Are women better listeners than men?

Image credit: Sharon Mollerus

Image credit: Sharon Mollerus

I recently read a short HBR Blog written by Matthew and Terces Engelhart called Mindful Culture through Simple Exercises.  I didn’t know who the Engelharts were, I had never heard of Café Gratitude and it’s quite possible that if their blog had opened with the fact that an employee of Café Gratitude starts the day with a “clearing exercise inspired by Eastern meditation and yoga practice” I may not have read much further.

Fortunately for me they saved this nugget for the second paragraph, beginning instead with a concept designed to appeal to all but the most narrow-minded of readers: “When we started our first restaurant in 2004, our goal was to create a place where people wanted not just to eat but also to work.

After all, who can’t be interested in stories about committed employees?

The part of the blog that most interested me was about David Lannon, Executive Vice President of Operations of Whole Foods – the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods. Lannon invited the Engelharts to run workshops for the senior team at the northern California Whole Foods headquarters to help develop an equivalent culture of employee engagement and customer service within Whole Foods. The principles advocated by the Engelharts are demonstrated through the Simple Exercises highlighted in the blog’s title which Lannon found to be a particularly useful leadership tool:

“…when you’re the boss your reaction is to go into problem-solving mode and not really listen as closely as you should to your employees. It’s easy to just give them a solution. But when you’re really present in the conversation instead, employees feel more connected to you and you can solve problems more effectively together.”

This is the Mindful Culture – the other half of the blog title.

Lannon’s assessment of his role as leader sounded like a classic Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus scenario and a good example of some of the benefits derived from gender diversity in the Boardroom.

In Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, first published over 20 years ago, Dr Gray commented on the now well recognised dichotomy where women like to discuss their feelings when they are upset; men tend to offer solutions when they hear someone who is upset; a woman however is generally not looking for a solution, she is looking for someone to listen to her and validate her feelings; by jumping straight into solution-mode, a woman feels that a man is ignoring and thus invalidating her feelings and so both parties feel misunderstood and aggrieved.

I wonder whether Davina Lannon, Executive Vice president of Operations of Whole Foods, would have needed a set of exercises to encourage her to listen to a conversation with employees?


About madeleinekavanagh

Internal comms specialist with a career spanning advertising, car sales and management consulting. My greatest legacy (so far) - my son!
This entry was posted in Authentic communication, Business Leadership, Culture, Employee Engagement, Leadership Behaviours, People management / motivation, Success factors and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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