Your Career

How to Manage Without Favoritism

Do some of the birds in your flock feel more important than others?

“It seems like our volunteer meetings are times for the “in” gals to have fun with all of their favorites. I feel left out and don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”

Chances are you have never received feedback like that, but are you certain your group wouldn’t deserve it?

Unfortunately, most women will quietly withdraw rather than offer criticism. If you have lost volunteers, particularly if they have withdrawn friendship as well, you’d better do a temperature check.

Constructive Checklist Now Can Help Retention later

Do you:

  • Have history with certain volunteers, and does that cause you to feel closer to them?
  • Enjoy some volunteers more than others, and spend more time with them?
  • Offer opportunities equally to every volunteer or are you selective?
  • Organize work and social events that everyone can enjoy?
  • Call every volunteer to ask for feedback or just those you are most comfortable with?
  • Strategically spread your attention across the entire group?
  • Specifically strategize tasks to draw less-involved volunteers closer into the group?

The Allure of Star Power

It’s sad to say, but some of us are still as drawn to the popular crowd as when we were in school. It’s still an honor to be considered cool by the coolest. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves bending over backwards to impress them and giving the best, most fun jobs to the volunteers wit the highest status. Don’t let the social standing of a few lead you to risk alienating your most dependable, lower profile volunteers.

The Masses, the Leaders, and the Core

Of course, you’ll need to spend more time with your committee chairs and core players, but remember to keep at least three areas of focus.

  1. You’ve got to pay attention to the masses. Offer attention and teaching to everyone in the crowd, remembering their names and interesting facts. Make sure they feel included and appreciated.
  2. You’ll ask more of your leaders, and helping them stay on task and keep motivated will effect on the entire group. Consider forming some type of leadership circle, where every committed volunteer, and not just handpicked favorites, is encouraged to step up to further responsibility.
  3. Within the leadership circle, there will likely be a core that gets even more attention for a variety of reasons, whether because they have greater committee responsibility or because we fill a mentoring role they lack.

A Heart to Serve

The problem with filling our volunteer roles with the popular or attractive is that they may or may not be willing to fulfill our main priorities for service. How much are you recruiting volunteers by issuing a call to service? Responsibilities and rewards need to be distributed equally, not just to your closest friends.

Stay Accessible

A leader must be readily accessible to every volunteer, not just the ones you know best and would see socially anyway. An easy way to do this is to have regular contact with each volunteer by email or phone. Or schedule a regular quick lunch or happy hour get together, and issue special invitations to volunteers who are hovering on the sidelines.

You can’t avoid being drawn to people you like. But you can strive to become an impartial leader who cultivates the gifts and abilities of every volunteer. With the right effort, you can make every volunteer feel that she is your favorite, just like the woman sitting next to her.

Adapted after an article by Syler Thomas./p>

Women’s Vulnerability Brings Secret Strength to Business

By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D

Women will really love this idea: We can actually feel womanly without guilt.  Get ready to embrace your feminine vulnerability. Women’s special gifts––relational intelligence, holistic perspective, seeing connections among things, web thinking, admitting mistakes––just may save the world!

So says Dr. Birute Regine, a developmental psychologist who received both her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in human development from Harvard University. I interviewed the impressive Dr. Birute recently. While researching the critically acclaimed book she co-authored: The Soul at Work: Embracing Complexity Science for Business Success, Dr. Birute realized that women were poised to lead in the 21st century. She also noticed that the successful male leaders she had interviewed all embraced a “feminine” style of leadership that valued the quality of relationships in the organization.

Dr. Birute decided to learn more about women leaders. She contacted women like the former Prime Minister of Canada, Kim Campbell; former CEO of PBS, Pat Mitchell; novelist and environmentalist Barbara Kingsolver; Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnston from Texas; as well as doctors, lawyers, teachers, dancers, successful entrepreneurs, and more.

