Leaning In

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 20, 2013 in Books I'm Reading, Family Stuff

After reading the interview with Sheryl Sandberg in O Magazine this weekend, I decided to order her new book, Lean In.  While the book hasn’t arrived yet (but thanks to Amazon Prime’s fabulous 2-day shipping, it’ll be here tomorrow), I very much look forward to reading it.

Several of the things in her interview resonated with me.  For example, she mentions that as a man gets more successful, everyone likes him.  As a woman gets more successful, both men and women like her less.  I have seen this happen in my own experiences – at one job where I held folks accountable for doing their jobs (and where I stood up for my employees), I was called the “Queen B” (and “B” did not stand for bumblebee).  When I went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for several years, I lost most of my close friends (or those I thought were my friends).  And those at that new job complained to their leads about me because they thought I was there to take over.  One mom at preschool once told me that she was afraid to talk to me because she found me intimidating.  Success can be very lonely.

I should add here that I am lucky that I have a very supportive husband who thinks I am smart and successful – and he loves me FOR it.  Not sure how I got so lucky.

Anyway, I’ve learned to develop a thick skin at work – a few months ago, I was hung up on during a telephone conference because I had pointed out a logical and tactical error in a potential solution offered by a man (I managed to keep my cool despite the harassment).

Would he have done that to a man?  Probably not.

I was also called by another woman and told that I was a “backstabber” because when I saw her doing inferior work that affected mine and would have had dire consequences (and after I tried to encourage her, help her and just about everything else I could think of to better the situation), I reported it up to my manager.  She didn’t call me a “B”, but just about.

Would she have done that to a man?  I don’t think so.

I sat in a meeting a few weeks ago with the top-ranking managers at our facility.  All men.  I was the only woman in the room.  I felt like it was 1976 and they may ask me to go get the coffee (they didn’t, of course, but just the realization that there were no other women was a very odd feeling).

I read part of Sheryl’s interview where she said that when she was on the Forbes “World’s Most Powerful Women” list, she was embarrassed and played it down.  I know that feeling (not the feeling of being on the Forbes list, of course, but I do know the feeling of being embarrassed because of my accomplishments). In fact, just the other day, one of my accomplishments was mentioned during a meeting and my first reaction – my gut reaction – was to say that it was no big deal.

I also related to Sheryl’s statement that men are able to say, “I want a raise because I deserve it” or that they assume that they got to where they are because they are smart and capable.  I (and according to Sheryl, many women) feel like I got to where I am because am lucky.  Like I fooled others into thinking that I know what I’m talking about.  She said that men apply for a promotion when they have met 60% of the criteria.  Women wait until they have achieved 100% of the criteria before applying.  We are afraid that we will be found out to be less than we should be – of not measuring up.

I was inspired to post this not only because I am planning on reading her book, but because someone made an interesting statement about me today – one that I had never considered.

As part of the Executive Leadership Program, both our supervisors and peers evaluate us in our current position.  I received some negative feedback, but not in the areas that I expected.  I was dinged by my coworkers because they thought I was not disciplining people enough.  The thing is, I don’t have the authority to discipline anyone – that’s a manager’s job (and I am not a manager right now).  My peers thought I was in charge, when I’m really not.

I mentioned this to my new group during a conversation today.  Several of them said that it was an aura that I put off.  One man said that when people walk into a room, you can tell those who are in positions of authority by how they carry themselves, how they speak and their general attitude.  They exude confidence and people naturally follow them.  The group all agreed that I was one of those people.

I was shocked.  I had never thought of myself that way.  And it felt good.  And powerful.

Now…if I can just get over my lack of confidence and the fear that soon, they’ll figure out that I’m not good enough.  Maybe I’ll even apply for that promotion before I’m fully qualified…



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