4 years ago this month I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg for the first time. After finishing it for the first time, I immediately read it again. I attacked the book with post its, underlines, highlights and notes. In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8 (which also happens to be my 9 year dating anniversary with Dane), I want to share with you the 5 key takeaways that I’ve carried with me since leaning in to the book 4 years ago.
Men are promoted on potential, women on past accomplishments. Like Sheryl says in the book, it’s not just in our heads that we have to work harder than men to get the same outcome, a 2011 McKinsey study proves it. What to do about it? Get comfortable demonstrating your potential and learn how to write a killer performance self-evaluation.
Quit compromising your future based on things that haven’t happened yet. Here’s what I took away from this: women are planners. We could plan until we are blue in the face and sometimes that is to our detriment. How many have you have put something off because of what “might” happen in the future? I learned this lesson the hard way when Dane decided to play a couple years of professional hockey. I assumed our future would start when he graduated college one year after me (again, here I was planning for something that didn’t even exist yet). I had to use his time away as a window to get my own plans together. I’ve said this before, but thank God it went down like that because now here I am writing to you! Moral of the story: Take risks even if everything isn’t perfectly planned out.
“If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.” How many of you squirm at the idea of upsetting someone, challenging someone, or vocalizing how you really feel? I get it. No one wants to intentionally be a jackass (except for purebred jackasses). However, one way to boost and demonstrate your overall leadership potential is to make your voice heard. Ask the difficult question in a meeting. Push the envelope with your ideas and execution in the office. Once again, take a chance.
“It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder”. For as logical as I am, the thought of climbing the corporate ladder bored the you-know-what out of me. It was exciting to think about and aspire to before hitting the real world, but once I could see the reality of what “climbing the corporate ladder” entailed, it was more daunting than anything. It felt like an inauthentic way to demonstrate my skills and competencies. The jungle gym metaphor spoke to me. I want to try new things and I want to carve my own path. Climbing a little to the left and a little to the right to ultimately get to my definition of success felt right to me.
There is still a lot to be done. Women have come far but we are not there yet. How educated are you on women’s issues? From a career perspective, are you up to speed on how you stack up compare to your male counterparts? I encourage all of you to do some research and find out where we really are in the big scheme of things. Lean In is filled with research but there are plenty of other research studies out there. In the words of Michelle Obama, “there are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made”.