Mea Culpa!

There’s a book I love—which Susan wishes had never been written, Roger Rosenblatt’s delightful (I think) Rules for Aging. S’s irritation stems from my penchant for referring to it again and again and then again—she’s got a point, actually.

A couple of weeks ago, she and a few friends were uncharacteristically heading to a garden party—spring hats were more or less required. As she worried and worried about how her hat would be received, I “helped” by re-re-re-reading to her Rosenblatt’s Rule #2, perhaps my favorite:

“Yes, I know that you are certain that your friends are becoming your enemies; that your grocer, garbageman, clergyman, sister-in-law, and your dog are all of the opinion that you have put on weight, that you have lost your touch, that you have lost your mind; furthermore you are convinced that everyone spends two-thirds of every day commenting on your disintegration, denigrating your work, plotting your assignation. I promise you: Nobody is thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves—just like you.”

But, indeed, when the women gathered after the party they were abuzz about who had worn what—caustic opinions flew hot and heavy. Pointedly reminding me that Roger & I are men.

That is, the worried woman is right—others are indeed thinking about her and passing judgment thereupon.

Not so for us boys, mostly at least. (As Roger said. And I quote …)

The above reminded me of something of paramount practical importance that’s been on my mind for a while. I will make some profound pronouncement or other, during a speech, on, say, the all-important topic of “relationship management.” It is, if I must say so myself, a real eye-opener.

To me and the boys in the room.

The women yawn, or buzz “At 65 he’s discovered the power of relationships—bloody men.”

My message here, boys, is one I’m working on assiduously, though the anecdote above would suggest, without much success. Namely, it is important that I pass many a remark through a “gender filter.” Not for reasons of political correctness, God help me, but because my “brilliant (breakthrough?) generalization” may well be old-old-old-obvious-obvious-obvious news to the other gender—and implementation, the end point, will be profoundly affected by my faulty assertion—”they are thinking about themselves.”

I’m not asking, guys, for revised behavior necessarily (ever so difficult to pull off), but I am urging vigilant thoughtfulness-awareness. The business-process project you are working on will be implemented in your 63-person unit by the staff of 30 boys and 33 girls (about right, statistically). It’s possible that any number of your key assumptions will not hold water for the 33 women.

The obvious answer, for starters, is thoroughly mixed-gender teams with mixed-gender leadership—and explicit awareness of and discussion about the degree to which the disposition of the internal “customers” will be significantly affected by gender. (And design reflecting the above!)

Is “all this” totally obvious to everyone but me—and Roger Rosenblatt? Perhaps, but based on my dozen years of wrestling with the implication of gender differences, I doubt it.

Meanwhile, my “gender filter” remains firmly in place—and Roger Rosenblatt’s book is well out of sight.

Tom Peters posted this on June 9, 2008, in Trend$.
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