Why Men Are Great Listeners – Gender Matters

Men are brilliant listeners – if they think there is the slightest chance of money or sex at the end of the conversation. Seriously, gender differences are real and the greatest disservice done to the advancement of women during the women’s liberation movement was the notion that men and women are the same. Women and men are of equal value but there are real variances beyond the obvious physical characteristics – the brains of men and women are radically different and so is their brain chemistry. Diversity in any team is essential for success – cultural, personality and gender. The strengths of both women and men should be harnessed by valuing difference when building balanced teams; this is how to avoid blind-spots and ensure we relate to everyone on the other side when we sell or negotiate.

Self-management is essential for success, and communication skills are the foundation on which influence is built. Whether you’re in sales, support, service, management or leadership; understanding yourself and others is prerequisite in any leadership role. Here are some interesting facts about gender difference, and then some recommendations for both men and women in the workplace. None of this is politically correct, but maybe I can get away with these comments in the USA because I’m from Australia.

Firstly, men have larger brains than women but size plays no role in human intelligence. This is despite some men proclaiming that a bigger head and brain makes them smarter. A women once said to me in a course I was running: “It just shows that men have thick skulls or fat heads – either way it obviously makes it more difficult for them to hear.” There was lots of laughter in the room, especially from me.

Male and female brains are physiologically different, evidenced by the fact that the female brain has 40% more connectivity between the hemispheres (corpus callosum). In computer speak, this faster bus speed between the two CPUs helps account for the way the female brain can multi-task so well. Another important factor influencing gender difference in communication is that the centers for key brain functions occur in different regions within women and men. These diagrams below are simplistic but paint the picture.

Note that the adult male brain is less connected for words with emotion. Note that the adult female brain has words being generated in multiple areas on both sides of the brain, and that words are well connected with emotion. On average in a day, a women speaks almost three times more than a man, but the volume of words does not necessarily equate to more effective communication.

In addition to ‘brain wiring’, gender chemicals also play a significant role in how men and women think and act. Testosterone, for example, produces competitiveness and aggression, while oestrogen and progesterone create feelings of well-being and calm. Testosterone levels are up to 20 times higher in men than in women. Testosterone is literally a mind-altering anabolic steroid, creating competitive aggression. The male brain is wired for focus and men generally possess the following comparative traits:

  • Stronger spatial ability (map reading, mazes, etc.)
  • Poorer peripheral vision than women
  • Less receptive to non-verbal communication
  • Independent, self-reliant, competitive and focused
  • Focused on things and theories
  • Seek power and dominance
  • Less equipped to explore and express feelings

Doctors Anne Moir and David Jessel were pioneers in the field of gender brain science and documented ground breaking research in their book, BrainSex. Much has been been built on their work over the years and here is some of their commentary on men. In most of the key senses, he hears and feels less. He is more single-minded because his brain is more compartmentalized. He does not notice distractions (page 101). By contrast the bias of the adult male brain expresses itself in high motivation, competition, single-mindedness, risk-taking, aggression, preoccupation with dominance, hierarchy, and the politics of power, the constant measurement and comparison of success itself (page 159).

The female brain has significantly greater connectivity across the two hemispheres to support ‘multi-processing’ of the higher order functions. Women typically possess:

  • Stronger verbal ability
  • Superior peripheral vision (literally more connector rods in their eyes)
  • See, hear and feel (tactile sensitivity) more than men
  • Greater sensitivity to non-verbal cues
  • Better memory for faces
  • Natural desire to focus on people and relationships (socially interdependent)
  • Stronger natural awareness of ethics

Here is some of the BrainSex commentary on men by Doctors Anne Moir and David Jessel. [Female] superiority, in so many of the senses, can be clinically measured… it is what accounts for women’s almost supernatural ‘intuition’. Women are simply better equipped to notice things to which men are comparatively blind and deaf (page 19). [A woman] sees more, and remembers, in detail, more of what she sees… she is better at imparting, and receiving, the social cues of body language… she has a better memory for faces and characters. She understands, better than a man, what a person means, even if that person is apparently saying nothing. That’s because her brain is specialized for this very function… the right hemisphere of her brain that controls the emotions is better connected to the left side of the brain that controls verbal expression than it is in men. The intuitive, if you like, is more in touch with the communicative skills (page100).

