3 Career Lessons from ‘Lean In’ You Can Use Today

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Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is a big-ideas manifesto for women. It shows us how and why women hold fewer leadership positions than men, and it urges women to “lean in” to their careers so that we can close what she calls the “leadership ambition gap.” But beyond these big ideas, it’s also filled straightforward tips that women can employ in their working life immediately. Here are three of those practical tips that will help you start leaning in right now:

1. Fake it ’til you feel it: If you’re not feeling confident at work, try the “fake it till you feel it” strategy. Sandberg writes: “One study found that when people assumed a high-power pose (for example, taking up space by spreading their limbs) for just two minutes, their dominance hormone levels (testosterone) went up and their stress hormone levels (cortisol) went down. As a result, they felt more powerful and in charge and showed a greater tolerance for risk. A simple change in posture led to a significant change in attitude.”

So the next time you have to give a presentation and feel anxious, embody the confidence you wish you felt, and you’ll probably start to believe in yourself a lot more (and it will show in your presentation).

2. Sit at the table, literally! A few years ago, Sandberg hosted a meeting at Facebook for Silicon Valley executives and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to discuss the economy. Secretary Geithner’s team was comprised of four women, and when the meeting began, all four women sat on the side of the room, rather than at the table. Sandberg writes, “It was a watershed moment for me. A moment when I witnessed how an internal barrier can alter women’s behavior.”

The next time you’re invited to a meeting, even if it’s filled with high-power executives, sit at the table! You’ll be showing everyone that you’re confident in your ideas and that you’re serious about your career.

3. Done is better than perfect: Sandberg tells us that a poster hanging at Facebook’s headquarters declares in big, red letters, “Done is better than perfect.” She writes, “I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”

I think this is one of the best and most surprising lessons from Lean In, and it’s something anyone can employ in his or her career right now. How often do you turn over a task in your mind for days, wondering how you can possibly get it done perfectly? It’s a wise lesson to us all to stop aiming for perfection and instead aim to simply get the task done. And if you’re working at your highest potential, done probably means you did an excellent job at the task anyway.

Learn more about Lean In at leanin.org.


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"Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg
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