Why “Lean In” is a great read for women AND men (PR pros)

Tue, May 7, 2013

Book Reviews

Last week, my wife and I started a two-person book club (the things you do in the name of marriage). Up first: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

Lean In

It’s tough to go 24 hours these days without hearing someone reference the book. Obviously, Sandberg’s a big voice—and personality—in the social world given her role at Facebook. But, she’s also now a big voice in the gender/workforce discussion given this book.

And, most of the discussion I’ve heard has been coming from one side of the gender-based aisle: The female side.

But, I’m here to say this is a pretty good read for men, too.

In fact, I believe Sandberg herself would probably back up that claim in a big way, given her assertions in the book that women need more male supporters and champions (both in the workplace and at home).

As I read through the book (it’s a fast read—just 172 pages not including the exhaustive appendix and acknowledgments), a number of quotes and concepts brought to life why I think the book is really just a great career book for women AND men in PR:

“Done is better than perfect.”

The famous Facebook poster, right? But, I love this quote for so many reasons. For a long time, I’ve made the assumption that completing a project to 80 percent of my satisfaction is “good enough.” Yeah, I strive for 100 percent everyday. But the reality is 100 percent isn’t attaintable every day of every month of every year. So, sometimes 80 percent is good enough. That’s what this quote is getting at—and it’s a key one to keep in mind throughout your career. Don’t try to be perfect. Try for 100 percent—but be OK with 80 percent.

“If you please everybody, you’re not making enough progress.”

Great quote from Mark Zuckerberg, and I think it’s something many people struggle with. Many of us (including me) would classify ourselves as “people pleasers.” We want people to like us, so we work to make them happy (above all else). But, what we should sometimes be focused on is the task at hand. And sometime the task at hand (or making progress, as Zuckerberg says) comes at the cost of others not liking us. We’re going to upset some applecarts along the way. And, we need to be OK with that. Not everyone is going to be happy. And, I think Zuckerberg would actually prefer it that way. But, I think the key here is to have leadership that supports a culture where pushing for progress is not only OK, but it’s also preferred and supported. You won’t get that in every role—and in some you can even help foster that culture. But, othertimes you’ll get push-back, and those are the times where you need to stand strong. You need to push forward.

 

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Another wonderful quote from Alice Walker in the book. Sandberg was referring to the predisposition of women to relinquish power by not owning up to their accomplishments. But, as I read this quote, I thought: This obviously applies to women AND men (in PR). I mean, I certainly acknowledge that women are probably less prone to promoting themselves in the workplace, but I also know a lot of guys who are a bit too humble and have a tough time trumpeting their own success, too. The key lesson here: Don’t be afraid to stand behind your success. Chances are, you worked your butt off to achieve it. Own it. And take the power that comes with it (just don’t abuse it).

 

Women apply for jobs only if they meet 100 percent of the criteria—whereas men apply for jobs if they meet 60 percent of the criteria.

This one didn’t surprise me. Here’s why. I have a female friend who I meet with every so often. Recently she’s been looking for a new gig. As she’s been perusing job opportunities, she’ll run them by me every so often. She recently asked for my opinion on a job that was a pretty big leap for her—but one she could definitely handle. But when she looked at the job description, all she saw were skills, capabilities and experience she did NOT have. I said, that’s fine. Apply anyway. After all, these employers sometimes know they won’t get the candidate they’re looking for—they’re just hoping to get 80 percent of the candidate they’re looking for. And, if you don’t apply, there’s a 100 percent chance you won’t be considered. After talking it through, she applied. Now, I don’t know if she got the job yet, but the lesson remains: Apply for the job you want. Even if you don’t meet all the criteria. You never know what the employer is thinking—and you never know where they’re willing to compromise.

“What’s your biggest problem—and how can I help solve it?”

This was a question a job seeker has posed to Sandberg as she was pining for a job at Facebook—and it’s brilliant. Instead of begging and lauding her accomplishments, this job seeker flipped the process on its head. Mrs. Employer: What are YOUR needs and how can I help solve them? Every business has challenges. Needs. Problems. If you can help solve those and make those challenges go away, how valuable do you think that person would be? What a great way to re-frame your job search. And for consultants/agency folks, think about how you can take this approach with new/existing clients. Instead of telling clients what you can do for them—why not start by talking about their challenges (and then talk about how you can help solve them). Truth be told, any consultant who’s NOT taking this approach should seriously re-consider their line of work. My approach has long been to ask the client or would-be client numerous questions before I even say a word in our first.

 

But obviously the biggest reason more men should be reading this book is the very reasons Sandberg lays out in the book. To succeed in the workplace and at home, women need our help. They need men to help and share the load at home (loved the “We need more men at the table…the kitchen table” quote). And they need men to help out in the workplace–not necessarily as sponsors and mentors, but more as advocates for more women leaders.

Guys in PR (and other fields): Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

 

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1 comments
MacLeanHeather
MacLeanHeather

Great post Arik.  I really enjoyed it.  Your analysis is bang on.  When I look at how women are raised versus men, there are definite differences.  I believe this contributes to many of the points you raise.  I was raised in a very, very traditional family, but I can honestly say that both my parents raised me to believe that I could do whatever I wanted.  My gender was never a discussion point.  I also agree that women need more support to progress in their careers, not just from men, but from successful women too.