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21 2013

Beyond Sheryl Sandberg – Lean Out

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

I’m glad to see the stream of articles about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, seems to be improving as people actually read the book. One of the better ones arrived in the New York Times by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who recognizes the value of both Sandberg’s urging that women develop more confidence in their contributions and possibilities as well as the importance of companies providing better support and encouragement. Anytime we hear ‘both’ is better than ‘either/or’ we can be sure someone’s on the right track. Nor can we particularly fault Sandberg, who mentions the need, but focuses on the key points she’s trying to make to women. Hers is the side of the equation that hasn’t been written about so well in the past. There’s yet another message hidden behind Sandberg’s work, though – one that is getting missed and deserves a mention – her unwritten message to men! This line of thinking started when I ran across a link entitled “Read What Facebook’s Sandberg Calls Maybe ‘The Most important Document Ever To Come Out Of The Valley’” The full document in question is embedded at the bottom of the article – a long slide show from Netflix about their culture of Freedom and Responsibility. I’m not sure I’d want to sit through 129 slides, but being able to flip through is great. The presentation is well-structured and details the aspects of the culture that are important. It reinforces my earlier posts on the importance of maintaining a work environment or culture that is coherent and logical. As always it would be interesting to know how often it comes off the rails because a boss within the company does something not in keeping with it, doesn’t ‘walk the talk’ and ends up shaking employee confidence in these fine sentiments, but that’s another question. Netflix has laid out some pretty high principles to live up to. Sandberg’s endorsement of them first caught my eye, but then I started to think we keep hearing how differently women lead and how well these principles fit ‘their’ style. Perhaps not surprising a woman would endorse them. I’ve often objected that that these aren’t exclusive to women, but they are, in fact, the style men, too, should be using to be more effective in today’s work environments. But there’s the message that isn’t spelled out in the Sandberg coverage we’re reading so much about these days. Where women need to be more assertive, more confident in stepping into challenging situations… and then applying ‘their’ style without apologies, men have a challenge, too. In the past, all too many men succeeded in getting promoted or in starting businesses simply because they HAVE the confidence Sandberg argues many women lack. But once in power, men have been exceptionally poor at applying effective leadership principles in many cases. Yes, women make mistakes and sometimes head off down the wrong paths (Yahoo’s CEO may be an example as we’ve noted), but far more almost inexplicable mistakes are made by men who lack the sensitivity or interest in others to be as effective as they could be in leadership roles. All too often articles end up being written almost more about how a male CEO succeeded in spite of his bad behavior and lack of insight than due to good qualities in those areas. Let’s just say that if Sandberg succeeds in convincing women to learn the skills and confidence she feels they lack… those women will have BOTH and it will be the men who lack one of dual key elements for super-success. At the same time women are being coached to be more assertive, men need more coaching about listening, involving, engaging and providing support to their team members. If we’re going to sit back and say what I’m hearing about Sandberg’s work from some quarters – “See we told you women’s lacks played a key role in them not ending up in the C-suite,” then we also need to be aware that we’re asking them to do BOTH things – continue to be the sensitive, supportive listeners they’ve been characterized as PLUS develop a more assertive edge. Well sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander as well. Men can no longer argue that they don’t have time to be sensitive, reflective listeners who support and encourage staff because they’re too busy ‘driving’ the business. If we expect both from women and promote and recognize those who do, we have to face up to the need for both from men as well, don’t we? The plain fact is that a success like Sandberg’s proves one person CAN do BOTH. So if women can, surely men can also. And studies proving the tremendous financial advantages for companies with leaders who provide the listening, supporting, coaching style certainly suggest that people who can do both will ultimately emerge as the top choices for leadership in every case regardless of gender, which is the point I’ve continually attempted to make. In other words, as much as women need to ‘lean in,’ men need to ‘lean OUT’ – to become more ‘other-oriented’ and caring about what their team members need to innovate and deliver results effectively. Bookmark and share this post More »

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