Teaching Men the Right Stuff

Photo by David Levenson
Traeger: His seminars instruct men in emotional expression
Boys, it seems, can't afford to be boys anymore. At least not if they want to succeed as managers in the New Economy, where the old-school style of command-and-control is about as effective as getting blitzed in front of your boss at the company cocktail party.

With more and more studies showing that qualities typically associated with women are what New Economy businesses need to thrive, a new cottage industry is emerging that is taking the opposite view of Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady: Why can't a man be more like a woman? ''Men just don't have what it takes to be successful in the modern workplace,'' says London-based management guru James R. Traeger. ''They are deskilled.''

Sure, the baby-faced Traeger has an ax to grind--he runs a for-men-only training program that helps guys understand the value of emotion in work relationships. Through a three-month seminar that involves intense personal scrutiny, coaching, networking, and public speaking, Traeger tries to get men to recognize and improve their abilities to communicate, build teams, and develop flexibility. ''If you were to ask which of these qualities men had an upper hand at, the answer would be none,'' he says.

Indeed, in this vise-tight labor market, execs who are prone to scoff at such ''soft skills'' have found they need to listen to Traeger and his cohorts. Managers everywhere are being forced to think more about creative leadership--the kind that can steer companies across the New Economy's bumpy terrain as well as hold on to valued workers who are constantly bombarded with new job offers. ''The nature of modern business requires what's more typical to the female mold of building consensus as opposed to the top-down male military model,'' says Millington F. McCoy, managing director at New York-based executive search firm Gould, McCoy & Chadick Inc.

After Traeger helps participants identify the gender issues, they work on communication skills, feelings, and emotional expression. ''The program is about breaking down the stereotype of an aggressive, controlling, and competitive man who always wants to be right, take charge, solve problems, and also has to have the last word,'' says David Bancroft-Turner, founder of 3D Training & Development, a U.K.-based consulting firm, who participated in the program. ''It's about learning to listen and work in harmony.''

Although the U.S. hasn't yet seen this kind of men-only program, various coaching firms are similar to Traeger's. Hay Group, in Philadelphia, coaches execs to be ''emotionally aware.'' Adapting theories from Daniel P. Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence, Hay Group instructs managers ''to recognize the emotional hot buttons'' that are ''not taught in business schools,'' says Annie McKee, Hay's director for management-development services.

One tip that all of the seminars advocate: If you're a man, follow the lead of your female co-worker. She probably has a lot to teach you.

By Pallavi Gogoi in Chicago

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