Lean In

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In keeps generating media coverage, much of it critical, and much of it predicted in her text. I was surprised, however, by how much level-headed and pithy commentary around time-management Sandberg included.

Her admonition that “the very concept of having it all flies in the face of the basic laws of economics and common sense” (p. 121) put a smile on my face. And in the category of more easily said than done, her reminder that “guilt management can be just as important as time management” (p. 137), seems apropos. Especially when not taking time off to rest and rejuvenate is a leading predictor for burnout (p. 126).

Much of the book read like a working moms’ confessional (most bizarre work intrusion into labor / delivery? most awkward pumping moment? most significant kid event skipped in favor of work? most dramatic kid illness in a professional setting?). It’s at the same time reassuring (I’m not the only one!) and distracting (such situations reveal major societal disjunctions, but can be too easily dismissed as competitive storytelling). I’m going to resist adding my own tales of work-family mashups to the mix (but yes, I have some good ones :-)).

Much of the advice in the earlier chapters is definitely relevant to women on the tenure track. The success / likeability conundrum affects both teaching and promotion (and outgoing University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman’s “relentlessly pleasant” approach gets a nod). Finally, Sandberg’s analysis of mentorship (ch. 5) ought to become required reading for both graduate students and new faculty.

Quotable: “Counterintuitively, long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately–to set limits and stick to them.”
~Sheryl Sandberg (2013) Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, p. 126.