Lessons learned From Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean in: An illustrated guide

Posted by admin on Feb 21, 2014 in books, geekery, lists, opinion |

Sheryl Sandberg Job Advice

I recently read Sheryls Sandberg’s Lean In and have a few thoughts I wanted to share about it. First, the book is not half as intimidating as it looks from the outside.  The intimidation wasn’t the title,  the cover photo or the feminist message you knew it contained, but the actual size. The hardback size. Bound, big and heavy. The publishers went for the “serious” cash rather than the mass return, and published a book that looked very big and weighty. It looked long. It felt like it would be worthy. It turned me off.

Fast forward a few months and I downloaded it on my Kindle. And I discovered the book is short. Really short. 24% in and I’m at chapter 5. There are eleven chapters. And it’s SO easy to read. It’s essentially a self help book which uses Sheryl Sandberg’s career as a framework. Sandberg is surprisingly honest and open about her personal failings and her family life. She shared anecdotes about crying at work. She revealed her mistakes. She talked about regrets, such as being insensitive to pregnant women (before she’d experienced it). I learned about how she grew up (who knew she was from Miami?), her parents, her sister. I was impressed with her before, but now I like her.

I feel that the publishers did a disservice by releasing a hardcover copy of the book as a lot of people who could have benefitted from this probably didn’t read it. But now that I have – and enjoyed it – I decided that I’m going to break it down for all the people who are to time poor or lazy.

A lot of the lessons in the book are about the way you look at things. It’s about the angle, not the events. Yes, she acknowledges gender discrimination, wage disparity and social issues. But she doesn’t try and make you change the world. She offers practical, useful advice on how to make the best of a flawed situation, and maybe make some bigger changes along the way. I’ve been quoting certain phrases to people, and that’s pretty rare for me, so the following nuggets are ones that stood out for me personally.


This is a question that Sandberg suggest using when approaching a job role you want. It’s not about you- it’s about what you bring to the company.


Sandberg said that job roles should be about where you’re going, not where it’s at. Think big picture!

lean in tiara effect

Sandberg talked about the “Tiara Effect” and how people expect to be rewarded for hard work. In reality? You work hard, you get given more work. Recognition sometimes need to be requested- by you. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but the reality is that’s how a lot of life is.



The message here is not to be scared by the things we don’t know and to push to try them. Failing to be perfect is OK,  failing to try is just sad.


As someone who gets frustrated when trying to give feedback without hurting people’s feelings, this tip was very useful.


 The above line describes how a shy person should feel in a meeting, if they are handling it correctly. Just saying…

Not all the snippets fitted onto an image (well, I also got tired of making them) so here are some I also really loved:

On salary negotiation:

“I have advised many women to preface negotiations by explaining they know that women often get paid less than men so they are going to negotiate rather than accept the original offer.By doing so women position themselves as connected to a group and not just out for themselves , in effect they are negotiating for all women.”

On success:

“Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. Ask a woman the same question and she will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she “worked hard” or “got lucky” or had “help from others”

On new jobs

“There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you rather than the other way round.

 On sex differences in the workspace.

“When a woman is successful people of both genders like her less. This truth is shocking and unsurprising , shocking because one would never admit to stereotyping on the basis of  gender and unsurprising because we clearly do.”

And How to Deal with this:

As silly as it sound pronouns matter. Whenever possible a woman should  substitute WE for I, a woman’s request will be better received if she asserts we had a great year rather than I had a great year.

On Self promotion

“Women apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the requirements. Men apply if they think they meet 60% of the requirements- quoted HP internal report “

Overall, the book was helpful, a smart but funny take on everyday life and Sandberg offered constructive relevant advice to help change your life right now, as well as bigger picture ideas.

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