As a huge Sheryl Sandberg fan, after reading her iconic book Lean In in January 2014, I have tried to be mindful of those times when I do not “lean in.” For those of you who have not read her book (and you must), through major research and her own career, Sandberg believes women do not “lean in” to opportunities in their careers for a variety of reasons. Many of these reasons we do have control over.
Last week I met informally with my company’s female CEO. I noted multiple times during our conversation that I was not “leaning in.” See below.
Lean In Violation 1: Not accepting credit for a job well done.
She praised my work over my last year as manager. The morale at my location is at an all-time high, our revenue is up and client feedback is exceptionally positive. Even prior managers of the same location, were impressed with my leadership. While I may have had hand in some of these accomplishment, all I could think about was blaming others for my success and finding the imperfections. Well it could not have possibly been me?
Lean In Violation 2: Wondering if she is my mentor?
This conversation was so productive and open I felt like asking her “will you be my mentor?” Sandberg mentions if you have to ask someone then the relationship is not there. I did not have to ask; she was offering to teach me the more financial aspects of the business and letting me know that other opportunities may exist for my skill set down the road. We were learning from each other about the company’s goals and culture. There was no reason to ask her outright, but I wanted confirmation. I also felt that I should have started opening this door a year ago. Why did I wait? I did not want to make a bad impression. Like many women, perhaps, I have a confidence complex.
Lean In Violation 3: Declining to sit at the table
When I accepted the manager position a year ago, I was not certain I was qualified, but I “sat at the table”. It turns out I was qualified, and putting those skills into practice created a passion and drive in me that was far more rewarding than clinical practice alone. A year has passed and now I was being asked to mentor another clinic manager. My response was oh no I am not qualified. What possible value or lessons could I teach them if I have only been in this role a year? The CEO just stared back at me with a smile. The chapter from Lean In popped into my mind. I wasn’t sitting at the table, even though my mentor was asking me to with her own reasons behind it. I called myself out before she could and we shared a laugh.
To all the women veterinarians out there please read this post: there is always more room at the table, even when you think you are “leaning in.”