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Leading Men at Work

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? Develop a shared vocabulary. When leading women, you probably already have a shared vocabulary. You probably have some experiences, habits, and preferences in common. You'll naturally find those points of commonality and build on them. In relating to men, you may have to work harder to find those points of common interest. And you may have to develop them by engaging in some new habits. Pay attention to what's important to the men you lead. If they like to discuss a certain TV show, try watching it next week. Check out what they're into: books, cultural events, movies, hobbies, sports. If they like to talk about baseball, talk about baseball. Be careful of being disingenuous, though. I'm not suggesting that you try to be someone you're not. Simply try to find points of commonality in the things you do like - and that might involve trying something new. Or it might involve developing a very basic new vocabulary. If they like to talk baseball & you just can't stand it, don't pretend to be a fan - but it won't kill you to watch the highlights of the game on the evening news so you can comment on the win or loss the next morning.

? Focus on your shared mission. Instead of getting lost in the idea that you're leading someone of the opposite sex, focus on the mission you have in common and how best to work together to accomplish what you're called to do. If things get weird or frustrating, do what you can to regroup and remind yourself of the tasks at hand. A few accomplishments and shared experiences later, you're likely to find that gender-based awkwardness is largely a thing of the past.

Basically, in leading men, do what you would do if you were leading women: focus on what's true and individual about them, and about yourself. Act like someone they should respect and follow, and they probably will. If someone fixates on gender, you have a problem that's going to inhibit your ability to work productively. Don't fixate yourself, and do your best to keep from giving men a reason to do so.

Oh, and if a man is having trouble looking to you as his leader, I've found that a couple of well-timed displays of outrageous skill on your part can do the trick.

Women, what have the rest of you discovered in leading men? Men (I know some of you are reading this), what have I missed?

September23, 2008 at 9:00 AM

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