So imagine if you could create a hybrid male/female brain… Angelina Jolie meets Sylvester Stallone… scrub that thought, too disturbing. It’s impossible anyway because the female chemicals of oestrogen and progesterone combat and largely neutralise testosterone. But you can assemble teams with balance and finesse. Every corporate board, every leadership team, every sales organization should be comprised of men and women. The very best leaders value and harness difference in the pursuit of common goals through cohesive values.

Here are my suggestions for any man in business if he wants to overcome weaknesses naturally inherent in their brain wiring and brain chemistry:

  • Seek to develop awareness of non-verbal communication cues
  • Recognize and value the differences and strengths that women bring to any business situation
  • Learn to communicate your feelings as well as your thoughts
  • Develop relationships in the workplace of genuine friendship, and without any ulterior motives

And here are my suggestions for any women in business who also seeks to excel in the world of business, politics or community service.

  • Provide context before detail
  • Start at the end, lead with ‘why it’s important’
  • Be focused and outcomes driven
  • Prioritize issues and actions
  • Dress for business and do not distract with jewellery, cleavage or hem-line
  • Consider lowering tone of voice (if necessary)

For women, it’s about how you lead, not about how you look. By all means use your femininity but never allow sexuality to be a factor… you’re better than that. One of the best sales managers I reported to in the early years of my sales career was a woman. She was very tough, more so than any man I’ve worked for, but genuinely cared about everyone in her team. She didn't accept crap from anyone – her employees, her boss or her peers. She was strong and confident and I once witnessed a senior executive from one of our resellers make an inappropriate comment to her. It was misogynist bullying but she didn't take the bait. I asked her about it afterward and she smiled as she said, “Women should never lower themselves to the standards of men.” Touché.

If you’re engaged in M&A due diligence or a negotiation or a sales presentation; always have a balanced team on your side. Women naturally read what’s really going on between the lines, between the glances, and the body language; far better than men. Women are better naturally wired for morality and communication. In this regard, the best leader for the job is probably a woman, but only if she is qualified, goal-driven and focused.

Before I share the last interesting fact, I will tell you another story. I once asked a friend of mine how he and his wife were going. He answered with: “Don't know. I haven’t spoken to her for 3 days.” I was concerned: “Did you have a bad argument – is your marriage okay?” He responded laconically: “Everything is fine – I just didn't want to interrupt.” The story is not true but the fact is that on average women speak 20,000 words a day and men only 7,000. They talk things through and listening is a skill we all (male and female) need to develop in our personal lives, business and professional selling – practice active listening in everything you do by taking a genuine interest in others.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Photo by: Craig Sunter


Lost In Translation. Funny True Miscommunication

The world is wired for miscommunication and it’s especially problematic when we cross cultures or use shorthand social media and e-mail to communicate. But this is not a new problem created by digital communication. Every time we met someone and every time we talk or write, we must ensure we communicate positive intent to build trust and understanding.

Effective communication and language translation involves far more than converting words and phrases from one language to another. We must convey intent. In the early 1980s, computer programmers were developing some innovative translation software but came up with some peculiar results:

  • From English to Russian, back to English: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ ended up: ‘Invisible idiot’.
  • From English to Japanese, back to English: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’ (from Hamlet) ended up: ‘It is, it is not, what is it?’

