Sheryl Sandberg: COO of Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most powerful people at Facebook, one of the most inspirational women I know and is seen by many as one of the female world leaders. Her book “Lean In” is full of inspirational quotes for girls and gives practical tips to become a successful business woman.
From a man’s perspective
This book is also interesting for men too as it was for me (Hi! Thomas here writing this blog post ). Interesting because the book taught me that Sheryl is also able to empathise with men in the workplace - and I'll talk more about that later.
But how did the book end up in my hands?
I was living in Iran at the time and on a road trip with friends driving through North Tehran when I noticed the book in my friends car. The title said “Lean In”, so I did. My female friend told me it was great read so since there was 8 hours left remaining on our road trip I decided to start reading and finished the entire book.
The book let me walk in the shoes of a strong woman who worked hard and fought to become a successful business woman. I think what was most interesting for me as a man was to put myself into another gender’s shoes.
As I was born at the end of the 20th century, it is sometimes hard to truly understand what biases women can still be confronted with. I feel I was able to get a grasp of what challenges women face today.
My favourite tip from Sheryl Sandberg: how to negotiate like a girl boss
I took a few negotiation classes in business school and I am always interested in learning more about negotiation methods. Hence, I find it extremely interesting when Mrs. Sandberg explains that a strong woman should take advantage of society’s preconceived ideas during a negotiation.
It is interesting because negotiation has a lot to do with using and changing the other party’s point of view! I think it is such a pragmatic way to fight discrimination at a very personal level: what is fighting against discrimination if not a perpetual negotiation with society?
In this matter, Sheryl Sandberg tells us society does not expect a strong woman to fight for herself: she is supposed to be more communal, always giving to others (I know: very cliche! But this is the whole point: how to use this cliche at your advantage?).
She mentions that, if you are a strong woman, you may be tempted to go to your boss, show them a scientific proof of your performance and ask them for a raise because you deserve it. This is fair.
Problem is: the world is not fair and statistics show that men are more likely than women to get a raise with this methodology. Why? Because men are supposed to fight for themselves - women are not.
What is the practical solution according to Sheryl Sandberg? On top of showing off your performance, boss girls should also explain that a better salary will make them better team members and should not only focus on highlighting their performance but also how they participated to the performance of the team.
My Sheryl Sandberg favourite motivational quotes from the book
1. “Done is better than perfect.”
In consulting, people are very familiar with the “80/20 rule”, also called Pareto’s principle, which states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Hence, to be efficient, most often you can only focus on getting these 20% done.
I think this inspirational quote is very good to remember this principle. It rings so true: it is better to get something done rather than spending too much time thinking about how and why to make it perfect.
In the end, you may miss the deadline and your perfect idea will be worthless. If you just get it done 80%, it might not be perfect, but you will have produced something very valuable already! Personally, I use this in many aspects of my life.
2. “What would you do if you weren't afraid?”
This is almost a mantra to me. Something I can even tell myself while meditating for instance. It really sounds like a zen mantra similar to “What is missing right here and right now?”. The latter helps me realise that nothing is missing right here and right now.
The former makes me realise how much fear and worry are factored into my decision-making process; and how much these worries and fears are sometimes irrelevant: I fear not to have a career as successful as my peers. I fear failure. I worry to leave friends and family behind. I worry about the opinions of others etc.
I am not saying these considerations are useless. However, do you want them to lead your life? Do you think you should let fears and worries lead your life? Or should you follow your heart and soul?
Answering this question helps me to quiet the reasonable voices worrying inside my head and focus on what I really want independently from any fear.
Sometimes, these voices completely deafen us. Try and quiet those voices for a moment. Find what you truly want. Find your boss spirit! Then only, maybe, have a conscious discussion with yourself again: analyse if your concerns are really worth not doing what you truly want.
You may compromise with your fears and negotiate with yourself: but you should at least know what you want in the first place; and answering Sheryl Sandberg’s question is a great way to just do this.
3. “Feeling confident or pretending that you feel confident is necessary for reaching opportunities. It's a cliche but opportunities are rarely offered, they're seized”
Fake it till you make it! This is very true for personal branding.
I just read recently that in quantum physics, the observer may change the state of an experiment… Just by observing! Although completely different, for me this ties back to the Pygmalion effect in psychology which states that our expectations about people shape their behaviour and success.
Now, who is always with me? Myself. Hence, the expectations I have about myself are the ones which influence me most!
Expect yourself to be confident. Fake it if you have to: if you consistently see yourself do something, you will start believing this is actually you; and believing is the beginning of a true deep transformation.
Once your heart is convinced, you will be transformed: this is the true meaning behind this famous quote by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.” Change the expectations that you and others have about yourself: this is the way to truly change, improve yourself and become a very strong woman!
4. “We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet.”
This is interesting because it is something that I would not have thought about. Nevertheless, maybe nowadays or at least during Sheryl Sandberg’s days, women in business think about this more than men, most probably because of our society’s biases.
So let us listen to Sheryl and let us not block ourselves because of future family plan: you will deal with it when it comes. You may plan to focus on your family “very soon” but if you think you can seize an opportunity: push yourself and go for it. Why not even become one of these courageous female entrepreneurs?
Thoughts about your future family are just ghosts in your head: unreal considerations blocking you in real life! And even if you are indeed going to have a baby soon: this is not reason enough to slow down your career now! Slow it down, maybe, if you do choose it, only when you are having the actual baby!
It should be your choice and this choice should only be made when the time actually comes, not before. This should be the spirit of a successful business woman according to Sheryl Sandberg.
5. “I realised that searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming.”
Again, as a man, I would not have thought about this, so it is all the more interesting for me.
Hopefully, for instance, Disney is now making all their movies with female heroes. For instance, in Frozen, the true love of princess Elsa is not a prince, even the one she actually loves, but her sister. Hopefully, little by little, we will be free from these imaginary differences which only dwell in all our heads.
However, once again, men can also fall into this trap. So let us take Sheryl’s piece of advice and let us not await for any mentor: let us do our best by ourselves and we will succeed, mentor or not. We will be happy, Prince / Princess Charming or not! Only when we are convinced about this may we actually meet the right mentor, Prince or Princess Charming.
Let us not wait for a mentor, let us make one or even just be one for ourselves.
6. “There is no perfect fit when you're looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
There is no such thing as a “next big thing” for your career: there is just a “thing” and you are the only one who can make it big!
As a man or woman, a lot of good advice. And a book I recommended to my female friends to read. A great read for both sexes if you want to boost your confidence, leadership and negotiation skills to become a successful business person.
But particularly for men, I think this book gives an amazing perspective to better understand gender equality and women empowerment in today’s workplace.
Hope you enjoyed my review: leave me a comment to let me know what you think!
Angela Wozniak Jewellery
Great article Thomas, thanks for sharing your views! I am a big fan of advice #2, which was given to me early in my career. I guess it applies in one way or another to most of us.
Thank you for the article, it was a great memento of this amazing book. My favorite part was also “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. After reading the book I always ask this question to me or my friends in decision making situations. I think it reveals some important missing aspects (but won’t always do what I would do if I weren’t afraid:D)