Dr. Harriet Braiker, “the phrase refers to characteristic ways of thinking about achievement, rather than how high on the career ladder a woman may be.” Other high-achieving traits include:

  • A drive to excel and seek new challenges
  • Competitive
  • Serious
  • Perseverance
  • Highly responsive
  • Risk takers (within carefully defined limits)
  • Recognition for performance
  • Passionate about work
Many of these traits are found in high-achieving men, but they often manifest themselves differently in women. Many top performing women carry with them a set of assumptions that impact their underlying thought processes. Some of the most common assumptions include:
  • I have to be perfect and do things perfectly.
  • I should be able to manage it all and accomplish it all without feeling stressed or tired.
  • I have to prove myself to everyone.
  • I can’t relax until I finish what I have to do.
  • I should be able to accomplish more in a day.
  • I can handle it all on my own.
  • I have to be a people pleaser — I’ll please others by doing what they ask me to do.
These flawed assumptions produce specific thoughts about work and life that drive a great deal of stress-producing behavior in high-achieving women. Specifically, high-achieving women often overextend their time and resources, fail to delegate, are not assertive in saying “no” or denying requests, don’t ask for help, and evaluate themselves harshly and frequently. In addition, the very traits that cause companies to hire high-achieving women are the very traits that companies fail to manage or don’t know how to manage appropriately. As a result, high-achieving women take their talents elsewhere. Research by Dr. Marcia Reynolds indicates that high-achieving women look for the following five things at work: Frequent new challenges to stretch their talents and grow;
  • Flexible schedules;
  • The opportunity to collaborate and work with other high-achievers;
  • Recognition from the company/firm; and
  • Freedom to be themselves.
So bubble baths, while great, aren’t going to help high-achievers manage their stress long term, and self-help strategies along those lines aren’t going to help companies retain these talented women. In order to be a stronger leader and build stress resilience, high-achieving women need to understand both the way they think about themselves, their achievements, and relationships with others and the resulting behaviors. We have a unique opportunity to create a better discussion about how to help high-achieving women thrive in life and work. Will you join me?]]>