Venus .v. Mars In The Interview Room

jobinterview

Could a gung-ho, risk-taking attitude at work be giving men a head start on the career-ladder? A look at how women with a cautious nature may be disadvantaged in the interview process.

I am reluctant to write about one particular issue for trainers: the differences between men and women. I have noticed that in many publications dealing with HR issues one step away from the Politically Correct line and the writer gets savaged (Training ZONE seems less guilty than most I must admit).

However it is this sense of saying the wrong thing that is becoming a real problem in training rooms. It’s not that we (trainers) deliberately try to discriminate – but mistakes happen. I’ve been castigated on a few occasions for not including a woman (or man) when I’ve split training sessions up for group work. There was a time when I was mortified and felt like such a sexist pig for failing to have the right mix. Luckily I’ve become far more comfortable admitting my mistakes.

So, what is this difference? It concerns interviewing and competition in the workplace. Interview training is something I’ve done a fair amount of and it never occurred to me that there could be potential problems for women. (“Why would you – being a man,” I hear.)

“When a senior management role was advertised with a salary of £55,000, there were no women applicants. When the same post was re-advertised with a salary of £35, 000, the advertisers were overwhelmed with applications from women.”

There is always competition in the workplace: If people acknowledge this then it is overt competition and often healthy; If they fail to acknowledge this then it is covert competition and invariably destructive. Individuals will compete to be the most popular, the least popular, the most productive, the least productive etc.

A psychologically interesting example of a potential problem occurred recently when a senior management role was advertised with a salary of £55,000 per annum. There were no women applicants. However, when the same post was re-advertised with a salary of £35,000 per annum the advertisers were overwhelmed with applications from women.

On a more day-to-day level I’ve started thinking about interviewing. There are some differences between men and women. (My disclaimer here – I know this doesn’t apply to everyone and people shouldn’t make assumptions, etc. I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing – it’s just a thing.)

Men tend to be more aggressive and in a workplace situation this often shows itself as taking more risks than women. This has been established through a number of recent studies. Women tend to choose high probability, low payoff strategies. Men will often rush to a high-risk solution and take a chance in a ‘do or die’ gesture. The implications of this behaviour in assessments may well imply to (more often than not, predominately male) interviewers that the female lacks confidence or competence.

In a recent study Fisher and Cox argue that this could well be the underlying reason women, on average, take longer to respond to questions. This can often indicate to interviewers a degree of indecisiveness. In fact they may well need to weigh up all the options. This will be compounded by the fact that women are generally less likely to take guesses than men. Under pressure, perhaps at an interview or in an assessment, men would be more inclined to have a stab at an answer. Women would tend to want to consider the situation and assess the risks. In a real work environment one would suppose these virtues of balance and control would be ideal. In the artificial assessment situation however this failure to respond quickly is often taken as an indicator of lack of confidence.

There is a lot more data behind this and numerous other factors. I feel it is, at the least, interesting and at worse, possibly discriminatory. It’s an area we, certainly I, have never considered before when training interviewees, or interviewees. Maybe I should.

* Reference: Fisher, M., and A. Cox, Gender and programming contests: Mitigating exclusionary practices, Informatics in Education (2006)

Golfing In The Comfort Zone

comfortzone

To change anything, or to learn anything (which is essentially change anyway) is uncomfortable. There are a number of well-worn phrases that people trot out to remind you of this – “Growth demands a temporary surrender of security”, “If you’re not churning, you’re not learning.”  I know this. It doesn’t make is much easier.

A useful tool I came across with this one is the Comfort Zone model. On the inside is the Comfort Zone. The doughnut next ring is the Discomfort Zone and the Learning Zone is around the outside. It does reinforce that it’s uncomfortable to learn anything new. It means that to get to the Learning Zone you have to get through the Discomfort Zone. There are no short cuts or tunnels. However, it does give you hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

So, I took my trip into the ‘Discomfort Zone’. I booked for some lessons. It was uncomfortable. I turned up alongside the fearless youngsters and brand new starters and felt very out of place. I’d been trapped in that comfort zone for too long. My grip was comfortable. My stance was comfortable yet they were so wrong. I knew if I held the club this way I could more or less guarantee it would be straight – not very long but straight. Now I’m being told to discard all those comfortable feelings and start again. It really did feel uncomfortable and very, very tempting to go back to the old way.

