At Bentley University this past week, I attending a Best Practices Forum hosted by The Center for Woman and Business. The topic was The Competitive Advantage of Gender Intelligence.

What I learned is that I have a lot to learn about this topic and about how men and women communicate in the workplace. Understanding and valuing the distinctiveness of men and women will not only help both genders succeed, but will also help companies improve their performance.

One of the key presenters was Barbara Annis, an Expert on Inclusive Leadership and Cultural and Gender Intelligence.

One example of the difference in the way men and women think is their definition of success.

According to Barbara:

Here’s what men think success means: it means winning!

Here’s what women think success means: it means winning but also being valued!

Barbara defines the misunderstanding:

Women tell me that the number one reason why they leave their jobs is that they don’t feel they’re valued for their strengths. Men are perplexed when they hear women say this. What’s being valued got to do with success, they wonder? For men, getting a bonus, a pay increase or promotion, is enough to make them feel valued. Winning and being valued are the same thing.

Succeeding according to the male version of success isn’t enough for women. It’s easy for men to miss out on this one. If I don’t say anything about her work, it means she’s doing a good job. If she’s doing a good job, she’s valued, they say. But women don’t feel like they’re at work just to produce results. Results alone aren’t enough to give them satisfaction. Women often want their work to matter, and to feel this way, they have to hear it from someone.

This is so important for women who are managing men and for men who are supervising women.

For men:

Understanding women’s view of success can provide powerful insights for men. It doesn’t take much effort for men to make women feel valued. Men just need to open their mouths and say what they think instead of taking it for granted that she understands. Women need to hear they are appreciated. And it’s not because they are insecure. It’s because for them, success includes being valued by your colleagues.

For women:

Women need to realize that men don’t understand how important being valued is to them. Make some allowances, ask for feedback. Men really may think your bonus or your promotion was enough to make you feel valued.

Think about your own situation at work. How does this information help you? It’s important to communicate to your boss (male or female) what success means to you so that they can support you in your efforts. If you make the mistake of assuming they know already, it is very likely that they will not understand and will not be able to give you the type of recognition you desire. This can lead to you feeling unfulfilled and unappreciated when, in fact, the reality is the opposite.

For more information on this subject, you can visit Barbara’s website.