November 3; Women In Management: Fear Not The Uncertain Breaks
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Eleven: Failure; 3 November

But whoever listens to me

will live in safety and be at ease,

without fear of harm.

Proverbs 1:33

Women In Management: Fear Not The Uncertain Breaks

Peril of Wisdom

“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year,” writes consultant Peter Drucker.

Men naturally take risks. Women naturally don’t. Look at any prison, keg party, Black Diamond ski run or US Senate to see that men do stupid stuff and women do not.

Pamplona, Spain, annually celebrates the running with the bulls (male) with a crowd (also male). A commentator once noted that women do not make this run through the narrow streets just outside the reach – and sometimes not – of big bull horns. This is how we men think: If we men can’t make the squad of an NFL football team, we’ll risk life and limb somewhere. It’s maybe not the smartest way to pass an afternoon.

And if we don’t care to damage ourselves, we will endanger other males.

***

While Charmaine was working on a presidential campaign primary in New Hampshire’s winter, I took our five-child Penta-Posse skiing at 5:30 pm, which is to say: in the dark of night.

This is dangerous sporting with a worrisome span of (child) control challenges, even in daylight. The girls came back safe and unharmed. The Dude came back with a broken arm.

“What did you do with my baby?!” Charmaine cried at me. I took a risk; the boy took a leap. We both took a fall.

“I guess we pushed the edge of the envelope,” I said.

“You’re pushing me over the edge!” she said.

I go silent. And will remain so until The Dude’s cast comes off. This is an argument I can’t win (not that I ever win any of them anyway). But our boy did have a very large masculine cast in the color black. Menacing. Manly. In my day casts were a boring white; a sissy color.

Every Female reader is now thinking how could he take such a stupid risk?

Every Male reader is now thinking how much air did the kid grab?

And this is the war that women have with the system, the practice of management. It is not entirely the glass ceiling that holds women back. And it’s not entirely children that keep women out of management. While both discrimination and child-rearing issues are unique challenges for women, there’s another factor at play, largely unacknowledged.

It’s that a woman will treat her management responsibility as if it were her flesh-and-blood baby.

Women are indeed more relational and nurturing — but the real challenge is to understand that some risk in management is required.

Professor Linda A. Hill, from Harvard Business School, writes in Becoming a Manager: Mastery of a New Identity, from one of her interviewees,

Do you know how hard it is to be the boss, when you are so out of control! It’s hard to verbalize. It’s the feeling that all of a sudden…it’s the feeling you get when you have a child.

On day X minus 1, you still don’t have a child. On day X, all of a sudden you’re a mother…and you’re supposed to know everything there is to know about taking care of this kid.

As race car champion Mario Andretti said, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”

Like mothering, women believe that they have to know everything about management on day one. Women are hard-wired not to assume risk. Women as care-givers for infant children know instinctively that failure in her “job” will result in a dead baby, which is often an undesirable outcome.

There is a very low probability that any harm (these days) will come to the mother’s wee one. But the impact of failure is high. Statistical analysis does not survive when dealing with human outcomes. One doesn’t take chances with life or limb or children.

Perfection in constant care and attention and feeding of babies is absolute. Don’t feed a new-born for a few hours and the result can be fatal or worse, a screaming tragedy.

Women are not permitted any mothering margin of error in infant care. Women worry about children and relationships.

Men worry less about the kids when at work. Goodness, men hardly worry about kids when at home, or on ski slopes or with weapons on live fire ranges.

Acceptable risks must be taken in management.

But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. Proverbs 1:33

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