I learnt that there are no short cuts or secret passages across the discomfort zone. We all know that. We know that all the teaching aids, special balls, magic golf clubs don’t work – or at least they don’t work on their own. We’ve all seen (or bought) that expensive set of aluminium, alloy, enhanced, cavity-backed, nickel platted, NASA designed golf set and stood next to a twelve years old with basically a long metal stick and seen them hit their tee shot thirty yards further than us.

What did help me though was some wise words I had picked up from a colleague a long time ago about this stress and anxiety. “Anxiety isn’t pain” he assured me,” It’s the anticipation of pain.”

True enough. The most anxious and stressful times for me has been the waiting for something to start – the dentists, the job interview, waiting by the first tee. Once the event kicks off the stress diminishes a great deal.

“The trick”, he continued, “is to live in the here and now” (he was a bit of an old hippie), but very true. If you concentrate on what you’re doing before a stressful event – eating, preparing, practising, and try to concentrate fully on that you’ll save yourself a fair amount of stress.

So I’m taking the lessons. I’m staying in the ‘here and now’ and things are starting to improve. Not as quickly as I’d like, of course and I do feel that I’m living most of my life in the discomfort zone but… in a perverse way I’m starting to enjoy it.

“Why Don’t You Relax And Take Up Golf?”

angry

“Moderate exercise, such as playing a round of golf, may help protect people against future anxiety and stress.”  – a study by the University of Maryland

“Relax and have a game of golf,” people say. They could just as well say “I hear that your uncle’s been eaten by a tiger. Why don’t you take your mind off it and take a trip to the zoo?”

There should only be tips about reducing your stress whilst playing golf, not assuming that the very act of playing golf will somehow automatically reduce your stress. It is nonsense. Luckily, I’ve carried out a little research and have examined the top tips for reducing stress and tried to apply them to golf;

Tip 1. A good way to reduce your stress levels is to set yourself realistic targets

Sounds like a good idea. In principle I would be delighted to shoot a few shots under my handicap each time I play. However, when I’m playing the stroke index 3 par 5 and I’ve hit a glorious drive leaving me 200 yards from the green it would take the combined strength of Samson, Hercules and She-Ra to get the 3 wood out of my hand and make me hit me a mid-iron. The overwhelming majority of golfers play golf because of those rare, rare moments when they hit a shot as good as a Rory McIlroy or a Bradley Dredge. Most of us know that a 7 iron, wedge and 2 putts will give us lots of stableford points but that really isn’t the game is it? There are those amongst us that calculate the chances of success at each shot and play the percentages. These people often win tournaments and are ‘good clubmen’ (they will be men). However, they are solid, sad, unloved, boring. Their only aspiration in life is to be in the top 10 % best handicap secretaries in the South Wales region (South East valleys area).

Tip 2. When you have completed a task take a few minutes to pause and reflect before you start a new one.

It seems that many golfers are already doing this judging by the amount of time it takes 4 people to walk 10 yards to a tee and hit a ball in the general direction of the next green.

Tip 3. Address problems as they occur. Don’t let them build up.

Let your stress out as you go along – If you miss a putt … let it out. If you top a tee shot… let it out. Don’t save it all up and go home and kick the cat. Sometimes you can take this too far; I once saw someone on the 7th par 3 at Dewstow. He was having a bad, bad day after a number of bad, bad weeks and after topping 3 titleists into the pond he followed this us by sending his bag and golf clubs after them. He stormed across the course toward the clubhouse. He had only stormed about 100 yards before he turned back and walked sheepishly back to the pond. He walked right past us and into the water. He waded towards his bag where he pulled out his golf bag. he unzipped the pocket and brought out his car keys.

This aspect of letting go of  your emotions doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for golfers at Bargoed Golf Club. I know what the groups 3 holes in front of me are doing every shot of their round.

Tip 4: Stay in the ‘here and now’

OK this sounds very another lot of psychological twaddle but I really like it. If I were calling myself a consultant psychological sports guru and charged you £2,000 per day you’d listen to me if I told you this. It really means hit one shot at a time. Often we’re hitting a shot and worrying about the putt, or the next tee shot, or the winners speech. When I was very new at the game a pal of mine who was also new, and quite a good player was always wide on par 3s. He eventually told me that he was worried about getting a hole in one and having to buy everyone a drink as he was invariably skint. So – hit the ball. Find it. Hit the ball. Find it…..

Tip 5: Avoid all drugs including tobacco and alcohol

Golf Philosophy : Lesson 1. Looking Good or Getting the Job Done ?

lookingnotgood

Lesson 1. Looking Good or Getting the Job Done ?

There’s a concept I’ve recently come across in the training room that helps to explain a fair amount of my inability to break 80 with any regularity (I’m currently playing off 18). I learnt this pearl of wisdom attending on a training course run by a psychologist. He was talking to us (a group of trainers, consultants, personnel folk) about management, and more specifically the relationship managers have with staff, customers, etc… In his words (and Freud’s) “It’s all about relationships”. He discussed how the quality of the relationship you have with a client is a measure of the effectiveness with which you do business with them. Which is interesting enough. The particularly relevant aspect to this for me (and my consistency in golf – remember the golf) was the question he asked us about our relationship with our clients;

“What are you committed to? Are you committed to looking good or are you committed to getting the job done?” For me this translates as “Why do I choose a pitching wedge from 3 feet off the green rather than use a putter?” I know a putter will get me closer on 8 out of 10 occasions yet somehow it doesn’t feel right. I feel that I should use a wedge. There’s a pressure on me, a macho, male thing about having to copy the professionals. I can see it in the faces of all my playing partners – they all feel the same. They’d rather lose a hole going for that ‘tiny gap between the trees and fading it around the corner’ shot than adopt the sensible ‘just chip it back on the fairway’ route. Now I know (I’ve come to terms with this at least) that I’m never going to win the Open. I also know that I get a great deal of pleasure by shooting a low score and lowering my handicap. Yet I still can’t quite get that putter out. It’s the same on some tees. I’ll automatically reach for a driver when all the logic in my head is screaming “3 iron! 3 iron!”.

So having attending the training course next time I’m on the edge of a par 5 in 2 I’m going to reach for a putter, lag it up and tap in for a birdie……. well, maybe as long as none of my regular playing partners are watching.

How Would You Like To Be Remembered?

statue1

For many of us writing is not a full time job – yet. We can dream. Until the day we are ‘discovered’ w e have to pay the Government, feed the kids and help pay many, many, many other peoples’ mortgages.  I suspect you find, like me, there is never enough time to write. Life is taken up with all those ‘things that get in the way’. Writing is shoved in between  cleaning the bathroom and mending the brakes on the car. You wonder where the time went as you look back on most days and realise that you’ve achieved nothing. Maybe it’s time to see if  you can manage your time a little more effectively. I know. I know. Time management is usually so boring with activity logs, time sheets time logs, Time Tac, Toggl and Time Tiger. This is different – it’s free. It’s about you and determining what is important to you.

Try this exercise. Imagine it’s ten years in the future. You find yourself in a church at your own funeral. One by one people you know get up and talk about you and your contribution to the world. What are they going to say ? What will your partner, your kids, your colleagues say ? I can bet all the money in my pocket they won’t be like Mr Burns  when he thought he was dying announcing, “I just wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

Ask yourself this question – “How would I like to be remembered ?” What would you like those who care about you, and you care about, to say ? What would you want to leave behind you? You need time to think about this. Once you’ve really got this big picture sorted you can move on.

The next step is an exercise from Stephen Covey. It’s known as ‘Stephen Covey’s Big Rocks’-

Imagine a bucket. Put three or four big rocks in.

“Is the bucket full ? ” I ask.

“No” you reply.

“Of course not” I say and put some smaller rocks in it to fill in the gaps.

“Full now ? ”

“No”. I put in some sand. Then I add some water. It’s full.

So, what’s the learning here ? It’s to do with the order. What would happen if I’d reversed the order ? What if I’d put the water in first, then the sand, then the small rocks. There would be no room for the big rocks. These big rocks are the important things in your life. You need to schedule them first, not try to squeeze them in after arranging the water ( writing pointless reports ), sand ( unnecessary travel ) or small rocks ( staff meetings where no-one listens and everyone looks at the clock ).

What are the big rocks in your life ? For many it’s things like family, time to watch the children grow up, time to finish that novel, time for themselves, time to make a difference. You decide. You identify 3 or 4 things you believe are important. The 3 or 4 things that will make a difference at your funeral.

When you’ve decided what they are then schedule them. Schedule time for yourself, time to take that creative writing class, time to spend a week with the children at half term. Once these times are scheduled, fit the rest of your work around them.

It’s not big and it’s not clever to work more than forty hours a week. I repeat, it’s not big and it’s not clever. So stop it. Stop that ‘poor me, look how many hours I work’ nonsense. Work as little as you can. Do as much as you can in the time agreed, but once you’ve done – run away – go home. The surprise will be how little people miss you. It may be hard at first to realise the world of work can carry on without you but give it time. This feeling will be replaced by one of immense joy. “I’m dispensable !” This will give you enormous freedom.

