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Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction Excerpt from Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction

by Marcia Reynolds

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From Our Point of View: How to Engage and Retain High-Achieving Women

1. Provide Developmental Opportunities

One of our greatest passions is to resolve complex challenges, yet we need our managers to provide the resources for learning so we can be continually successful. We are top talent because we are committed to being the best. We come to you with experiences and degrees. To continue on our path to excellence, we need you to support the continuation of our development by offering ample tuition reimbursement and encouragement to further our learning. We want you to treat training and coaching programs not as perks but as a part of your overall business strategy. Frankly, to stay innovative and progressive, all employees should be trained in communication skills, managing change, dealing with their emotions, and building strong relationships with their peers within and across divisional borders. This is especially true in tough economic times when you need everyone to stay on top of their game. The last thing you want to do is cut funding for training and coaching when we are facing major difficulties. Give us more opportunities to learn and grow so we can help you take the company to the top faster than our competition. We would love for you to engage us in that challenge.

Also, provide us with mentors who are passionate about what they do so we are inspired to stay and learn more. We like to feel that we are in the company of smart and spirited people. We like to connect with leaders in other areas. We want breadth as well as depth of knowledge. If possible, create a platform where the most successful women in the company can network with and develop the younger female talent so the pipeline grows. Also, we are not always politically astute, so a good mentor can help us put our energies in the right places and see opportunities that we might miss that best use our talents.

2. Make Our Mission Meaningful

We want to be a part of something that feels bigger than ourselves. Even if our products are not that meaningful in the bigger scheme of life, we want to work for companies that care for their employees, respect the environment, and support their local communities. We will eventually disengage if we don't see how our work fits into a broader, more significant context. We struggle with committing to, a monetary goal or a drive solely focused on beating our competitors. We don't just work to make a living. We work to make life better. We will align our energies with your penchant for profit when we can see the evidence of our good work in the world, even if that means we are simply helping people to feel more safe and happy. We know in our hearts we can make a significant difference on this planet. If we are doing that in our jobs, we are likely to stick around and share with the world how excited we are about our work.

3. Continually Affirm Our Contribution and Value

Our sense of contribution and value to the organization is as important to us as our paycheck, but we can't always see the larger effect of our work. We need to know how well we did in relation to the people we touch, whether it's our peers or our customers. It's not enough for us to know we have great knowledge and ability. We need to know if we have made an impact and that others value our involvement.

This acknowledgment needs to be continual because our sense of contribution is fleeting. Once we finish a task, we are quickly on to the next. There's always another project to master and another crisis for us to resolve. You need to remind us of our impact because we tend to lose this sense while swimming in the sea of our assignments.

However, don't overload us because you can count on us for results. We love to give outstanding performances. We love that you trust us. Yet if you rely on us too much, we would rather look for another job than face failure. Make sure to regularly ask us how we are feeling about our work and if we need any resources to get our work done. We often struggle with asking for help. Even when we ask to figure out a problem on our own, we still appreciate that you check in to see if we need any additional support.

4. Design and Foster a Creative and Collaborative Environment

We love to work for leaders who create environments that provide an open flow of communication in all directions. Let us talk freely, whether it's around the real water cooler or the virtual water cooler using social media. Environments that support collaboration foster rapid innovations. We want easy access to tools and resources. We want our leaders to be visionaries and catalysts who transfer decision-making to us and allow us to choose how we want to work. Instead of managing people from a top-down position, leaders should see themselves as the "spokesperson" in the middle of the wheel with employees in motion around them. They should inspire more than enforce. Cooperative cultures represent the future of management. We want to help you make this significant change.

5. Delegate Clear Expectations and Then Let Go

If you give us what we need to do a great job on work that is meaningful to us and valuable to the organization, we won't disappoint you. Give us control over the processes and decisions related to our tasks as much as possible. We love figuring out the best solutions. We need to feel we have the power to implement what we plan. If you think we need a more strategic perspective, coach us to see other possibilities instead of telling us what to do. When you delegate a project to us, give us the authority to talk to all stakeholders to negotiate actions. We will report our progress to you on a schedule we agree to and respond to issues promptly. We learn fast from our mistakes.

Let us know early on when changes will affect our work and share with us the reasons for the change. These days, those kinds of changes happen daily. We need to know about a shift in direction as soon as you do. If something comes up and you have to make a decision that goes counter to what we had hoped for, tell us why you made the decision so we can develop our business acumen. We want to grow beyond our technical capability. Letting us see through your eyes gives us what we need to succeed in our future positions.

6. Recognize Outstanding Performance

We like working for companies that have a culture of recognition. You may think that we are just doing our jobs, but we need to be recognized for our hard work even when it becomes the norm. Your recognition can be as simple as a personal comment or written note praising something we specifically did and the impact it had. We also like public recognition. When you visibly recognize our continual peak performance you demonstrate to everyone that you value this behavior. And don't just recognize results; show appreciation for our creativity, inclusiveness, optimism, and determination even if the results did not turn out as expected. When you honor our efforts, you help us to feel proud. We need help when it comes to stopping and admiring our work. If you give us this gift, we will repeat the behavior you reward.

Also, please recognize us by knowing us. We are staunchly loyal to the people who show they care about us now and in the future. Know our talents, goals, and dreams. If you were called by HR today and asked what you thought were my strengths, frustrations, and aspirations, could you answer these questions? Know who we are today and what we want for tomorrow. If we aren't clear about what we want for our careers, help us envision our future. Then offer to support us as we move forward on this path.

7. Give Us Flexible Work Schedules

We need help in managing our energy more than our time. We will work obsessively to complete important projects. Yet we need to renew our energy so we don't burn out. Therefore, we want flexible schedules based on meeting goals instead of wasting time in traffic or on "who can stay the latest" contests. We recognize the need to be present for important meetings, but on days we can get more work done from home, trust us. We have become comfortable with technology and will use it to communicate. Because we always produce results, let us figure out how we will get the work done. If you want to know more about setting up work cultures that are flexible and successful as a result, look at what these companies are doing: Capitol One, Deloitte & Touche, Best Buy, Marriott, Patagonia, AES Corporation, Sun Microsystems, IBM, PepsiCo, and Wal-Mart. At the Brazilian company Semco, employees choose their own salaries, set their own hours, and have no job titles, yet the profits keep growing and there is practically no employee turnover. By the time you read this, more companies will have followed suit. We're hoping you want to stay ahead of the pack with these progressive companies.

If we have children to take care of, don't put us on a "mommy track" that doesn't have access to promotions and plum assignments. Let us decide what we can handle. If you allow us the flexibility to meet the goals on our own terms, we will in turn be honest with you about what is possible. If we decide we need to step back because our home-life challenges need our attention, welcome us back when we are ready and we will amaze you with the results we produce.

The above is an excerpt from the book Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Marcia Reynolds, author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction