Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gender Synergy and Teamwork

One sense that I have had about collaboration is that gender balanced teams have advantages that are not usually present in same sex teams. For some reason both genders seem to be on their best behavior when the opposite gender is present. Could it be that males and females have complementary strengths? That they actually inspire the best in each other?

I know it seems to be politically incorrect to suggest that males and females are different, have different strengths and capacities in the way they work. As a woman with thirty years of work experience, I feel that I have invested an inordinate amount of energy in proving that I can do anything my male colleagues can do. Don't get me wrong. I have had many wonderful male mentors who have taught me the "rules of the game". They taught me, for example, to always show my "game face" (or mask) in meetings so people will not know I am worried or concerned. These business "truths" have not felt true to me. I have discussed them with some of my friends and many agree.

Recently I have begun to collaborate with Robert (Bob) Knecht, a professor of design at Colorado School of Mines. Professor Knecht has pioneered a number of training interventions to help teams of freshman engineers learn effective team behavior. In his design classes, organized in work teams, the mixed gender teams consistently outperform the same sex teams.

Bob Knecht will be coming to Boston in November to join me in a panel that will discuss how gender composition impacts team performance.