But never forget the big picture. Why save 30 minutes by delegating some work when ‘re only going to spend it playing online poker. (Well, that’s the theory, but maybe becoming an online poker millionaire is one of your big rocks?).

Remember you can’t save time – you’ve only got so much. You know that. So, what do you want to be remembered for ?

 You can read the opening chapter of ‘Mynydd Eimon: Private Hell’ here, or you can get the book on Amazon and Kindle here

 You can get the ‘Essential Management Skills’ Kindle book here    

Change is Uncomfortable

Change is Uncomfortable

To change anything, or to learn anything (which is essentially change anyway) is uncomfortable. There are a number of well-worn phrases that people trot out to remind you of this including the always memorable – “If you’re not churning, you’re not learning”, “you’ve got to get worse to get better” – “you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day,but if you give him a golf club he will learn to feed himself forever”, or something like that

A useful model I came across with this one is the Comfort Zone model. On the inside is the Comfort Zone. The doughnut next ring is the Discomfort Zone and the Learning Zone is around the outside. It does remind you that it’s uncomfortable to learn anything new. It means that to get to the Learning Zone you have to get through the Discomfort Zone. There are no short cuts or tunnels. However it does give you hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

So, to the lesson. It was uncomfortable. I turned up alongside the fearless youngsters and brand new starters and felt very out of place. I’d been trapped in that comfort zone for too long. My grip was comfortable. My stance was comfortable yet they were so wrong. I knew if I held the club this way I could more or less guarantee it would be straight – well finish fairly straight as I tend to aim thirty yards left of the fairway and it would (fade / cut) back onto the fairway (occassionally) not very long but straightish. Now I’m being told to discard all those comfortable feelings and start again. It really did feel uncomfortable and tempting to go back to the old way.

I learnt that there are no short cuts or secret passages across the discomfort zone. We all know that. We know that all the teaching aids, special balls, magic golf clubs don’t work – or at least they don’t work on their own. We’ve all seen (or bought) that expensive set of aluminium, alloy, enhanced, cavity-backed, nickel platted, NASA designed 3 wood and stood next to a 12 year old girl with basically a long metal stick and seen them hit their tee shot thirty yards further than us.

What did help me though was some wise words I had picked up from a colleague a long time ago about this stress and anxiety.

“Anxiety isn’t pain” he assured me ” It’s the anticipation of pain.”

True enough. The most anxious and stressful times for me has been the waiting for something to start – the dentists, the job interview, waiting by the first tee. Once the action kicks off the stress diminishes a great deal.

“The trick”, he continued, “is to live in the here and now” (he was a bit of an old hippie), but very true. If you concentrate on what you’re doing before a stressful event; eating, preparing, practising, and try to concentrate fully on that you’ll save yourself a fair amount of stress.

So I’m taking the lessons. I’m staying in the ‘here and now’ and things are starting to improve. Not as quickly as I’d like, of course and I do feel that I’m living most of my life in the discomfort zone but… in a perverse way I’m starting to enjoy it (well almost).

Attribution Theory, Fred Couples and Golf

Attribution Theory, Fred Couples and Golf

Attribution Theory by Fritz Heider basically says that there are 4 factors that affect your behaviour; ability, effort , luck and the difficulty of the task.

At the start of a round golfers usually tend to be fairly jolly, optimistic and sensible. They congregate next to the first tee swinging cheerfully and joking with the group in front; “Now don’t be embarrassed about calling us through”.

Golfers tend to think that ability and effort are factors they have a fair amount of control over, whilst the difficulty of the task and luck are outside the control of the golfer. For instance if golfers practice they expect they will get better. If they have played regularly they expect to get better. If they are playing consistently well there is a belief they will continue to play well. This is all fairly sensible. However this can often be heightened in times of even the smallest increase in stress or tension.

For instance a golfer will drive well with his glove off a couple of times then he’ll never wear a glove again – ask Fred Couples. Suddenly Fred feels he has power over a factor outside his control – luck. We shall be returning to the concept of attribution theory and luck…. But first ……

One of the most interesting factors about golf and attribution theory concerns handicaps. A 16 handicapper playing with a 24 handicapper will often be amazed if the 24 handicapper out drives them, or hits a really good shot, “bandit.”, “24 ********* handicappers” they may be heard to mutter. In truth however there is only a few shots difference and it’s inevitable a higher handicapper will hit some better shots than a lower handicapper. Attribution theory will kick in however and all the effort the lower handicapper has put in to get their handicap down will feel wasted when the 24 handicapper birdies the trickiest par 5 to get 5 stableford points. Over the course of a round the high handicapper will make more mistakes and end up, usually, with a number of holes with no score. However, the 16 24 handicapper will forget this. This will affect their game as they spend more time worrying about their playing partner than their own game and consequently put less effort into their own game and fail. From experience you know this to be true.

