Yesterday was an important day for me. And while I won’t go into all the details, I will tell you that I was a tad bit apprehensive about how it might unfold. I had done all the physical and logistical preparations necessary to make the most of what I had planned, but the final hours where ones where I mentally needed to prepare. When all that is left to do is wait for your moment to “step up to the mike and shine,” it can be a little unnerving. I vowed not to let that happen.
In the hours before my big moment, I decided the best way to distract myself was to catch up on some reading that I had been wanting to do. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, has been in my stack of books to read for weeks. I decided it was the perfect book to put my head – and my heart – into the moment. Boy, was I right!
If you aren’t familiar with Sandberg, she is the COO of Facebook. At 44, she is listed as the sixth most powerful woman on the Forbes Power list. She has had an amazing career: serving as the Chief of Staff for Larry Summers in the Department of Treasury under President Bill Clinton at the age of 27; leading Google’s online sale of advertising and publishing products, as well as sales operations of Google’s consumer products and Google Book Search from 2001 – 2008. And then there is her success at Facebook, which has been nothing short of meteoric.
But to listen to her talk, or read her book, you quickly see that she is a fantastic advocate of women achieving success in the workplace and reaching their ultimate potential. She invests much professional and personal time in speaking, writing and granting interviews on what it will take for women of future generations to truly achieve higher posts in leadership roles around the globe and openly discusses the challenges that stand in our way. Her wisdom belies her years and the case she outlines is hard to refute. In reading her work thus far, her biggest message that resonates with me about why success eludes us is:
“Success and likability are positively
correlated for men and
negatively correlated for women.”
Her examples cite generations of women don’t step up, sit at the table and own the outcomes of their success. Too often, women are chastised for being too bossy, too aggressive and too driven. Give a man the opportunity to be decisive, driven and aggressive and they are praised, promoted and held up as the model of success. Put those same characteristics on a woman, and she is most likely regarded unfavorably. As a result, those of us who do have the ability to rise to the top sometimes mute our abilities – unconsciously – out of the rejection and negative signals that come with it. That must change for our daughters and future generations.
In a man’s world, nice and competent is much less threatening than owning our own success. Nice sends messages that we are willing to roll-over and let others have advantages over us. We cannot sacrifice being liked for being successful or for doing our jobs well. Likability is important, but we need to be respected for our skills and abilities; for our consistency and fairness, not for how nice we are.
I needed the energy and pep talk Sheryl’s book gave me yesterday. It was just the right dose of encouragement and motivation to rev my engine and ready me for my day in the sun. Knowing it is ok to own your success – albeit humbly – be confident about who you are, what you have accomplished and the abilities you have to make a mark on the world are badges of honor we have earned. We should wear our life medals proudly!
Mark Zuckerberg is quoted in the book, in a coaching session, as saying “when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.” I like that. Time to go rattle some cages today!
Go make it an outrageously wonderful day!