My KISA has a friend from grade-school that lives in San Francisco. I’ve gotten to know her well and have since stolen her from him and proclaimed her as MY friend. She’s an absolute sweetheart and a few weeks ago generously invited me to join a book club she belongs to in order to meet new people.
The book assigned was “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, so I purchased it, never expecting it to change my life. When I first started reading it I felt like it was a feminist book, ranting about equal rights. I was right, but I surprised myself to learn that I too am a feminist. After a couple chapters I gave up on trying to remember all the solid points and just started highlighting in it. I’d then read it at night to my KISA and he’d laugh and shake his head at me, pleased I was finally realizing these points. (He’s pretty wise and was a feminist long before I realized I was.)
I’m going to raise some of my favorite points for those of you that don’t have the luxury of time to read it. And for those that do want to read it, don’t worry – just like many books you’ll pick up on the parts that resonate with you, so I won’t be ruining it.
- You should think of your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder. As she explains in the book, “There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym.” I feel like people (aka me) become so consumed in thinking you need to stay on one narrow career path to move up in an organization (which is typically moving into a management position). Making a lateral move isn’t a bad thing because it means you are broadening your skills and therefore making yourself more marketable. And, maybe there’s another path that will get you to where you want to go faster.
- She addresses how to effectively communicate with people. The way she explains is to understand that you have your truth and another person has their truth. “Rarely is there one absolute truth, so people who believe they speak the truth are very silencing of others.” You can become a better communicator when you realize that you only know your perspective and therefore half the “truth”. Since I like to pretend sometimes that I’m an investigator this excites me to think that my job is now to learn both truths. Imagine how much farther that will get me in life to understand other people’s perspectives or truths. I guess this means I can never again declare myself “right.” (My KISA is probably cheering as he reads this.)
- Another point she makes is that “As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home.” She encourages women to not be reluctant to hand over housework or nurturing of the children. She also points out the controlling perfectionist in a lot of women (ME!) that make it so that if a guy isn’t doing things exactly how we want it to be done that we just take over, rather than allowing them to learn how to do things. And, if we continue doing that the guys will slowly stop helping. If we think we want it all we definitely can’t do it all. Even though I still try to. Her motto is “Done is better than perfect.” Very wise advice.
- One of my favorite points she made was the misconception that only a certain amount of women can be in management or executive positions, therefore making it so that we compete with each other. Instead of competing we have to start uniting to make more women succeed and therefore making women in those positions more prevalent. Amen, sister!
Ok, so this is great stuff, but you’re probably assuming I’m exaggerating when I say that it changed my life. (My KISA often accuses me of exaggerating a lot of points.) So, maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it has definitely changed my perspective on how I look at things. First, it made me realize how insanely lucky I am to be marrying a man that believes in equal rights, shares the workload at home, encourages me to be successful at my job, and is never threatened by me making more money than him (in fact, he encourages me to do it while I still have the motivation to do so…it may not be the case when there’s the pitter patter of little feet. Plus, let’s be honest – he too reaps the benefits of a fruitful income.)
Second, it gives me an overwhelming NEED to help women by offering constructive feedback. I feel like I’ve always been afraid of hurting people’s feelings by pointing things out to them or telling them things they may not want to hear. But, by keeping silent I haven’t helped them in any way – I’ve only hurt them. I’ve now vowed that if there is constructive feedback I can offer to anyone, but most specifically women, I’m going to address it with them. Granted, it will take a little courage and tact, that I sometimes lack, but with practice I think I can become better at it.
I had my first practice at work. Because I work in training I have the unique opportunity to work with lots of people in various roles and departments throughout my company. There is a woman in a leadership position that I sat down with privately and gave constructive feedback in recognizing that she joked about herself and her abilities and therefore allowed others to do the same…which they did. In speaking with her about it she cried. Yep. Thankfully it wasn’t because I did a bad job or hurt her feelings – it was because she recognized an insecurity within her when I pointed it out that made her act in the way she did. She was really appreciative of me talking to her about it and I feel like it has now created a special bond between us.
So, I’ve now decided that I’m going to save women from their worst enemies – themselves. And, I encourage everyone to do the same. With our powers combined…!