When this happens they tend to not attribute this to themselves but look at their luck, “Trust me to get drawn to play with a 24 handicap 12 year old female bandit.”

Luck, fortune, fate, destiny and providence are very interesting aspects for golfers. In times of stress they can really kick in. Even in times of non-stress it kicks in. For example we use the same coloured tees, the same hat, socks, jumper, underwear, etc. If things are going badly it’s rarely the fault of poor technique, lack of concentration or over-optimistic shot selection. It’s habitually down to luck.

“Just my luck I haven’t got a shot in.” – translation: I shanked one behind a tree

“How come I always get a bad lie.” – “Because you keep hitting it in the rough.”

The difficulty of the task is affected very much by the mood. The difficulty of the task never changes. It is the same golf course for you and all the competitors. It’s the same as it was last week. OK the weather may change but again it’s the same for everyone. You can change, adapt your game, but this never changes – really. So, don’t spend any time worrying about it.

Let’s make it very simply. Of the 4 elements that affect your game only ability and effort are under your control. So go practice.

John Cook marks his golf ball only with US quarters (25 cent coins that feature different US States) that reflect pictures of states in which he has not only played, but played well.

Arnold Palmer’s wife kisses each of his golf balls before he uses them in a game.

Doug Sanders refuses to play golf with white tees as he considers them to be unlucky.

Paul Azinger always marks his golf ball with a US penny, which features the head of Abraham Lincoln. He also makes certain to turn the penny so Lincoln is looking at the hole. he thinks this brings him good luck!

Christina Kim doesn’t step on the edge where the fairway meets the green, as she considers this to bring bad luck to her game.

Bad Beats – Seneca and Yerkes-Dodson

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

How do you deal with a bad beat? Do you shrug or tilt?

Phil Ivey or Phil Hellmuth?

Gus Hansen answers the question, “How do you handle a bad beat?”

“Some people don’t, but the best way is to just go ahead with the next hand, don’t worry too much about it, it’s just cards. It happens to everybody and sometimes you take and sometimes you give. Don’t worry too much about it,  just try to play as good as you can the next hand.”

Logically

1. You know you’re going to lose some time

2. You know it’s going to be unfair

3. You know you have been upset in the past when this happened

4. Therefore you are likely to be upset again in the future.

It’s not a surprise that you will have a bad beat at some time.

People will be upset. It has been happening for over 2,000 years;

Is any one surprised that he is cold in winter? That he is sick at sea? That he is jolted about on the highroad?” – Seneca – ‘On Anger’ AD 41

Seneca believed that a great deal of unhappiness was caused by ‘magic thinking’. People refuse to accept the inevitable;

You know something will happen yet still get upset when it does – it’s not rational. Deal with it.

Rationally you should have a process for dealing with this.

Why It’s Not Good to Tilt

 

TheYerkes-Dodson law shows that performance increases as anxiety/ arousal  increases to an optimum point beyond which performance declines rapidly. i.e. you perform better as you deal with a difficult situation until you reach a point where you rapidly decline. You manage the stress and anxiety well – then there comes a tipping point.

A strategy

You need a strategy – a strategy for dealing with failure. The strategy is about honesty and realism. The measure you use is ‘increase the speed of recovery’ – How quickly can you get back to full speed after a setback.

The strategy needs to be about honesty and  realism.

 Managing your anxiety

The more anxiety you can manage the better your performance, the better you can progress along the Yerkes-Dobson curve.

Anxiety is defined as the anticipation of pain. It’s not the actual pain. Poker players get anxious, a lot. The anticipation of a bad beat can often be worse than losing itself. So;

1. focus on NOW. Try not to think about 10 minutes ago or 10 minutes in the future.

2. focus on others – not yourself.

Both these strategies make it easier to take the pressure off yourself. You can regain control of the situation. No-one can  make you ‘tilt’ – only you can do this to yourself.

It won’t be easy – As you and Seneca know you won’t get it right first time. So, don’t be hard on yourself. Try gain – it gets easier.

