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Review: That’s What She Said – What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together by Joanne Lipman

she saidThis review first ran in the Feb. 24 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together

By Joanne Lipman

William Morrow


I can’t afford to wait 170 years.

That’s how long the World Economic Forum predicts it will take women and men to reach economic parity worldwide.

But I need the gap closed by the time my daughter’s done school and launches her career.

Parents want what’s best for our kids. We also want what’s right. And gender equality is a fundamental human right. My daughter deserves the same opportunities that will be afforded to my son.

To close the gap between women and men, all of us dads, husbands, brothers and sons need to man up.

So what’s stopping us? Journalist Joanne Lipman says there’s real fear of how both our male and female colleagues will respond if we join the fight. “Plenty of other men would be happy to join the conversation,” says Lipman, author of That’s What She Said. “They’re just terrified of saying something wrong.”

A non-profit focused on working women asked men what would undermine their support for gender equality. “A stunning 74 per cent cited fear – fear of loss of status, fear of other men’s disapproval, and most telling of all, fear of making a mistake. Men are walking around on eggshells.”

Yet Lipman says women will only solve 50 per cent of the problem if they just talk amongst themselves.

“We need men to join the conversation, to be our partners. And as for the men, most of them aren’t anywhere near villains. They don’t need beating up with a two-by-four. They’d like to see an equitable workplace, they just can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do about it.”

So here are some of Lipman’s suggestions on what men can do to help level the gender playing field at work.

Interrupt the interrupters. Don’t allow your male co-workers to interrupt and talk over female colleagues.

Diversify the interviewers, not just the applicants. It’s not enough to bring in female job applicants, says Lipman. “If the interviewers aren’t diverse – if, say, all the interviewers are white men – they are less likely to see her as a ‘cultural fit’ while she may also feel so uncomfortable that she rejects the job even if offered.”

Stop dishing compliments that belittle your female colleagues. “Would you say it to man? If not, you probably should not say it to a woman, either.”

Quit making decisions for women who are raising children. Do they want to travel, relocate or take on extra hours? “Don’t assume. Ask her. Even if she declines, present the next opportunity, and the one after that.”

Give women raises and promotions before they ask or think they’re ready for it. Research shows men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise and a bigger job. “Make sure qualified women are in the mix, whether they have put up their hands or not. Be prepared to twist a few arms.”

And start respecting women by eliminating slights large and small. Researchers have found that men get more respect than women even if they hold the exact same position. The subtle digs and lack of respect are wearying, difficult to fight and the steady drumbeat can be debilitating, says Lipman.

“For real change to happen, if we are to transform a culture that has long been molded by and for men, it will take individuals, one at a time, taking a stand, reaching across the gender divide. The wins will come from the accumulation of small, everyday interactions of both women and men. When men and women both reach across the gender divide, we actually will have a shot at closing the gap.”

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Review – The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

This review first ran in the Feb. 13 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

culture codeThe Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

By Daniel Coyle

Bantam Books


You and I are probably smarter than a bunch of kindergarten kids.

But don’t bank on us working smarter than them..

Engineer and designer Peter Skillman ran a competition where business students in university squared off against kids in kindergarten.

The four-member teams had to beat the clock and build a tower using  uncooked spaghetti, tape and string with a marshmallow on top.

Unlike the business students, the kids didn’t strategize, analyze or do blue-sky thinking. No roles and responsibilities were assigned. No team charters were drafted. They didn’t worry about who was in charge, what the rules were or whether it was okay to criticize.

Instead, they acted like a bunch of five-year-olds and got right to work.

“Their entire technique might be described as trying a bunch of stuff together,” says Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code and an advisor to the Cleveland Indians.

Here’s what you would you have seen if you watched the little kids outperform the big kids.

“They are not competing for status,” says Coyle. “They stand shoulder to shoulder and work energetically together. They move quickly, spotting problems and offering help. They experiment, take risks, and notice outcomes which guides them toward effective solutions.”

In dozens of trials, the kindergarten kids built spaghetti towers that didn’t topple and averaged 26 inches tall. The business students either ran out of time or came up short with towers averaging less than 10 inches.

“The kindergartners succeed not because they are smarter but because they work together in a smarter way. They are tapping into a simple and powerful method in which a group of ordinary people can create a performance far beyond the sum of their parts.”

Because you can’t hire an army of five-year-olds, focus instead on creating a culture where groups in your organization will thrive.

As a leader, you create a high-performance culture by continually and consistently doing three things:

  • Building safety. “When you ask people inside highly successful groups to describe their relationship with one another, they all tend to choose the same word. This word is not friends or team or tribe. The word they use is family.” In a highly successful group, you’re constantly reminded that you belong and you feel psychologically safe.
  • Sharing vulnerability. Instead of covering up weaknesses or pretending you have all the answers, ask for help. Being vulnerable leads to co-operation and trust. Highly successful groups don’t shy away from asking tough questions and giving hard feedback. “These groups seem to intentionally create awkward, painful interactions that look like the opposite of smooth cooperation. The fascinating thing is, however, these awkward, painful interactions generate the highly cohesive, trusting behavior necessary for smooth cooperation.”
  • Establishing purpose. “High-purpose environments are filled with small, vivid signals designed to create a link between the present moment and a future ideal.” These organizations are not at all subtle in spelling out and constantly reminding everyone about here’s where we are and here’s where we want to go.

Coyle profiles eight high-performing groups and leaders who create the right conditions for teams to work smarter together.  He also offers practical ideas for building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose.

“While a successful culture can look and feel like magic, the truth is that it’s not,” says Coyle. “Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.