Preparing to Win: When you Lean In...there be monsters

It's official. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's excellent new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has been released. Moreover, her Lean In Foundation has also launched.

This means two things:
  1. Women (and men who are smart) have access to tools, knowledge, data and insight that will help them move forward in achieving their goals - no matter what those goals might be.
  2. Women who follow that advice (because this part won't apply to men) and pursue their goals will meet a whole new world of obstacles - with some from very unexpected sources.
In short: There be monsters.

I was reminded of this a week or so ago when talking with a colleague of mine - a very successful woman who achieved her corporate career goals and then went on to create a successful career as an independent provider in her field. (Yes, I'm keeping this purposefully vague - because it isn't personal.)

I was lucky enough to have read an early release of Ms. Sandberg's book and loved it on many, many levels - even as I took issue with some of the content. (I'll be writing a practical application review of the book very soon.)

In talking with my colleague about how pleased and excited I was for women everywhere having access to the book's and Foundation's learning and guidance, I was taken aback at the near vitriolic attack I experienced - simply because I supported what Ms. Sandberg was saying.

My colleague's arguments were much the same as have been presented - and about which I've previously written. What they came down to was:
  1. Look at the messenger. Why should anyone listen to Sheryl Sandberg - with all her money and success? What does she know about the 'real life' challenges women face? and
  2. It's a corporate manifesto for women. What if the women aren't interested in pursuing a career in a large corporation, anyway? and
  3. She's wrong. The content she's presenting doesn't work in any case - and it won't just because Sheryl Sandberg or her Foundation's educational materials say so.
I listened. I responded. I noted that she was being surprisingly binary in her outlook when it's all a spectrum and that she might expand her thinking...or her listening, for that matter - especially when she admitted that she really didn't know and wasn't interested in what Ms. Sandberg's content actually is.

And then it got worse - because in this woman's world, Ms. Sandberg was wrong - personally and in content - and that made me wrong. So wrong, in fact, that her final argument was that I had "clearly drunk the Sheryl Sandberg Kool-Aid."

Yes, that's correct. She compared Ms. Sandberg's content - and my support of it - to the sort of cult following that led to the mass murder/suicide perpetrated by and against the members of Jim Jones' Peoples Temple. It's the new version of the Jonestown Massacre - or at least this woman evidently sees it that way.

By then, the arguments weren't against Ms. Sandberg. They were against me.

Welcome to the world of aspiration, achievement and success.

While you might not experience the sheer passion of my colleague's diatribe, the fact is, as you change your life to make it what you want it to be, you'll find that different versions of a lack of support for your efforts come from a variety of directions.

And it won't just be men who are trying to hold you back. It will be - as we saw in my example - women, too.

What's the answer? You recognize it as a win.

You take every attack as a completely backhanded but absolute compliment. It means you're doing great - because you're doing something that moves you ahead toward your own dreams, your own goals, your own success.

And they see it.

Leaning In is all about...
  • You deciding what you want, recognizing that you have it in you to move forward toward those dreams and goals, building a support system around you - from your own personal tools and capabilities to the partner you choose...
  • All the while recognizing that systemically you're up against obstacles that, yes, have yet to be addressed and might keep you from all that you want to achieve, but...
  • You believe in you - and you're willing to do your very best to back up that belief with ongoing action on behalf and in support of yourself and your dreams.
I don't know why Ms. Sandberg's message hit such a raw nerve in my colleague. I can speculate - but, really, who cares?

What's important is the reminder she provided - which is invaluable learning:

There may be monsters, but you'll win - whatever you define your win to be. Because you can.

12.21.12: Your Business and the End of the World

According to some, tomorrow is the end of the world. At least that's their take on what the Mayans had to say, oh, millennia ago. (It's not like any of the 'experts' were there, so we have to take their word for it.)

Now, to be fair, there are lots of folks who are alive and kicking now who regularly spout that it's the end of the world. Some of them even ask for your money while they're doing their proclaiming. (I've never figured out whether they believe they'll need it 'on the other side' or if it's just hedging their bets if they stay on this side...but then I'm a cynic about that stuff.)

So, let's take a quick look at how this works to your benefit...not the going out and proclaiming part. Just the end of the world.

When you read or hear about people diagnosed with terminal illnesses, they often include stories about taking the time to change all the things in their lives they want to change - before it's too late.

Whether it's spending more time with family and friends, going skydiving or climbing a mountain, they understand time for the commodity and currency that it is. And, with that understanding, they invest it in changing everything they can while it's in their control.

No matter how much or how little they may have - of time or control.

We hear or read those stories and we think about how brave those people are. How courageous. And how lucky that they took the time they had to change the things they could and end their lives on their terms.

Think of the Mayan Calendar that way - and then think of your business that way everyday. It's giving you the opportunity to see time for the commodity and currency it is - if you use it accordingly.

Businesses are afraid of change. The people inside businesses are afraid of change. It's messy. You're not sure of the outcome before whatever you're changing has changed...let alone what it feels and looks and acts like while you're going through the change. Just like life.

But the brave do change their businesses - from the internal workings to the external customer experience. They look at their businesses - whether a front-line employee or sitting in the C-Suite - and they wonder how they can make it better for those they work with and those they impact.