This article first appeared in ‘Poker Shark’ – November 2011

Women Are Different from Men… Really

First published ‘Two Plus Two’ magazine – February 2012

Leo Margets: “There’s no difference between excellent men or women players although each will have their own style. It’s my observation that with lesser skilled players, men will make more mistakes being too aggressive in the wrong spots and women will be too passive.”

Stereotypes

Despite stereotyping getting a bad name, it is an extremely important part of people’s psychological make up and without stereotyping, it would be impossible to function. Stereotypes are natural, vital and helpful. If with each person you met you had to begin from scratch filling in their characteristics, you simply wouldn’t have enough time in your life.  Stereotyping allows you to fill in the gaps. It gives you a pretty full initial picture that allows you to add to, refine and remodel as you get more information.

For instance, you sit down at a poker table and you’re playing with players you’ve never met. One of these is a hotshot Scandinavian and another, a young blonde girl who doesn’t look old enough to get into the casino. I suspect you already have a different strategies planned for each. This may not be a conscious decision, and you may well think that you are approaching the game with a totally open mind, but that would be practically impossible. You will have already formed some stereotype, some “fixed, over generalised belief about a particular class of people”.

The assumption you have will be based on a number of factors including your upbringing, culture, media, beliefs, personal experience, etc.

In an interview Gus Hanson, Scandinavian player describes his stereotyping experience:

 “Every time I’m at a table with 8 players I’ve never seen before, they might have seen me on TV. They kind of already have it in their minds that the last time they saw me I was bluffing with 2-4 off-suit and called all in with this and that. So naturally they will give me a little more action because those are the hands that they’re seeing me play. But they might not have seen the fact that I won a big hand with kings a day earlier or whatever, so it definitely gets me more action that’s for sure.”

Your assumption of the young blonde girl who didn’t look old enough to get into the casino may be along the lines of Daniel Negreanu who writes about his first experience of playing poker against Jennifer Harman;

“I had my strategy all figured out: I wouldn’t bluff the crazy young kid, but I’d attack the poor little blonde girl. I thought, what is she doing playing so high, anyway? Well, she probably won’t last long, so I’d better get some of that money before it’s gone. That annoying little blonde girl was crushing me! Every time I raised, she reraised me, and every time I bluffed, she called. I was now stuck a little more than $9,000.”

Origins

Jennifer Tilly: “We are raised to be polite and honest. We are not raised to be most of the things that make good poker players.”

The typical stereotypical traits of a woman poker player are: passive, polite, non-competitive, honest, likely to fold in the face of any raise, quiet, slow….

There’s a fair amount deal of truth in a lot of this. There has been a great deal of research carried out in some relevant areas around gender differences. The research is fairly consistent and has been carried out over many years from a variety of sources. The most interesting from a poker playing viewpoint lie in the areas of competitiveness, problem solving and self esteem.

Competitiveness

Annette Obrestad “I’ve always said that girls suck at poker. I say that because they do. Maybe they just aren’t as competitive and don’t try to learn from their mistakes.”

This seems to be true, or at least, partly true. It does however, only tell half the story. Research by Hoygena and Hoygena suggest that women frequently compete as vigorously as males. However, there is an inherent stigma that seems to prevent women being seen to be competitive. This appears to come principally from centuries of social conditioning.  Throughout history, women have had to adapt to be taken seriously in a ‘man’s world’. For instance, the world of arts and writing has primarily been a male-dominated arena for centuries. The only way for some authors to get their work published has been to adapt. Mary Ann Evans had to change her name to George Eliot, and even recently Joanne Rowling was told by her publishers to use her initials J.K.as they felt boys would not read a book written by a woman.

It’s also been proven that women are significantly more likely to compete where they are unlikely to be discriminated against and where they believe they have an equal or better chance of succeeding. Highlighting this, one study by Robinson-Staveley and Cooper found that females outscored men in an isolated competition but men exceeded women when other people were present.

This would explain the influx of women to online poker.

Victoria Coren explains;

“Internet poker is the best thing ever invented for women. Everything that didn’t suit women about live poker was removed at a stroke. It allows you to be as competitive as you like and you won’t get men giving you funny looks. Live poker, broadly speaking, is a more masculine activity.”

Reframing

The stereotype of a passive woman is very strong. Stereotypes tend to be. Even in the face of contradictory evidence, people will cling to their stereotype. One way of rationalising this is reframing. Even when a person acts totally against the stereotype, others rationalise it.

