It has long been suggested that men and women have different brains, but a recent study of over 1,400 brain scans reveal there really isn’t such a thing as a distinctly male or female brain.
n fact, brains are visually the same and it’s impossible to tell the difference between a male and female brain from an MRI scan. But we do know that men and women use their cerebrum differently, especially when it comes to communication.
Given that communication is a vital part of coaching, learning and adapting to these diversities could have a massive influence on your impact as a coach. In the relationship guide ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’, Dr. John Gary suggests that the values of men and women are “inherently different”. Men and women handle stress differently, are motivated differently and they even speak in a different language. As a coach, understanding how to communicate with the opposite sex can be vital when it comes to a strong and successful relationship with your client.
Dr. Gray noted that men value power, competency, efficiency and achievement. They pay a coach to help them to actively achieve their goals in a self-sufficient way. Whereas women value communication, love and relationships. Mentoring for them is about the journey and sense of achievement in personal growth. Women may also focus on constant improvement, where a man will work at something until it is right, then forget about it and move onto the next goal.
Olympic Bronze Medalist, Commonwealth Gold and Silver Medalist and Pan Pacific Champion swimmer, Julie McDonald OAM, who predominantly had male coaches, suggests coaches may need to get some insight into the long term impact they have on the lives of their clients, especially the women. She says that although as a youngster she was “afraid of the boisterous and demanding” Laurie Lawrence, she wouldn’t change a thing as he was “without doubt the best coach for her to get the outcomes she got”, suggesting she “would not have been as good a swimmer without his philosophy, training and toughness”. She credits her ‘tom-boy’ personality with the success of their relationship.
Empowered Mums founder Melissa Groom confirms that the primary difference in coaching men and women is the level of aggressiveness, revealing that some male coaches she has appointed made her cry, but that they also “kicked her butt” and got her the results she wanted. Having coached hundreds of mumpreneurs herself, she puts this down to the fact that women’s brains are always multitasking, especially mums who are “coping with environment, family and physiological issues”. She recommends that “coaches of women need to be more aware and concerned with what’s going on in their client’s life and be more empathetic with them”.
Without a doubt, women’s brains seem to handle multitasking with ease compared to men and there is some research to suggest the female brain is more interconnected, whereas the male brain is more compartmentalised, zeroing in on what the coach tells them to do and focusing on the outcome.
Relationship Coach Mark Gungor explains the male/female brain disparity in a hilarious and entertaining way using separate boxes to explain how the male brain operates compared to the ‘internet superhighway-like’ female brain.
Of course every coach knows that multitasking isn’t really a good thing when it comes to ensuring your clients get results, especially if your female clients get easily overwhelmed with what you are asking them to do.
Melissa suggests “women’s brains need to be clear of worry or concern for others before they can focus, learn and be pushed outside their comfort zone”. Coaches would do well to understand that, for women, “when everything is going well in their lives, they are in a better place to push forwards”.
National Coach for Women’s Golf NZ and High Performance Coach for NZ Men’s Golf, Kevin Smith, has coached both men and women golfers to national and international success, and he agrees that coaches need to be aware of the emotional and physiological state of their clients. He suggests that coaches should be “more nurturing with girls”, whereas the guys “respond well to a kick up the britches a bit more”. He noted that many sports separate boys and girls with coaching, but he prefers to train them together, so they can benefit from the contrasts in attitude.
In his experience, girls respond to coaching the same as boys when they are younger and they have similar physical strength and mental ability at a young age. Girls seem to benefit from the more male desire for an athletic and powerful swing and the boys pick up on the girls mature approach to the game. He also noted that although “girls seem to manage themselves better than boys”, that the boys trained harder as they got older and became more competitive, where the girls looked for more social interaction.
Julie McDonald certainly noticed that the “girls became more bitchy as they got older” leading to her desire to train more with the boys because she wanted to be as strong and as focused as them. She did feel, however, that the communication outside of the training venue needed to consider the female need for nurturing. Melissa Groom backed this up by suggesting that when mentoring women, a coach needs to take time to understand where she’s at before starting a mentoring session. Kevin Smith takes it a step further and suggests coaches could “create clusters” for women so they have support for each other.
So what is it that fires up the female and male brain and what can coaches do to help each gender achieve great results from their guidance?
TOP 10 TIPS:
1 The male brain likes to focus and ‘nut out’ a problem until it is solved, so be prepared to stick to one topic and let them work through it before getting onto the next thing.
2 Consider pushing men to consider wider thinking, uncover other options and take time to explore different ideas, even if they lead to a dead end, before bulldozing on ahead with just one option in mind.
3 Suggest to men there are many courses of action and no such thing as the wrong decision or a win/lose situation. Remind them frequently that coaching is a journey to be enjoyed and that mentoring is not just about being better at something, it’s about self-development and improving many areas of their life.
4 As a female coach, don’t be frustrated when male clients tell you they want to move on to the next step even if you think they are rushing ahead too quickly without considering the bigger picture. They are not questioning your value or process, they just really like to fix things and operate on a ‘set-and-forget’ basis.
5 Encourage men to reflect on what they have achieved and reward themselves for the sense of achievement and improvement as well as the results, awards and goals they have completed.
6Women’s brains are wired to be more open to consider a range of options and possibilities, so make sure you encourage focus on one task at a time for completion or they might get stuck or overwhelmed.
7Women naturally talk about past problems and explore alternatives, potentially becoming crushed by choices and emotional attachment to Listen first and then guide them back to become more focused on finding a solution to move forwards.
8Suggest female clients ask for support and indicate when they are feeling overloaded, providing action steps to help them gain control over the pace of the training.
9As a male coach, don’t get annoyed if your female client tells you she has been talking with others and asking for their She doesn’t think any less of your mentoring, she just needs the social interaction. Your job is to keep her on track.
10Encourage women to get organised, schedule and plan, dedicating time to focus on the project, even if only in short bursts, sustained over a longer period.
On the whole, self-worth and self-esteem requirements become more important as women get older, less so with men who continue be able to prove their strength by achieving set goals. We can get politically correct when it comes to comparing men vs. women and you may disagree with the generalisations made in this article, but it’s one perspective on the way men and women’s brains are wired. Most coaches agree that the first step is to treat each client as an individual, no matter what gender they are. In reality, when it comes to setting goals, communicating tasks and managing accountability, men and women’s brains require separate approaches.
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