The recent release of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-seller, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead has sparked debate, criticism and an ongoing dialogue about women’s impact in the workforce and what that impact should or shouldn’t be. From the delicate balance of raising productive children while staying on a steady career path, to speaking up for the female self in the still male-dominated corporate arena, Sandberg offers some great advice for young women starting out in their career that if embraced early, will help them to avoid the common mistakes and advance faster than the previous generation.
The very phrase “lean in” translates into stop playing the background to someone else’s foreground, take your rightful seat at the decision-making table, and lead from day one. To underscore this, one strategy is tapping into our innate trait as humans to be inquisitive and strive to be better. The most indelible advice of the book for those who continue to let fear drive their decisions or hold them back from making them is the advice that, “Done is better than perfect.” This is not only applicable in the work world but in our personal lives as well. While those of us who are waiting for that perfect moment or that perfect situation to materialize, others are doing it carpe diem style and facing that fear of making a mistake head-on. What is that adage about missing all of the shots not taken? Clearly this applies to one’s overall life strategy. Even if the shot is missed or there is failure, those risk takers pick themselves up and keep going, with fierce determination.
The moral of leaning in is to not count yourself out before you’ve even begun to compete in this work race. Not only might you place, you might come in first like many of the examples Sandberg offers in her book.
What might her advice mean for women of color trying to compete in the same industries? This topic has also been explored by several critics. Recently, at an event for women of color in communications, Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, director of public relations for Sears Holding Company, addressed the crowd and offered some key takeaways for those wanting to put themselves on the path to success.
· Establish defining principles in your career
· Every situation is fixable
· Be different if you want “it” to be different
· Have a voice at the table
· Choose to be a workhorse or a horse trainer
· Learn how to make barriers an advantage
· Know and believe you have the talent
· Have an anchoring point
· Always have a plan
· Don’t be afraid to ask for help