In an interview Vanessa Selbst gave with Kirsty Arnett, she tells of her experience at the final table of a WSOP event. In the hand she was dealt the 5spade2spade. She raised preflop, got re-raised and then she pushed all in. Unfortunately, she was up against a pair of aces and lost. She continued;

Vanessa: “I got a ton of flack for it. I still get a ton of flack for it.
Kristy: “When I watched that hand, I was thinking, she is second in chips against the chip and leader, and this is absolutely brilliant and ballsy, because he has to fold almost all hands!”
Vanessa: “Yes, exactly. If he has A-Q he folds, and I look like a genius. If he has aces, I look like an idiot. That’s the way it goes.”

In a televised High Stakes Poker game, Phil Ivey played a hand that ended with him going all-in with 5 -2 against Lex Veldhius. This was described as “one of the greatest bluffs in the history of HSP”.

Problem Solving

It has long been established that men are more risk prone than women. Women tend toward a strategy of risk aversion and accept risk as a last resort. They would prefer to take a risk ‘when the benefits are maximised and costs minimised’. Men are generally more comfortable with risk-taking. Men tend to want to rush to a solution whereas women are more likely to spend time longer conceptualising a solution and then implementing it. In their research on competition, Daly and Wilson found that women tend to “develop elegant solutions”, rather than ‘good enough’ solutions.

In poker, as in life, there is generally a time limit around problem solving and quick, successful risk taking is widely admired especially in public. In strict time limit situations, men will more rapidly identify and select a ‘close enough’ solution and implement it. Women may feel more anxious and have performance issues, at least initially.

Both parties can learn and adapt to the situations. The better poker players are either instinctively more flexible in their approach or can learn quicker and adapt more effectively. In general, men have an advantage learning poker in public arenas. In many situations it is almost a mark of honor to play hyper-aggressively even if you lose big. Women tend to be more risk averse and initially at least, handle failure more personally.
Kathy Liebert talks about her strategy in the 2007 WSOP heads-up event;

“You have a series of events in your head already planned out at the beginning of every hand. So, if you see a line from a player, and it winds up being similar to how other players play the same hand, it makes it easier, especially heads up. You’ll see spots where it is pretty obvious someone is going to bluff, or where someone raises and you know they don’t have x, y, and z hands, or whatever it is, just from experience.”

Self Esteem

Clonie Gowen: “To be a successful player, you need a lot of confidence”

Another aspect of the female stereotype is that women lack confidence. There is a great deal of evidence to support this. This seems to emanate from childhood.

Studies on school children have found that girls’ performances are often strongly influenced by the way boys perceive them or the way the girls think boys perceive them. This will greatly affect their performance in the classroom. Many times, girls act naïve or hide their intelligence and abilities because they think this is the way to be socially accepted and popular with boys. Also, it has been shown that even when female college students have the same intellectual results as males, there are frequently huge differences in their perceptions of themselves. A recent example seems to indicate that this perception continues beyond school;

A senior management role was advertised with a salary of £55,000 a year. The advert did not attract one female applicant. However, when the same post was re-advertised for £35,000 a year they were overwhelmed with applications from women.

The way of building self-esteem seems to be a fairly reasonable and well-documented one. The way to build self-confidence is not by throwing them in at the deep end and hoping they can swim. The approach is a systematic series of small steps and confidence building.

Maria Ho: “I would have to say it was online poker that I credit with being able to jump so fast. I’ve always felt more comfortable playing higher online than I did live… I think I was just intimidated in the beginning. So playing online really helped me like get over that intimidation because once I became a winning player at the higher limits, then the limits didn’t intimidate me as much, so I was able to take that into the live arena.”

Finally

This, of course, isn’t true for all men all the time, or all women all the time. There are numerous examples of uncompetitive male players, females that make snap decisions, etc. However, the evidence indicates that there is a degree of truth in the stereotypes.

However, the learning is about playing the person, not the stereotype. For poker players, stereotypes can be dangerous and the better players will take advantage of them. Female poker players will happily play to this;

Kathy Liebert: “Most men treat women as stereotypes at the poker table, not as unique players. This makes it pretty easy to play with men that have never played with me before. Certain types of men check a strong hand because they want to be the “nice” guy. Other types of men might try to bully a “weak” woman. Whatever the case, I win bets. This is a huge advantage to me. There is less advantage against regular opponents of course.”

