You need managerial skills to get the best out of your man
BUT how do you walk the line between inspirational partner and boss from hell? It's a conundrum familiar to many women; we can play hardball at work, get promotions and shimmy with relative ease up the greasy career pole. Yet when it comes to pointing that high-powered business acumen at matters of the heart ... well, it's where some women come undone.
Actress Diane Keaton put a voice to this predicament, lamenting that her relationships with high-profile actors like Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson didn't work out because she lacked the requisite 'managerial skills'.
"Managerial skills are necessary to handle men like that and I'm not the manager type," she said in a recent interview. "I needed as much as they needed and that's not a good mix. I didn't choose wisely for a long-term partnership where we could weather experiences together and be there for each other."
An interesting theory, yet it's not the first time that a careerist slant has been put on dating. In 2003, Rachel Greenwald penned the best-selling tome Find A Husband After 35 Using What I Learned At Harvard Business School. Sure enough, the MBA graduate suggests that women become their own project managers: packaging their assets, creating a personal brand, using telemarketing to 'get the word out', sort a husband-hunting budget, and hold quarterly performance reviews to assess the results.
According to Lisa O'Hara, of Relationships Ireland, women are hard wired to be more 'relationship' focused than men, while men respond well to achievements, targets and goals. Crucially, there is a difference to being a good relationship manager... and being akin to the boss from hell. A good manager in the workplace raises morale, rewards effort and motivates. Conversely, a bad boss micro-manages, controls and believes that success means getting her own way. The same applies in both the workplace and at home.
"A good manager makes it clear what they want, which is important in a relationship as some men don't pick up on cues," says O'Hara.
"A good manager will appreciate the effort of people who work with her and won't hog the limelight. Bad management occurs when appreciation is in short supply. Men like to be noticed to stay 'motivated' in the relationship. If a woman is a 'bad manager', it's only their way and needs that count, and it's an egotistical ride for them.
"Anyone on their 'team' becomes de-motivated and feels under appreciated. For example, if a couple is booking a weekend away, a lot of women get involved and then get resentful when the man doesn't take the initiative to organise anything."
Likewise, a good manager will see the potential in people and bring out the potential in those around her. There is of course a difference between taking initiative and being a bunny boiler.
"A woman waiting for a guy to take the lead doesn't mean she has to be passive in the whole thing," says Lisa.
"There's a bossy woman and then there's a woman in control," she continues. "A man will adore the latter, as she knows how to get the best out of people."
Ah, but what of the received wisdom that men prefer their women to be simple, uncomplicated and, dare we say it, undemanding?
"I don't think any man will respond badly to a woman who is clear about what she wants, or a woman who is being respectful and interested.
"Women sometimes feel that men will run a mile if feelings are brought up, but in truth men are deeply feeling and sensitive too. It's just that women have a licence to be more open about it."
Naturally, there is a fine line between asking for what you want and being controlling.
"Men don't mind a woman making demands if she's respectful and clear," says Lisa. "Men really like women who are clear. Women are master manipulators and men know when they are being manipulated. Some men want a bossy woman. In the long term, she'll become resentful and he'll become very silent. That doesn't really work. Cracks will start to appear."
There are, of course, women who, like any decent project manager, are mindful of deadlines. Yet Lisa suggests that you impose your own timeline -- especially when it comes to marriage -- on a partner at your own risk.
"I wonder about the long-term effects of a situation where a women lays down the law about marriage," notes Lisa.
"I believe these women eventually think, to themselves, 'would he have ever done it had I not insisted like that?' The woman who is proposed to without insisting about marriage is likely to be a more secure woman."
Of course, being a supreme workplace manager does not mean emotional success. Reflecting on the breakdown of her marriage to husband Michael, Ultimo founder Michelle Mone said in April: "I don't think a lot of men like independent women. Why did I want to start all these businesses? Why can I never be satisfied with what I've got? Why can't I just chill, become a wife? Be at home? I'm not dissing housewives, but why couldn't that be me?"
Essentially, men take little issue with women being the 'alpha' in their relationship.
"In every couple, one person makes the decision about one issue, and the other person takes control of other things, meaning that it all levels out in the end," explains Lisa.
As every woman who has ever triumphed where Keaton is thought to have failed will confirm, the secret to ongoing success in any relationship is that both parties feel that they are in a partnership.
A bossy woman may well emasculate her partner, but those who know what they want and how to get it with diplomacy will always reap rewards.
"Men are as a rule attracted to women who are confident in who they are," says Lisa. "If you do what you are truly happy doing, whether it's working or staying at home, that's a very attractive quality."