women are better at it.

It is difficult to articulate a phrase or sentence as to why this is the case, but particular words capture the sentiment. Here they are: Persistence. Empathy. Humility. Creativity. Alliance.  

A simple listing of the words does not a philosophy make.

But breaking them down and stringing them together illuminates what I believe is the future of modern business collaborations and why women are poised to lead. And why men need to adapt.

 

Persistence.

I have heard it called “soft power.” It is an inner drive. A refusal to walk away and a rejection of the mediocre.

An illustration is the individual that meticulously breaks down a negotiation into its most granular level and then methodically resolves each discussion point before moving to the next. In the face of frustration, animosity, and dismissal, the persistent negotiator keeps the ball moving forward and displaces the emotional noise that comes with a process of this nature.

Women do this. Men are annoyed and frustrated by it.
Men are bad at details. Women see each element as a component of the whole. That perspective leads to effective and comprehensive solutions.

Empathy.

It is not that men are self-absorbed. No, it is that.

Men view a negotiation with the end goal in mind. Their end goal. They want something, so the entire strategy is based on getting it. In business, that does not work. Rare is the negotiation where both sides win.
Women care (or at least care more) about what the other side wants. And maybe it is not that they care more, but rather it is that they are more aware of it. This perspective opens up avenues to a better result for both parties.

In a recent settlement negotiation, I watched as an opposing female attorney mapped out what she believed that my client sought in the resolution and then fashioned a proposal that addressed each item. A male opposing counsel would not have done that. The case settled.

Humility.

In concert with persistence, humility may be the most important characteristic of an effective negotiator.

Men want to get their way. And when an obstacle presents itself, the male ego blows up like a gasoline fire. The negotiation quickly becomes personal and any progress rapidly comes to a halt. The obstacle is not adopted as an additional item to be resolved, but rather a distracting emotional affront.

I am not suggesting that men are more emotional than women.  No, I am suggesting that.
In business, men tie their egos to the task at hand. Women do not do that.

There is likely a comprehensive cognitive explanation for this phenomenon. My psychology PHD candidate sister would likely deploy a number of well-developed doctrines to explain this.

But in truth, it is simple; women check their egos at the conference room door. Men lug theirs in between their legs.

Creativity.

Maybe this derives from the empathy qualities described above.

A negotiation is simply the resolution of deal points in a manner that is agreeable to both sides. It makes sense that if there are more deal points, there is a greater likelihood that the parties can reach an equitable balance.

The creative negotiator explores, manufactures, brainstorms or simply makes up additional methods to achieve the requisite harmony. Women are better at this.

I am at a complete loss as to why this is the case. Just trust me on this one.

Alliance.

Finding an ally is hardly a concept that one associates with negotiations. My other sister, Dr. Smith Grad, exemplifies what I am trying to convey here.

She makes friends. No matter the subject, the context, or the parties involved, she wants to have a relationship with the other side when business is over.

And that makes sense. Business is not war. And those that say it is…well, they are likely male.

When the possibility of having a personal relationship with the other side is “on the table,” the parties’ behavior throughout changes.

In a recent lawsuit, I enjoyed one of the most amicable experiences with the opposing counsel (a woman) I have ever had in my career. The case settled in a way that truly left all parties content. The day after execution of the settlement agreement, I received a Facebook request from my former adversary. I wondered if she knew the entire time that we would be friends. I did not.

 

The modern business world is changing. It is global. It is driven by technology. And it moves fast. Effective negotiators are valuable and will be paid a premium. More women will fill this role.

And that makes sense.

If men want to keep up, it is time to change.