Not Sperms with Perms

Her resulting book Iron Butterflies, released in 2010, describes women who have brought their feminine skills and gifts into the workplace. Women once tried to fit into the male-dominated workplace by wearing padded shoulders, suits and ties. Dr. Birute calls those women “sperms with perms.” I’ve also heard them called “Honorary Men.” Like the mythical Amazons who cut off their breasts to be better warriors, those women cut off their feminine side to achieve success. The successful businesswomen were not like that, nor were they “shape changers,” a term describing traditional women who satisfy and support everyone except themselves.

“That’s not to disparage either type,” Dr. Birute says. “I have been both. But women who used these styles often found themselves saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I have everything I’m supposed to want and I don’t feel satisfied.’” She tells the story of Deborah, who was from a poor family in the Bronx and built a successful company called Umbrella Plus. She had jewels, cars and homes, but she fell into a soul crisis of depression and paralysis for several months.

As a psychologist, I know that these moments of pause are so important, a cocoon phase. “It’s an opportunity to find balance and connect with a more authentic self,” Dr. Birute agrees. Deborah pulled herself together, won the Avon entrepreneur award, and claimed her feminine side along with the street-wise kid; she accepted all that she was and turned into an Iron Butterfly.

Dr. Birute was surprised to discover that all of these successful women embraced their vulnerability with a profound openness. A traditional male-dominated culture uses power over others, so vulnerability shows weakness and allows others to diminish you in order to elevate themselves. “But these women showed me that by accepting and addressing their own vulnerability, they could also allow it in others,” Dr. Birute says. “They made vulnerability a new strength.”

Take, for example, the vulnerability of making a mistake. These women admitted it openly (“Oh, I just made this terrible mistake…”). If you can’t admit a mistake, then one mistake covers another mistake until finally there’s a crisis. If, instead, you create a trusting environment where people can admit mistakes, then everyone can learn. A woman who connects to her vulnerability recognizes her interdependence and shared humanity. It’s a more cooperative and collaborative environment.

Women Need Solidarity With Each Other

“This is the revolution that is hidden in plain sight,” Dr. Birute says. This is really big exciting news. Women are doing this in all sectors but they don’t realize that other women are doing it, too. It’s really a movement, and we need a sense of solidarity with each other.

“When Iron Butterflies gather and start talking about these issues,” Dr. Birute says, “we can figure out how to collaborate with each other, which is a pretty complex thing to do.” I’ve noticed that you can put five or six women in a room and as you walk out the door you have a plan in place that you can execute. To me, working with women like this is the most phenomenal, exciting thing I’ve done.

All of the women Dr. Birute talked with were mentoring other women, which is one of the most valuable things we can do. Above all we need to support one another. When I worked for my doctorate years ago, I was surprised by how many women tried to make me feel guilty for leaving my children. I told them, “I’m doing this to provide an example for my daughters that they can do anything.”

But it’s getting better. “My daughter’s boss is really supportive about her having children,” says Dr. Birute. “I don’t think women in previous generations experienced that at all.” Today women have many supportive organizations, and Fortune 500 companies have shown that promoting women into leadership is good for the bottom line.

Part of Dr. Birute’s mission is to bring understanding to the young women who say, “I’m not a feminist.” Dr. Birute would counter with, “How do you think you got that job if not for feminism?”

Feminism became identified with “bra burning,” which historically stemmed from a planned PR stunt that ran afoul of fire regulations and never actually happened. Really, feminists just wanted equality in the home, opportunity in the workplace and a voice. Women leaders can use their feminine power to make the world a better place. As more female leaders collaborate we can create a workplace that is more caring and also more productive.

“If you’re one of those bridge builders, a collaborator, then I urge you to fully embrace those gifts,” Dr. Birute says. “If you’re in a leadership position and you see those qualities coming out in someone else, reward them. We need to make women’s style of leadership more visible. I have stories of leaders who were doing amazing work, but because it was interactive and behind the scenes, nobody recognized the skill it required.”

Women bring people together to work toward a collective answer. “Once we connect those dots,” Dr. Birute agrees, “it’s going to be awesome!”

While she urges you to patronize your local bookstore, you can learn more about her book and her retreats for awakening your inner iron butterfly online at

Remember: A woman’s Iron Butterfly is already within her; she just has to awaken it.

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

© Women Connect4Good, Inc. All Rights Reserved.