In the 1990s, international marketers had some monumental cross-cultural miscommunication blunders concerning brand names and slogans:

  • Swedish vacuum-cleaner manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American advertising campaign: ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’.
  • Australian brewer, Castlemaine launched it's XXXX (‘four-ex’) beer in the USA using their trademarked jingle ‘I can feel a four-ex coming on’ which had proved so successful in the Australian market. Unfortunately the company was unaware that XXXX was the brand name of a successful American condom manufacturer!
  • The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover, until after thousands of signs had been printed, that the phrase means: ‘Bite the wax tadpole’. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, ‘ko-kou-ko-le,’ which can be loosely translated as: ‘Happiness in the mouth’.
  • Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan: 'Finger-lickin’ good' came out as: 'Eat your fingers off’.
  • In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan: ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ came out as: ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead’.
  • Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for ‘tiny male genitals’. Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
  • When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its advertisements were supposed to say: ‘It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you’. However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word ‘embarazar’ meant embarrass. Instead the advertisement said: ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant’.
  • In Italy, Schweppes Tonic Water was wrongly translated into Schweppes Toilet Water.
  • An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired: ‘I Saw the Pope’ in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed: ‘I Saw the Potato’.
  • And the funniest; American chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan: ‘It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken’, got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption saying: ‘It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused’.

I swear this is true. I was once in Asia and had a meal in a restaurant with a client. At the end of dinner I paid the bill and as we left I thanked the waitress who had served us. She responded with broken English: “We like to pleasure you.” We both burst into laughter as we got outside.

If you want to bridge any communication gap and build rapport, here are my ten tips.

  1. Have a firm, warm and friendly handshake. Sounds obvious but one-third of people I meet have a crap handshake. The most common problem is breaking eye-contact while still shaking my hand. The second-biggest problem is either limp-fish or gorilla grip – both are bad. Be aware that for some Muslim women, they cannot have physical contact with a man in public who is not their husband.
  2. Positive eye contact, especially for men who should keep their eyes above the shoulders. But don't drill a hole through the other person’s skull with your laser-like intimidating glare. The only time you should break eye contact is to take notes. Note that in some cultures in Asia, and also for traditional Aboriginal people in Australia, averting eye contact is not rudeness, and is instead a sign of respect.
  3. Talk with appropriate pace and tone. Don't gabble; don’t drone. Lower your voice if you’re a ‘high talker’. Avoid talking in an Irish, Scottish or Australian accent – no one has a clue what you’re saying!
  4. Be thoughtful in your manner and accurate with your language. This is especially important in dealing with senior people.
  5. Dress like them and, especially for ladies, wear nothing that is distracting. By all means be feminine but not sexual in any way – you’re better than that. Your value is in who you are, not in how you look.
  6. Smile and ensure congruent body language. If you’re excited, tell your face about it. Your body-language should match your words.
  7. Paint word pictures and give real examples – relevant true stories that draw your audience into what you can do for them.
  8. Actively listen to understand and ask open insightful questions
  9. Focus on the other person’s needs and personal agendas. It’s all about them and all they really care about concerning you, is what you can potentially do for them.
  10. Display good manners and treat business cards with respect. This is especially important when dealing with those from another country. I once sat in a meeting and the sales rep for the potential supplier started picking his teeth with my boss’ business card – true story.

If you embrace these ten tips when you meet people for the first time, they won’t be able to do anything other than like you – you’ll now have the chance to earn their trust and build a relationship. But before they meet you in the flesh, they see you online – probably on LinkedIn. What’s your photo and persona like in digital and social? It’s important, first impressions stick. Make no mistake; LinkedIn is the new business card, but it’s exchanged in advance of meeting face-to-face. Your LinkedIn profile needs to highlight what you’re all about, not your title, qualifications and work history. It will show social proximity and credibility – whether you’re a person worthy of their time.

I have a collection of funny miscommunication clips on my website here. You can also see some very funny ‘lost in translation’ signs from Asia, click here. This is a classic Monty Python miscommunication clip.

