https://www.bonnielowkramen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/sheryl-sandberg-speaking.jpg 183 275 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2020/08/bonnie-low-logo.png competenow2014-02-26 12:52:412014-02-26 12:52:41Lean In: Two Lessons Men Can Learn from Sheryl – Mainly, Lean Out
By Karl Moore, Ph.D. for Forbes.com
By Karl Moore, Ph.D. for Forbes.com
May 1, 2013
It seems everyone is reading Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In – many, like ourselves, are men. What big takeaways are there for men in Lean In? Two come to mind and they can be summarized as one, Lean Out and one, Lean In. Let us explain.
Sandberg’s book, Lean In, is getting enormous attention, as it should. We suspect it will, if it has not already, become, ironically, seminal business reading. What has surprised us is how many men are reading it. Actually, it shouldn’t be a surprise – after all, half the world is women, and women are an increasingly important part of the work force. We wanted to share two key takeaways for men.
This was written with Shaun Collins.
Sandberg, in her characteristic style as a Chief Operating Officer, is beginning to put in place structures to improve the workplace for women: “I marched in – or more like waddled in – to see Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin” to request “pregnancy parking”. Despite her best efforts, some consider that Sandberg does not pay due attention to the structures necessary for change. Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor who exited the workplace, finding the “juggle” too difficult, criticised Sandberg for neglecting current institutions in her proposals. Yet the criticisms Sandberg has received are in fact indicative of her performing the other half of her job as COO of a tech company: fostering innovation. By inspiring and “enraging” members of both sexes, she is cultivating gender communication so that change and improvement will come about. Sandberg says, “We need emotion, anger, debate. If my book can get that going, that is good! What is worse is stagnation, which no one is talking about.”
When thinking about the two-way communication and the lessons men can learn from Sandberg’s book, it is clear that there are areas where there remains vast scope for improvement. Two thoughts spring to mind for male and current leaders: (i) ‘Lean-In’ to their home-life; (ii) ‘lean-out’ on risky career decisions.
The first thought, which the evidence corroborates, is that men and future male leaders need to be more supportive of their spouses at home. A 2007 study of well-educated professional women who had left the workforce found 60% cited their husbands as a critical factor in their decision. They noted a lack of participation in child care, domestic tasks and the expectation that wives cut back on employment as the reasons for quitting. In 2009, it was found that in only 9% of dual-earner marriages is housework shared evenly.
At a senior level, money can help solve a considerable part of this problem by outsourcing virtually all the house work and much of the child care. Most of us, however, are not at these exalted levels of income. Though, in a two income family, many can at least pay for a cleaning person for a few hours a week, which can make a huge difference. And many prefer to provide as much child care as they can, given their work constraints – many people, not all, think that there is no one like mom and dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc…
Male leaders in particular have a crucial role to play if the imbalance in domestic responsibilities is to change. Part of the limited involvement of men so far is that it is a scary prospect. Men, just like women, face real financial consequences from taking leave to spend more time at home or to look after sick children. Only 4 in 100 full time parents are fathers and they note that it is an isolating experience. Gloria Steinem observed, “It’s not about biology, but about consciousness”. Only those men who are at the top can lead the way in changing this. As Sandberg has been criticised for advising women to ‘Lean In’ in the context of her uniquely fortunate circumstances, male leaders need to be the first to, and embrace any criticism for, ‘Leaning In’ to their home lives. Karl, as a father with teenage children wished he had spent more time with his kids when they were young. He encourages young men, if they chose to become fathers, to “man up”, step up to the plate and make being a father a priority.
Our second thought, that men take too many risks and should ‘Lean Out’ on career decisions, is rather different than Sandberg’s message to women. She comments that “women need to be more open to taking risks in their careers” as “being risk averse can result in stagnation”. But really, our thoughts are two sides of the same coin. Sandberg believes that women need to “overcorrect” to “find the middle ground” from their current risk averse position. We argue that men need to “overcorrect” from their excessive risk taking towards a more calculated neutral position.
Karl recently ran into a neighbour who was wrestling with whether she should take a promotion and whether she was up to the new role. He could not help reflect after the conversation that in all his years in various different positions he had at IBM and Hitachi and later at 3 Universities, that he never once, that he can recall, suffered from pangs of self doubt, whether he was up to a new position. In retrospect, this was immature. Men, can learn from women, and have the good sense to actually question our ability to do a position we are thinking about. Do we have relevant experience or are we “biting off more than we can chew”? is a highly germane question which should be asked. Here we should, Lean Back and question ourselves rather than let our typical male hubris rule.
Research in the last decade leads us to believe that men need to “overcorrect” from their excessive risk taking towards a more calculated neutral position. Our arguments are summarised by one set of findings. The authors give individuals a series of mathematical problems and a choice of reward mechanism between piece-rate payments for each solution or a competitive winner-takes-all scenario. The findings indicate that high performing women harm themselves by not choosing the winner-takes-all scenario (and being too risk averse) whilst low-performing men lose out by doing the opposite. This appears to be a function of our hard wiring and hormones.
We all remember the crash. In the aftermath, women are being hired to improve risk practices including Terri Dial of Citigroup and Barbara Desoer of Bank of America. (See this Forbes article http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/23/economy-female-executives-forbes-woman-leadership-finance.html).
Future male leaders must adjust to taking fewer, more calculated career risks. Purely from an economics perspective, it will increase your chances of being hired and promoted if you can demonstrate risk management abilities at a personal and professional level. Indirectly, if men continue to take excessive career risks, it pressures women into accepting the more secure career and thus falling into the trap of limited risk taking that Sandberg observed.
In an earlier Rethinking Leadership blog Karl spoke to Cambridge’s John Coates about how Wall Street and the City could use more women.
In answering what men could do more to help advance women’s leadership, HBS Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter answered, “The Laundry”. Sandberg as the Founder of the Lean In movement has successfully reinvigorated gender communication. It is up to the next generation of male leaders to pay more attention to pitching in more at home and to rethink their attitudes to risk.
Shaun Collins is a visiting undergraduate student to McGill University, and a student of Karl’s Strategy class. Shaun is majoring in Economics and Business at Trinity College Dublin and became interested in Sandberg’s work in his leadership role for the Trinity SMF, an Irish student run investment fund.
Original Link to Article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/karlmoore/2013/05/01/lean-in-two-lessons-men-can-learn-from-sheryl-mainly-lean-out/
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