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Man V Woman – A Coach’s Perspective


A client and I were chatting about the topic of ‘women in business’ recently and she asked me if in my experience I thought that there were any glaring differences between my male and female clients.

The reason the question came up was because I’d mentioned the significant shift I’d observed in my own coaching business over the past 4 years in relation to the % of female business leaders that I deal with. (It’s grown to 50%).

Bottom line is that there are some interesting differences.  But before I get into all that, the first thing that struck me was that there are a few things that the best men and women I know have in common.

Firstly, both successful men and women have an ‘Achiever’s Mindset’ for their chosen fields.  Specifically, they have a very strong ability to see the goals they want to achieve as if they’re already done i.e. they have vision.  In my work, I help them to deepen it, clarify their why around it and remove any potential viruses.

Secondly, all of them have a very strong gut feeling and intuitive sense of where they want to go and they are very much in tune with that.  It comes into all of their key decisions.

Thirdly, my most successful male and female clients have phenomenal focus in terms of their ability to pay attention and concentrate on what matters most to them in their work.  And I think this trait, in particular, is one of the main reasons why they are successful.

The differences?  There are exceptions to everything but I’ve listed 5 areas where I’ve seen significant differences: (in no particular order)

  • Open To Help:  In my experience, women in general have a more open mindset when it comes to getting support or help in terms of their development or job.  So in general women are usually more open to the idea of coaching than men, who can often see it as a measure of last resort, and something to hide from others.
  • Vulnerability: Women are more comfortable with vulnerability.   As leaders, all of my clients (men and women) would have strong egos although women definitely are quicker to identify, reveal and discuss their weaknesses.  Men definitely would differ in this area.   It’s not a hard and fast rule as there are always exceptions but it’s a trait that I would notice.   From a coaching perspective, once vulnerability enters the room the real magic can happen.
  • Doubt Themselves: This is possibly connected to the previous point in so far as most of the women leaders I know would express doubt more often than their male counterparts.

But from my own experience, 90% of women in business doubt themselves when they don’t need to.  This is by far the biggest difference.  For example, I know some amazingly talented women who struggle with thoughts of doubt and fear when they are offered a promotion based on their proven performance.  Men mostly don’t.

  • Family: If there is a family involved, without a doubt, my female clients would definitely feel more responsibility for the family than the male, especially when it comes to children.  And some serious time challenges can emerge when trying to balance everything with home – especially if children get ill.
  • Competition: Most of the female business leaders I work with would all be competitive but in a little bit of a different way to men.  Very often men can take great pleasure in holding grudges and getting even with somebody whereas in my experience, women don’t tend to do that.  But they can be just as competitive and more so in the sense of wanting to be the winner or top dog, especially if they are an alpha-female.

An interesting side note to the above points is that a lot of women that I’ve spoken to over the last few years would have made comments to me about if they had a choice, they’d much prefer to have a male boss.  When I asked them why, the answer was unanimously because in their view, men are less emotional, possibly another article in itself.

Oprah’s insight

One thing above all struck me when thinking about this article in general.  And the best way to sum it up is to repeat this quote from one of the most successful women on the planet, Oprah Winfrey.

When asked how she had coped with the discrimination (racial and sexual) she had faced in her career she gave the very insightful reply “I’ve found that there’s no discrimination against excellence”.

A wonderful insight to share with everyone – male and female.  It shows a woman focused on being the best at what she does.  Having said that, it would be nice to live in a world where no-one has to deal with any form of discrimination.  And we probably have a ways to go yet…



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