Now it’s over to you. What are the funniest miscommunications you’ve experienced as you’ve operated cross-culture? What techniques do you use to ensure you connect and avoid miscommunication?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Sébastien Bertrand

Industry Gobbledygook Makes You Look Fowl

Okay, we’re all guilty. Every industry has acronyms coming out the wazoo and in the quest to look different in competitive markets, we craft wordy statements that we think make us stand out. But the reality is that a lot of what we say, especially in the technology sector, just washes right over customers – no cut-through at all.

Worse still, acronyms can confuse people or create the impression that we’re disconnected from the real world. This video about Flutter, the new Twitter, could easily be regarded as similar to the pitch of a real tech start-up.

As an example of the problem, consider this internal announcement. I won't blame you if you skip forward as you read but this could also be a case in point.

New Dimensions In Executive & Shareholder Value: Social Mobility Cloud Content Life-cycle Optimization Strategy

San Francisco, 22 January 2018 – The global imperative to unravel the allegory of the Social Content Life-cycle enigma has dominated our strategic thinking for some time and resulted in our resolve to fulfill and transcend our collective thinking in the context of significant geographic constraints and the unlimited potential of markets we are unable to address.

In this paradigm it is imperative that we digitize our intellectual capital, dominate the white-space and maximize the opportunities in the cloud and mobile, all at the speed of thought. With this in mind, and in the context of virtual reverse-teaming, we are embarking on a bold adventure though initiatives that will fundamentally redefine new economy engagement and optimize shareholder value through a strategic paradigm shift in business sustainability.

We are committed to thought leadership and cognizant of the requirement for delivering to the bottom-line and it is within this framework that our revolutionary unique customer value proposition will dominate social, mobile and cloud platforms of the ether. We fully expect our alliances and initiatives to deliver unprecedented click-through revenue streams derived from multi-faceted collaborative utilization across both vertical and horizontal markets, not to mention the power of niche diagonals yet to be harvested. This unprecedented innovative orientation toward customer interoperability will drive blockbusting market value through virtual interactions in target verticals to facilitate the realization of best outcomes for the corporate community via a ubiquitous intimate one-to-one social web enabled execution model, unfettered by the reality of real world relationships.

Our value-add solutions will turn every click into an ‘internet transaction’ and achieve unparalleled customer connection, loyalty, value and revenue which will be captured via our revolutionary cyber-tolling engine. These synergistic yet mercurial technologies will combine to drive down costs, drive up revenue and profits, drive up value and most importantly, drive the competition – like a herd of hapless lemmings – over the precipice of the old-economy paradigm into the abyss of the Luddites to be dashed to oblivion on the jagged rocks of physical business reality.

At the heart of this visionary business model is a holistic commitment to redefining value with a consistent, flexible, unique and often surprising experience that will truly inspire our target markets and some customers. These show-stopping initiatives are not just hollow bullish announcements; our patented Web Application Network Knowledge Enabled Repository (WANKER™) will differentiate our offerings from the current dross that dominates the incumbent landscape of mediocrity. Unlike our competitors, we will deliver on the vision for cloud enabled mobility with sell-side, buy-side and back-side integration.

Furthermore, our unique and ground-breaking Share-Holder Optimized Value Implementation Technology(SHOVIT™) will drive the strategic Customer Third-Party Outsourcing (C3PO™) of our profitable customer relationships to viable horizontal competitors, therefore liberating precious internal customer-facing resources and enabling the pursuit of executive team ROI and shareholder value-spiking initiatives. We are committed to breaking the shackles of logic and facts that have constrained others, to instead transcend reality with a paradigm shift toward the convergence of technology, market ignorance, unbridled capitalism and self-optimization.

Our commitment to executive ‘shareholder value’ and liberal fiscal abandonment will manifest itself during these turbulent times through innovation. Vociferous analyst and vertical press focus will make it increasingly important for you, our valued team members, to display positive intent and resilient commitment in the face of our new customer-centric paradigm shift which will serve as the catalyst for focussing on our core mission, vision and values as we embrace the future together in a dis-intermediated, self-outsourced environment.