For women players, the learning here is that if you don’t feel confident playing poker initially, you’re not on your own. Online poker will help some people. Women-only tournaments will help some people. Ultimately, women are different from men, really. Whether the reason is genetic, cultural, behavioural, it really doesn’t matter. There are psychological differences. This should be recognised and acknowledged as it should be for all groups of people. Lucy Rocach’s thoughts on women only tournaments seem to be some of the most sensible on the topic;

“In any activity dominated almost exclusively by one group, there has to be a case for positive discrimination. In the case of live poker, the whole casino experience can be intimidating for the lone uninitiated woman, where the gambling industry is geared towards men. If you can get women used to going to a cardroom and have an enjoyable night out in a non-threatening atmosphere, half the battle’s won.”

Top Tips for Reducing Stress – Take Up Golf….. Oh Yeah?

Llanbobl G.C. President on a charge
I’m fed up waiting and I’m coming through.. OK?

I read recently that 3 ‘great tension reducers’ were; golf, swimming and fishing. Well I’m not an expert on water based activities but I can’t really say golf has reduced my stress levels very much over the years.

“Relax and play golf,” people say. They could just as well say “I hear that your uncle’s been eaten by a tiger. Why don’t you take your mind off it and take a trip to the zoo?”

There should be tips about reducing your stress whilst playing golf, not assuming that the very act of playing golf will somehow automatically reduce your stress. It is nonsense. Luckily, I’ve carried out a little research and have examined the top tips for reducing stress and tried to apply them to golf;

Tip 1. Reduce your stress levels by not setting yourself unrealistic targets

Sounds like a good idea. In principle I would be delighted to shoot a few shots under my handicap each time I play. However, when I’m playing the stroke index 3 par 5 and I’ve hit a glorious drive leaving me 200 yards from the green it would take the combined strength of Samson, Hercules and Geoff Capes to get the 3 wood out of my hand and give me a mid-iron. The overwhelming majority of golfers play golf because of those rare, rare moments when they hit a shot as good as a Phil Mickelson or a Bradley Dredge. Most of us know that a 7 iron, wedge and 2 putts will give us lots of stableford points but that really isn’t the game is it? There are those amongst us that calculate the chances of success at each shot and play the percentages. These people often win tournaments and are ‘good clubmen’ (they will be men). However, they are sad, unloved, boring and their mothers’ dress them funny. Their only aspiration in life is to be in the top 10 % best handicap secretaries in the South Wales region (valleys area).

Tip 2. When you have completed a task take a few minutes to pause and reflect before you start a new one.

It seems that many golfers are already doing this judging by the amount of time it takes 4 people to walk 10 yards to a tee and hit a ball each in the general direction of the next green.

Tip 3. Address problems as they occur. Don’t let them build up.

This seems to be based on ‘the green shield stamp syndrome’. For those who don’t remember green shields stamps they were the physical embodiment of nectar points. Every time you bought something you were given a few stamps which you put in a book. Then, when the book was full you cashed it in. This was illustrated to mew one day when I was working in London. I was not in my usual bed in Wales I woke up in a hotel ( 1 stamp). I couldn’t find a taxi (another stamp). The day was awful (many stamps). I had to stand up all the way to Newport on the train on the journey home (more stamps). My book is getting quite full now. I go in the house and my partner had bought the wrong cat food for the cat. I went ballistic on her, “You stupid ***, etc etc.” Waking up in hospital I reflected on the dubious merits of cashing in all your stress stamps at one time.

In golfing terms let your stress out as you go along – If you miss a putt … let it out. If you top a tee shot… let it out. Don’t save it all up and go home and kick the cat. I did see someone on the 7th par 3 at Dewstow cash all his stamps at one time. He was having a bad, bad day after a number of bad, bad weeks and after topping 3 titleists into the pond followed this us by sending his bag and golf club after them. He stormed across the course toward the clubhouse. He had only gone about 100 yards before he turned back and walked sheepishly back to us. He walked right past us and into the pond. He waded towards his bag where he pulled out his car keys.

Tip 4: Stay in the ‘here and now’

OK this sounds very another lot of pschological twaddle but I really like it. If I were calling myself a consultant psychological sports guru and charged you £2,000 per day you’d listen to me if I told you this. It really means hit one shot at a time. Often we’re hitting a shot and worrying about the putt, or the next tee shot, or the winners speech. When I was very new at the game a pal of mine who was also new, and quite a good player was always wide on par 3s. He eventually told me that he was worried about getting a hole in one and having to buy everyone a drink as he was invariably skint. So,hit the ball. Find it. Hit the ball. Find it…..

Tip 5: Avoid all drugs including tobacco and alcohol

Oh please….