They do their jobs on their terms and stop doing it the same way as before. They know it didn't work - for them, for their customers, for society. They decide to be brave.

Now it's your turn. Be brave. Because you can.

You Didn't Build That...Or Did You?

Just so you know, it's a trick question.

That's because the answer always is: Yes. You did.

How do I know? That's an easy one to answer: If it's yours - from start-up to SMB to multi-national - if you're at its head at this moment...whether first line supervisor or built it.

Did you do it alone? No. Could you have? No. Will anyone ever build anything in business alone? No.

Because it doesn't work that way. Excuse the Kumbayah vernacular, but it really does take a village - no matter what kind of enterprise you've built or are trying to build.

The question, therefore, isn't about whether or not you built it. The questions you should be asking are:
  • Is it what I want?
  • How did it get this way?
  • How much history is driving our present?
  • How much is that helping or hurting us?
  • What do we need to change?
  • How've we been doing in making those changes?
  • What do we need to do differently in successfully executing the changes we need?
  • What kind of data do we have to tell us that any of the answers to the questions we just went through are actually true?
  • What kind of measures do we need to ensure we know what we're talking about now and for our future?
And those questions are just the beginning. 

Take it as said: You built it. What you want to know - and act upon - is: What do I want to do with it?

That's when you'll create the success you seek.

(If you thought I was going to go play with the politicians on this one - not this time. Frankly, when it comes to this, they don't know what they're talking about anyway.)

Marissa Mayer and the War on Women

There are two really popular lies about women being told today.  One is that there's no "war on women."  That all the Republican legislation that's being passed or attempted - by men - to inhibit women from living their lives the way they want...or just to be a skewed view being perpetrated by the Democrats.

The other is that it's not because Marissa Mayer is a woman that she's getting all this attention - and insult - as the newly appointed CEO of Yahoo!  No.  From the wildly varying stories about her compensation package to that whole business about her pregnancy isn't because she's female.  It's because she's the CEO.

Hmmm.  Funny thing about both those lies.  First, they're just that: lies.  Second, they're both based on the same thing: inhibiting women from whatever form of self-determination and achievement they seek.

Most importantly, even within the legislative agenda, it's not just the men who are going after women.  It is - as usual - women, too.

I was appalled to read the comments made by a former female co-worker of Ms. Mayer's in a recent Business Insider article (written by a man) that was nothing less than an open season of personal shots.  The "source" wouldn't give her own name, of course, but she was happy to insult and demean Ms. Mayer in as many ways as she could (except about the pregnancy).

What was worse was that the things that she was complaining about would NEVER have come up were Ms. Mayer a man.  They were about her working style and power plays and management methods.  What they show is that she knows how to be a player.

So, whether you like those behaviors or not, they work.  Because the fact is, Google is, in great part, Google, because of Ms. Mayer's smarts and capability.

At least that's what everyone said right up until she became CEO of Yahoo!

For my part, I was actually proud of Yahoo's Board for selecting another woman after the Carol Bartz debacle.  It would have been very easy for them to have selected a man - simply by sheer numbers of candidates.

They didn't, though.  They chose the talent, perspective, commitment and smarts they wanted and know the company needs.

I'm all for Ms. Mayer's success - because I want Yahoo! to succeed.  And, based on the perspective of smart people like Marc Andreessen and Fred Wilson, Yahoo! is in a much better position to do so now than in years.

As for the anonymous "sources" and all the talk about "working maternity leave" and all the rest, let it go and get over it. Women and men bring their respective talents to everything they do.

For the smart people in the room, that's all that matters - and all that should.

Leadership: Libor, Barclay's and Executive Accountability

I have been fascinated as I've read the reports on the investigation into interest rate manipulation by Barclay's and other banks, the resignations of that bank's Chairman and CEO and, particularly, the "spreading of blame" that's now occurring as everyone who knew better is figuring out a way to run for cover.

Here's my take on this from the leadership perspective:

For all that Mr. Diamond explained to the Parliamentary Committee that his people had been asking the US and UK regulators questions about what they were doing/could do - and being given no specific guidance regarding their actions - they knew better.

People inside an industry - or holding any particular job, for that matter - know and understand better than anyone else the nuances and consequences of their actions and decisions.  That's why they take those actions and make those decisions.

Because, one way or another, those actions and decisions serve them.


Should there be more and better regulation - particularly for those industries that are supposed to exist not only for profit but also to support the society in which they operate?  Sure.

Will regulation ever address all the agendas and actions of the individuals within any industry?  No.

Does it then fall upon the most senior executive to make clear - to the point of termination - that any action that could conceivably mar the reputation of the organization is unacceptable and will not be tolerated?  Yes.

And that's where Mr. Diamond and his colleagues continue to go wrong.  They're happy to say, in retrospect, that what was done "sickened" them - but that doesn't do anyone any good.  In fact, that, too, is self-serving.

Ultimately, this becomes about you - not them.  If there are reputation-risking actions and decisions going on in your organization, you either know who or where those are taking place.  That makes it your responsibility to stop those actions - now.

This is about morals and ethics and integrity.  Not business.

It's time for leaders to lead.