Balancing task and relationship

10 Mar

In a recent leadership meeting (n = 6) a member noted a colleague who was separated from a company about five years ago and is still making covert war on the person who removed her.  Another group member expressed that as  a woman, letting go of an old wound was likely more difficult.  A spirited conversation about gender differences ensued.

Out of this came consideration of balancing tasks and relationships.  In general, women are more relationship focused whereas men are more task focused.  As with most generalizations there are many exceptions.  This dichotomy is almost equivalent to linear vs. intuitive thinking

For example, mixed gender groups generally perform better that single gender groups.  The effect however is easily trumped by individual differences.  Thus it is better to have the best people at the table than gender balance.  I am aware of a high functioning group (n = 6) that only has one woman, but the quality of the people trumps any need to add more women.

Two considerations for reflection come from this discussion.

Individual differences are almost always more potent than group differences.  There is a huge body of research and practice to support this statement.  Example: it is better to hire for and manage talent than to expend effort on trying to balance and manage intergenerational differences.

One of the challenges of effective management is the necessity to maintain a balance between extremes whatever the dichotomy.  Example: assertive vs. aggressive or passive styles.

For more on leadership and management check out a Beyond Luck interview on Iowa Public Radio.  Scroll down until you see Beyond Luck.

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