What I’m Reading: Lean In

lean in cover

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook

I know I’m a little behind the times on this one, but I just finished reading Lean In. It felt like sitting down with an extremely impressive woman, having her tell me all of the secrets to life, and having them all well-researched, organized, and appropriately cited all running in the background. Magic!

I thought I’d give a quick overview of my favorite chapters.

Sit at the Table (Chapter 2)

If I can sum up this chapter in one sentence, it would be this: Stop selling yourself short. Sandberg begins by telling the story of when she was hosting a meeting for clients, and as everyone was grabbing food and settling in, several women in the group took seats on the periphery of the room, despite plenty of seats directly around the table. This meant less interaction and less participation in the meeting that ensued—the literal representation of not taking a seat at the table. There are many explanations for this, feeling like an imposter, underestimating our own intelligence, or flat out believing we don’t deserve to be there.

All of this comes from the little nagging voice in our head that goes by the name of self-doubt. The key is to recognize when this voice is influencing our actions, and work to drown it out. While Sandberg calls this “Sit at the Table,” we like to call it “Taking Up the Space You Deserve in the Room.” Sandberg says, “research backs up the ‘fake it til you feel it’ strategy. One study found that when people assumed a high-power pose for just two minutes, their dominance hormone levels went up and stress hormone levels 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.”

Seek and Speak Your Truth (Chapter 6)

“Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding that sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.”

Back to this age old challenge of communicating effectively and professionally. This is something we focus on a great deal in our Overcoming Unjust Moments workshop—learning how to clearly express a dissenting opinion when something is inappropriate, and making sure that each woman feels confident that she has every right to do so. Sandberg focuses on using simple language and the importance of recognizing multiple points of view. Understanding another’s perspective and clearly communicating your own can significantly impact the amount of resistance you receive when trying to make a point.

This also comes with another side to the coin, which is that it is also your responsibility to listen—really listen—when someone comes to you with feedback to share. Consider their perspective and try to understand it, rather than preparing your own defense in your mind.

Make Your Partner a Real Partner (Chapter 8)

Sandberg is the mother of two and shares a great deal about her personal journey of finding a system that works for her as she juggles her work and home life (and likely a million other things in between). Sandberg talks about the importance of making your partner a real partner—one who can share the responsibilities at home however it makes sense for you and not based on gender norms. After all, “according to the most recent analysis, when a husband and wife are both employed full-time, the mother does 40 percent more child care and about 30 percent more housework than the father.” While things are moving slowly toward equality, we can’t fall into these roles simply because it is easy.

While I am not a mother, this chapter resonated with me on the ‘housework’ front. I’ve never been the primary chef in the house—my husband, Matt, typically does the grocery shopping and prepares our lunches for the week. I am lucky that he actually likes to do these things that I despise, and we’ve divided up other things based on our interest/skill as well. He tackles all that is ‘yard’ and most of the cleaning, while I am on laundry duty, manage our finances, and keep our social calendars straight. This division of labor is so important, but even more important is when we need to flex a bit and can pick up each other’s slack. If I am having a crazy week, I might come home to find the laundry already done. If Matt goes out of town for a weekend, I brave the store (or do ClickList pickup!) and prep food for the week. It’s give and take and we adjust as needed.

This chapter also made me cry, a lot, since I knew going into it that Sandberg’s husband, Dave, had passed away since the book was published. If you don’t mind a good cry, and want to see what true strength looks like, just read her Facebook post from 30 days after his death. I told you she was extremely impressive.



In closing, all the stars for this book. You should read it and also check out leanin.org for plenty of more research and resources, including the 2016 Women in the Workplace report.

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