In summary, confluence of our objectives is paramount as we drive relentlessly toward accelerated ubiquitous obviation. It is therefore imperative that we adopt as our mantra this innovative message of enhanced synergistic co-operative diversity, delivering optimized and measurable quality outcomes.

We sincerely care about you, our valued team members, so as we execute this equitable exit strategy, we are providing you with the Self Help Information Tele-System (SHITS™) which you can call 24x7 to dispel erroneous myths and soothe any fears or distress that you may be experiencing as a direct result of your personal failure to embrace pervasive change and evolve into the new paradigm.

Finally; synchronized execution and ubiquity is everything, so share the vision, dominate with thought leadership and be empowered through teamwork, passion and commitment.


The scary thing is that this nonsense is not that far removed from some of the content created by companies on a regular basis. Here is a website that auto-generates Dilbert mission statements based on clichés. Here's one I just randomly generated for your amusement. For fun, read some of these out loud seriously to colleagues; you'll be shocked they think you're serious. Bob, I was thinking about this for my next pitch deck:

It is our mission to continue to continually negotiate ethical catalysts for change to allow us to endeavor to efficiently operationalize quality deliverables.

David Meerman Scott did research which highlighted how terms such as ground breaking, industry standard, scalable, cutting-edge, best of breed, mission critical, and many others simply make you sound like everyone else in your industry. Kawasaki and Konrath have also advocated extensively to eliminate those revolutionary, curve jumping and paradigm shifting banalities from your vocabulary. But worse than that problem, you sound disconnected from their world and the reality of the business problems they face.

The last thing you want is for your potential customer to look at you and think: He would probably describe a paperclip as a ‘paper consolidation management solution’.

Politicians seem to be masters at saying a lot that means nothing spouting enough hot air to restore the Zeppelin industry. George Orwell in Politics and the English Language wrote: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Here is a classic from The BBC’s Yes Minister.

Megan Hills writes: “Listen to the words your client uses and build an explanation bridge from their terms to yours. Don’t use acronyms unless they really are common knowledge.” She also recommends testing your message with a friend or relative not in your industry. Here are the three big things to avoid:

Buzzwords: Best practice, market-leading, revolutionary, cloud enabled, coopetition, disruptive, game changing – all these types of terms and phrases are to be avoided whenever possible. Here’s a draft list of the top buzzwords of 2014. The occasional buzz word is okay but don't overdo it. Plain language is always best.

Techspeak: Instead of saying “cloud enabled”, say: “Everyone will be able use it with just a web browser.” Simply use plain English. If you’re worried about the language and terms, use this gobbledygook generator, and if anything appears similar, rethink what you’re saying or writing. Here's a taste, "We need a more contemporary reimagining of our global reciprocal flexibility."

Acronyms: The list is endless but as an example, what does CMS mean to you? Depending on who you’re talking with it could mean: Content Management System, Customer Management System, Corporate Management System, Contact Management System, or Code Management System. Don’t use an acronym in a room with others unless you’re sure everyone is on the same page. If anyone uses one that you’re not sure about, then ask them what they mean.

True story, I worked for in SAP at the turn of the century – wow that makes me sound old. They launched SAP-SFA (Sales Force Automation). The problem here in Australia is that SFA means ‘Sweet F*#k All’ which, coincidentally, is exactly what most sales people thought the system did for them to assist in their sales efforts. At the time, it was very much a manage-up reporting tool like Siebel.

In managing technology divisions, I've been on the receiving end of this classic level of verbal diarrhea all too many times. This is not just a Millennial love affair with tech-speak problem, it's endemic and epidemic in many high technology sectors. Can you relate?

Now it’s over to you. What are the acronyms that create confusion in your world? What negative impact have you seen from Gobbledygook and buzz words? Which buzzwords drive you particularly nuts in the communications you receive?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Holly Occhipinti