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Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog

August 15, 2012

The ME-WE Variable

  1. Gender Physics
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The ME-WE Variable

You want to be yourself - the unique person that you are, yet you want to experience the togetherness of being part of the group. That requires using the principles of Gender Physics to leverage the energy of both genders.

Masculine energy stands up tall expressing itself as an individual, pounding its chest. Proud of being different, it is a true expression of "ME". Meanwhile feminine energy seeks to blend in with the group and find commonality with others. Focused on the collective it is all about "WE".

When I was working at PotashCorp, I often said that "all boats rise and fall on the same water". The boats are the separate "ME" energy of the individual companies and the water is the whole "WE" energy of the industry. To be successful, the companies needed to take care of themselves but they needed a healthy industry surrounding them as well.  

Although I “talked the talk” about individual VS collective I had to “walk the walk” when asked to hand over a program to the industry that I conceived, nurtured and developed. 


Black Hats VS White Hats

In the 70’s society was concerned about population explosion. Professors at university asked the question, “Will there be enough food to eat?” Fertilizer was the answer to grow more food on less land and all the companies in the fertilizer industry were seen to be the heroes - a position they thoroughly enjoyed.

Thirty years later the public had forgotten about population explosion. They were now concerned about the environment, focused on the risks in both producing and applying fertilizer. Seen in this new light, the industry had moved from being the good guys in the white hats to being the bad guys in the black hats.

It had happened gradually of course, but the companies had been dealing with over-supply and declining prices and hadn’t been paying attention. Now they faced a severe public perception problem and convened an industry committee to review. I attended on behalf of our company.

There I heard researchers discuss the many benefits of fertilizer that were lost on the public but I knew there wasn’t much point in bringing them forward to present their white papers. Their long dissertations would be lost in a world of 30 second sound bites. It was clear to me that we needed an industry campaign not unlike the white moustache milk campaign, which was running in the all the popular magazines. But there was no appetite amongst the cash-strapped companies to do something of that nature. Each company was charged with finding their own answers.

Once back at the office I considered our situation - profits were slim and budgets tight. We could put our advertising campaign money to work to develop the message but we couldn’t afford the medium to deliver it. Clearly we needed a grass-roots campaign. Our dealers were credible members of their communities and could be effective ambassadors for our industry if armed with the tools. We needed to develop a program that they could take to the public - something that was simple and digestible.


Developing Fertile Minds

We started by inviting a panel of experts to give us their best 30 second sound bites and that panel was conducted in the presence of 500 dealers. One panel member said, “If you have lots of food you have lots of problems, but if you have no food you have only one problem”.  All in attendance shook their heads in agreement - the dealers practically stood and saluted. They were more than ready to convincingly spread that message and the many more effective thoughts that came through that day.

At the close of the session we charged these dealers to commit to spending 3-4 hours a week to spread the good story about the importance of using crop nutrients responsibly. We’d provide the materials and we would meet again. Everyone left full of enthusiasm and with that, the Fertile Minds program was born.    

The guys that I worked with were thrilled. We had successfully differentiated ourselves from the competition and were positioned as a leader - someone who brings forth solutions, rather than just talking about them. We ran the program for another four heady years and I felt like a hero in not only the company, but in the industry. Everywhere I went I was congratulated.  


Individual VS Collective

Of course, it was predictable that the industry would eventually want to take over this highly successful program. When they came to talk about it they expected me to dig in and be resistant. Their representatives carefully choose their words saying they knew this was my baby and they didn’t blame me for wanting to hang on to it.

I admit that I hated to see it go but I knew it was best for the industry. It surprised them how easily I gave it up and with such full endorsement. Understanding Gender Physics helped me do that. I was proud of the program and proud that the industry wanted to assume it.   

The germination of the program had been a good example of using both energies- taking care of yourself while advancing the group. Now that it had been nurtured through its formative years - it was time to graduate.

After all, with the power of the industry behind it all boats would rise on the same water. When I retired the CEO of the industry association approached me and said, “Betty-Ann, in our business I have watched lots of people come and go but you are leaving a valuable legacy”.   

Each of us needs to find the balance between the individual and the collective. It may seem like a tug-o-war but we need to make our mark while being cognoscente of the good of the whole.  It is part of the Me-We variable and a basic tenant of Gender Physics. Ask yourself today: Where could you better stand out as an individual and where you could you better support the group?