Entrepreneurs are often not alike in their personalities and approaches because, experts say, being entrepreneurial is a state of mind. Each brings a certain outlook and vision according to many factors, yet research continues to suggest that one the major factors may be brain function. Even though differences can be profound with regard to how they approach business, entrepreneurial endeavors, and networking, each of these actions depend on brain function to process. Strangely enough, the differences become even more noticeable when comparing the way that male and female entrepreneurs think.
So what makes the opposite sexes so different in business? Let’s find out.
How does our Brains Work in Business?
It is helpful to, first of all, understand the function and design of the human brain and how it affects the behavior and approaches for both men and women. As you already know, the human brain is divided into two hemispheres; the right side and the left side. The left side of the brain is analytical and prefers mathematics and logic. It allows people to take on a problem and develop conclusions in an orderly, list like manner. The left side tends to demand order and reason as well as certain structured routines. These traits are true in everyone, regardless of their overall intelligence, business background, or any other factor.
Here’s where the similarities take an abrupt turn-
- The right side of the brain is the more creative side and deals more with language, emotion. The right side is also more concerned with process and multi-tasking endeavors. Men tend to favor left brain activities. Women tend to lean right but they can generally draw on both sides of the brain at the same time when looking for an entrepreneurial solution.
- Men tend to approach business problems from an orientation of being organized and performing certain steps to reach a certain decision or conclusion. Women tend to be less structured and are more attentive to how emotions and feelings play into a decision or problem solving situation.
- Men tend to be action oriented while women tend to be verbally oriented. In other words, men isolate themselves from the group and prefer to tackle problems according to a preconceived plan. Women, on the other hand, take a more collaborative approach and can communicate more effectively in reaching a solution that is in the best interest of everyone involved.
- The right side of the brain, which is responsible for communication, is larger in women. Women can draw on both sides of their brain while men to depend on the left side. Because of this, women can more easily succeed at communication based decisions and the use of language that brings empathy and feelings to a business or entrepreneurial decision making process.
- Men have a larger inferior-parietal lobule which makes men more capable at mathematical solutions and highly structured task-oriented endeavors. Women have larger deep limbic systems, which allow them to lock into feelings and emotions. Because of this, women can verbally express feelings much better than can men and it allows women to quickly develop emotional connections and bonds.
A Study of the Entrepreneur’s Brain
In 2010, the Kaufman Foundation of Kansas City published a report that was entitled: The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur in which they interviewed 549 founders of various growth oriented startups. Of those 549 interviewed, 41 of them were women. The report attempted to discover how men and women approach an entrepreneurial endeavor and to measure the differences, as well as the similarities.
- Both women and men believed that prior experience regarding their industry was crucial to their being able to create and manage a successful company.
- Family considerations were of greater importance to women than to men. Women were more inclined to seek a balance. It’s not that family is not important to men but they were more concerned over their personal responsibilities. For women, it is more about balancing the time to tend to a business as well as providing what they believe is the proper amount of care and attention to their families.
- Women put more emphasis on their networking opportunities and believe that it is one of the major reasons for their success. Likewise, both genders value their business networks highly, but women seemed to give them greater credence.
In 2011, Ivan Misner, PhD published, along with Hazel Walker, the book entitled Business Networking and Sex (Not What You Think). Dr. Misner is the founder and chairman of Business Networking International, the largest business networking organization in the world. For their book, they interviewed over 12,000 men and women in business and specifically wanted to uncover their approaches and feelings towards business networking.
- The research discovered that, for men, business is business. Men focus on the business at hand and the transactional nature of it. For women, networking is more about establishing relationships and building their business from there. The research found that men believe that a relationship will develop in due course as the business collaboration begins to unfold.
- Women are not as capable of approaching a new client right away (as compared to their male counterparts). Women were somewhat put off by the direct approach finding it to be high pressure. Men believed that women were not as serious about attracting business as they were due to their relationship building efforts.
- Men networked slightly more than women, yet females attracted more business from their networking efforts.
- Men speak to impress while women speak to relate. Because of these different approaches, the authors say that both genders end up frustrated when trying to deal with each other.
Misner and Walker suggest that both men and women need to have a greater understanding of how the other thinks so that they can be able to greater collaborate and succeed. The findings concluded, however, that the female approach seemed to produce better results in the long run.
Finding the Right Balance of Thinking for Success
Both Misner and Walker suggest that both sexes should adapt to each other strategies and to somehow combine the approaches. What will work in a man to man or women to woman situation is not going to work in a man to woman interaction. The authors also point out that women should be more direct with men in their dealings. They suggest that women actually ask for what they want and to put a greater emphasis on their successes to close the deal.
For example, Ms. Walker shares that a woman should not simply tell a man that she is a Mary Kay representative since the man will think that she just sells makeup and hair spray. In other words, he will not take her seriously. However, if the woman tells him that she is the director of a cosmetic marketing company with +$100k earnings and several hundred people under her, the man will more likely be impressed because men understand such a statement and such directness.
For the men, the authors suggest that they slow down and take the time to get to know the woman they are trying to network and do business with. Men should focus on finding some manner of common ground and expand out from there. Men who cultivate, and execute, their listening skills will fair far better with women than those that don’t.
So, it seems that political correctness needs to be tempered if men and women are to understand one another better. Knowing how the other side thinks and how they approach entrepreneurial endeavors can only lead to greater understanding and, perhaps, a greater bottom line.