Nina loved her job as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical firm. She was at ease meeting new people, traveling and selling her product; all of this came naturally to her.
Because of her incredible sales numbers, Nina was promoted to regional sales manager. At first, she was thrilled to have been selected and, because she had such great interpersonal skills, assumed that managing the sales force would be a slam dunk.
Once in the new job, however, Nina felt as though she were up a creek without a paddle. Initially, she treated her employees like friends, assuming that they'd respect her position of authority and do their jobs.
Unfortunately, her subordinates quickly took advantage of Nina's good nature. They tested her limits until she lost her temper in a way that she knew was ineffective and unprofessional.
Her next tactic was to model the management style of her predecessor, Alec. As regional sales manager, Alec was a no-nonsense kind of boss who was at times both heartless and harsh.
Even though no one liked the means he used to achieve his ends, Alec always surpassed his quarterly goals. This was not her style, but, in the absence of other ideas, Nina decided to become the female version of Alec.
But shortly after deploying that tactic, Nina was called on the carpet by the vice president of sales.
He had received many complaints from her employees who accused her of being aggressive, power-hungry and emotional. At her wit's end, Nina sought my help. She had no idea how she'd gone, overnight, from model employee to manager from hell.
Female managers are still a relatively new phenomenon in the workplace. Since the '60s, most female bosses have been operating in uncharted waters; they haven't known what to do and their employees haven't known what to expect.
Like many other women, Nina had to learn the hard way that she could neither be her employees' friend nor manage them like a man would.
I was delighted to share with Nina -- as I have with countless women over the years -- that she already has what she needs to manage workers effectively. Due to variations in the male and female brain structure, women bring different strengths to leadership positions than men. Societal norms and traditional female roles actually encourage the development of leadership skills. Here are some points to consider:
Generally, women communicate better than men, allowing for the easy flow of ideas, which can lead to team-building and consensus in the workplace.
Women tend to read facial expressions as well as the emotions of their employees more readily than do their male counterparts. Access to these cues allows female bosses to understand and therefore influence their employees in a unique and effective way.
Differences in the brain's limbic system allow women to be more in touch with -- and better able to express -- their emotions, leading to stronger interpersonal relationships and a unique ability to influence others. Read Full Article
As managers on the home front, women learn to delegate -- a skill that is invaluable in developing their employees and allowing them to feel both competent and confident.
Limit-setting is essential in bringing up happy and well-adjusted kids. Similarly, establishing guidelines and deadlines at the workplace -- and sticking to them -- is key to reaching team and organizational goals.
There's one area where I believe we women need education and support, however. Most of us aren't taught how to be assertive, and therefore vacillate between the extremes of passivity and aggression when dealing with subordinates and co-workers.
Speaking with a business coach (some organizations actually fund coaching for managers), or a solution-focused psychotherapist, can save you headaches and heartache.
As a woman your innate leadership abilities are exceptional -- if different -- from those of your male counterparts.
Now head to the office and knock 'em dead!
Maud Purcell is a psychotherapist, corporate consultant and director of the Life Solution Center of Darien. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.