Real Men Are Mission-DrivenI'm one of those people who wonders if self-confident men don't generally find better things to do with their time than putting a lot of effort into proving their manliness. Now, thanks to Robin J. Ely, a professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, and Debra Meyerson, a professor of education at Stanford, I have fresh evidence that the most effective workers in heavily male occupations, such as offshore drilling, are mission-focused, not hung-up on maintaining a macho image.
In the July-August 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Ely and Meyerson report on what they learned from studying at firsthand life aboard two oil platforms. They explain that
over the past 15 years or so the platforms we studied have deliberately jettisoned their hard-driving, macho cultures in favor of an environment in which men admit when they've made mistakes and explore how anxiety, stress, or lack of experience may have caused them, appreciate one another publicly, and routinely ask for and offer help. These workers shifted their focus from proving their masculinity to larger, more compelling goals: maximizing the safety and well-being of coworkers and doing their job effectively.The result of company-wide changes in "work practices, norms, perceptions, and behaviors" has been an 84% drop in the accident rate over the 15-year period in question, and achievement of levels of productivity (number of barrels produced), efficiency (cost per barrel), and reliability (production uptime) in excess of the previous industry benchmarks.