12 Most Winning Ways Women Can Lean In
For as long as I can remember, I have been leaning in. It wasn’t called leaning in back then, it was putting myself out there. From an early age my parents and grandparents reinforced to me that I could be anything I ever wanted.
It simply never occurred to me that I couldn’t do anything I ever wanted. I never saw a gap between men and women.
But, something changes for some reason once we graduate college. After years of studying and working hard, there is the decision to lean into family or lean in to your career. Every woman I know my age has made or is making that decision right now. It’s a bit of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.“
My own journey has led me to start my own company so I can have more control over my time — to make sure I never miss a Little League game or a first day of school. It allows me to do more and do what I love, because I am in charge of my future.
So how can women take Sheryl Sandberg’s advice and lean in regardless of what path they are on?
1. Be a mentor
The best way to find a mentor is to be a mentor. Find one or two other young women around you who could use a mentor, someone to call for advice or support. Becoming a mentor simply starts with noticing the need around you and then asking!
2. Lean in at work and at home
Can women truly have it all? Yes and no. Be the best mother or wife you can be — take the time for date nights, for taking care of things that are important to your family. Don’t let time slip through your fingers. Schedule your vacations and off time as diligently as you schedule your meetings and calls.
3. Remember that it takes an army
I firmly believe no one can do it alone — at home or at the office. Lean on people you can trust — family and friends and get help when you can. If you can afford a house keeper a few times a month — I can’t tell you the stress that will relieve from your life — same with having a gardener or the neighborhood teen mow your lawn. Don’t feel like you have to do it all. No one can. Ask for help. It is amazing what happens when you just ask.
4. Get the right partner
Sheryl talks about this extensively in her book and I could not agree more. Having the right life partner is so key. A woman should not be the one doing it all. She needs help — anyone would! Find a partner who will support you when there are times you are leaning in to your career, who will be a partner with the kids and responsibilities at home. I know for a fact that I could not do what I do or have the success I have had if it wasn’t for my amazing husband who is truly “all in.”
5. Ask and then ask again
To truly lean in, you have to not be afraid of asking. I always thought of it as a numbers game — the more you ask, someone is bound to say yes! So ask for that pay raise, ask to speak at the next conference, ask for that next client. Keep asking. You are going to get no’s but that can’t stop you.
6. Don’t be afraid
I have learned to recognize those butterflies I feel when I get a little nervous — that is the time I know I am on the right track. Don’t let it get too comfortable. Stay in the zone of being a little afraid, of pushing yourself to do the thing you are afraid of.
7. Don’t be afraid to be bossy
Little girls many times are called bossy. Sheryl Sandberg would prefer if you called bossy girls, “girls with executive leadership potential.” You sometimes need to spread your peacock feathers and speak up for what you want — this is a big part of leaning in. Some people argue this is “acting like a man.”
8. Embrace being a woman
Don’t try to be like a man. Be assertive, lean in, but feel free to do it in heels. Now that being said, take the time to look your personal best — professionally. Wear clothes that look incredible on you and ignore the size label. Have a wardrobe that you can feel good about. When you look good, you feel good!
9. Uplift other women around you
Look around, whom around you can you lift up and elevate? Women have the responsibility as they are climbing the corporate, or mommy ladder to turn around and give a fellow woman the help up she needs. This includes reaching out to another woman and checking in, seeing how she is doing, giving her advice as she has asked for it, but mainly just supporting her.
10. Negotiate for yourself
Be your own best advocate, your own best promoter and your own biggest fan. No one is going to negotiate for you, except you. Get clear about what you want and don’t want professionally and personally and make decisions that will support that.
11. Stop discrediting your achievements
Sometimes we have a hard time taking a compliment. Embrace it, say thank you and own your accomplishments. Be your own best promoter — no one is going to do it for you.
12. Practice makes perfect
Nervous? Find someone you can trust and role play difficult conversations you may need to have. This is one of the best ways to push through your fear and not chicken out at the eleventh hour when you are ready to deal with something big.
The point here is regardless of what your aspirations are, lean in with all that you have so when they time comes to choose a different path you have options. Why was I able to quit my full time job and start my own company? Because I had leaned in for many years — giving it my 110% and now I am still leaning in but in a different way. I am leaning into being a mom, a great wife (most days!) and a profitable and thriving business owner. I may not have it all, but it feels pretty darn close!
I’d love to hear your feedback about this subject. How do you feel about Sheryl Sandberg’s lean in philosophy? Post a comment below!
Featured image courtesy of martinak15 licensed via Creative Commons.