employee retention

High Achieving Women Connect With Tribe, Improve Workplace, World

Have You Found Your Tribe?

Women going up stairsWhat is your work style? Are you a doer, happiest when leaping tall buildings and achieving the impossible? What do you do when you’re finished? Do you feel let down and empty? If you immediately try to fill the void with another impossible challenge then you are probably a Wander Woman.

I recorded a podcast interview with Dr. Marcia Reynolds about her best-selling book, Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. It is directed specifically at women who were raised to excel. Wander Woman is the term she uses to describe high achieving women who get their biggest charge from doing of great deeds rather than getting praise from others.

Dr. Marcia speaks worldwide and coaches women to help them make decisions, build relationships, find personal satisfaction and achieve success. With a doctorate in organizational psychology, her message is backed by research and experience. You’ve read her articles or seen her quoted in Psychology Today, Huffington Post, NY Times and more.

“Nobody was addressing high achieving women,” Dr. Marcia tells me. “Our culture still assigns women roles in the workplace based on the assumption they are weak.” But today’s high achieving women aren’t weak; they are strong, capable and confident. Rather than needing to learn to speak up, they want to improve the way they communicate. They may not like to talk about their power, but they certainly like to use it, Dr. Marcia says, and they even like to compete. But “because they engage with their jobs, work really hard and do great things, they get frustrated when they don’t get the recognition they feel they deserve.”

Why Women Leave Their Jobs

For these women, the corporate world provides a training ground rather than a lifelong career. It’s not so much that the glass ceiling keeps them down (although it certainly still exists); it’s that they don’t stay around long enough to move up into the top spots. They leave because their managers:

  • Stifle their drive for achievement
  • Devalue them by withholding choice assignments
  • Do not provide mentoring
  • Don’t bother to get to know them
  • Are overly protective
  • Form opinions about them without basis in fact

Sound familiar? Dr. Marcia calls it The Patty Principle. Where The Peter Principle was about rising to your level of incompetence, The Patty Principle is about reaching your level of tolerance, beyond which you can’t take it any longer! When people still won’t listen no matter how hard the women try, many move out to start their own businesses.

Women want self-satisfaction, yet they may not know how to create it, Dr. Marcia says. “There’s a distinction between who we are and what we do. We are confident in our abilities, but then we confuse who we are––and our life purpose––with our accomplishments.” This means that we constantly have to accomplish more great things to feel good.

Our society creates this condition when adults focus on achievement in children. “It’s especially true now that we’re raising girls whom we tell, ‘Go out and change the world,’ says Dr. Marcia. She calls it the burden of greatness. “Women have to do something amazing! So you regularly drive yourself to the point of exhaustion. Then you wonder if it is all worth it.”

Dr. Marcia works with her clients on identifying “who I am” as separate from “what I do.” She’ll ask women to list the top 10 attributes that make them great. Not, “I’m a good friend and I’m a great mother,” but instead, “I’m intelligent, determined, a great listener, generous, passionate.” “They need to have an appreciative dialogue in which they state these things, claim them, and ask others to reinforce them,” she says.

There’s a tremendous opportunity here because if you put passionate women together they can accomplish something great. “We are the great connectors,” Dr. Marcia says. “We see how people can work together, get along and have empathy for the whole group and not just the individual. It’s a perfect time for women to rise into leadership, just being their natural selves.”

What Women Want At Work

Companies that change to accommodate women’s strengths can have valuable employees who will stay and grow within the culture. “Women like communication that does not just flow downward but travels up-down-sideways like the Internet,” Dr. Marcia says. “We want flexible work arrangements and freedom to complete goals in our unique work styles. We don’t like operating within hierarchical silos.” Here’s her short list of what keeps women happy on the job:

  • Frequent new challenges and opportunities
  • Flexible schedules
  • Collaboration with other high achievers
  • Recognition from their company
  • Freedom to be themselves

Would those factors increase YOUR workplace happiness? It’s better for men, too, but women, especially, work better in this model because they can act like owners and be creative. “The United States fell from first to eleventh in innovation in the world this year and I think it’s because we aren’t changing fast enough to engage women,” Dr. Marcia says.

I especially liked what Dr. Marcia said about women surrounding themselves with their tribe, their community of other Wander Women. These gifts are not something unique to us as individuals but in fact are bubbling up in women everywhere. Dr. Marcia says women will succeed better and feel more satisfaction if they connect with one another to test out and share new ideas, listen to each other’s stories, and encourage one another. Women need each other if they are to thrive.

It’s tremendously exciting to me to talk with a woman like this who perceives the opportunities facing women today. As we reach out our hands to help each other, we can transform our own lives, our workplaces, and the lives of our communities.

by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D.

Scroll to top