Bev’s Tips on Leaning In

Successful women leaders

manage the way they “lean in”

March 19, 2013 * Number 185

I’m enjoying the controversy Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has stirred up with her instant bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to LeadSandberg argues that, despite gender biases still prevalent in the workplace, hesitating and offering excuses won’t get women anywhere. She urges women, instead, to believe in themselves, fully engage, step up and “lean in.”

I generally agree with Sandberg.  As a career coach I often speak with extraordinary women who, after years of disparate treatment, feel hesitant and uncertain when their talent suggests they should act like confident and determined leaders.

But we can’t ignore the cautionary note from some critics. The New York Post’s Andrea Peyser wrote, “Sheryl preaches a mantra that seems destined to get women fired, not promoted. She says that women who fail are not assertive, demanding or needy enough… At a time when a woman feels lucky just to have a job, here comes Sheryl, blaming the purported victim for being passive.” 

Sandberg herself says that it is not always the time to “lean in.”  You have to pick the moments when you take charge.  And you have to be aware of the traps.

Sandberg nailed one of the problems in her chapter 3, “Success and Likeability.”   Sociological research demonstrates what many women leaders have learned the hard way.  When men are assertive and seem confident other people tend to like and admire them. But when women act the same way others may find them pushy and not likeable.

In one experiment, students read about a successful venture capitalist.  Half the students read about “Heidi” and the other half read an identical story describing “Howard.”  Howard came across as an appealing colleague.  But Heidi, although respected for her accomplishments, was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work with.” 

I have seen this time and again in the written annual evaluations of women clients.  The boss writes up their accomplishments, making it clear that they met their goals and even did extraordinary work.  But then he adds a note like this:
“But she needs to be aware of how she is perceived by her colleagues.  Her aggressive behavior tends to rub people the wrong way. She should be more careful about ignoring hierarchical boundaries and she shouldn’t spend so much time networking.”

In other words, hard-charging women leaders get the job done, but then they are criticized for the behavior that makes their success possible.  So what’s a girl to do?  Here are tips for managing the likeability trap:

  • Act like you’re not afraid.  As a woman, you’ve been slapped down for assertive behavior that would be rewarded if men did it.  As a result, you may fear stepping into the limelight.  Sandberg suggests you ask yourself, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Then go do that. 
  • Don’t sweat criticism from “them.” As you move up the ladder, not everyone will be your fan.  It will not hurt you if “some people” think you are too pushy or assertive.  It says more about them than about you. Stick to your values, focus on the organization’s mission, help others where you can, and keep building your network.
  • Connect with other women.  If your organization still has a gender bias, it’s vital that you network with other women.  They will bring you support and information about threats and opportunities. Mentor them, and you will find that many mentor you in return.
  • Seize opportunities.  Sandberg points out that women often want to be super prepared before they take on new challenges. Men are more likely to jump at new opportunities, and get ready on the fly. It’s time for some women to move closer to the cutting edge. Stop worrying so much about credentials and expertise.  If you spot something interesting and new, find a way to get involved, and learn as you go.  Jump in, then lean in.
  • Watch your language.  It’s sad but sometimes it’s true.  When he talks about what he needs or has done it sounds confident, but when you do the same, it sounds egocentric.  Sandberg suggests that you frame things more collectively, using phrases like “women need” or “the team did this.”
  • Deliver the work. Sandberg’s success is tied to her history of working for strong bosses and producing the work they wanted.  The first rule is always to know who your bosses are, know what they want and need, and give it to them.  If your boss is a sexist jerk then it may be time to move on, even if the only way out is a lateral shift.  But while you still have the job, keep doing good work.  If nothing else, your achievements will help you get the next job.

If you want to read more about “Lean In,” check out Kerry Hannon’s article for


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

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Bev’s Tips on How to Plan a Career Side Step

Want to find a different job?

Here’s a plan for getting started.

Last week I received an email from Susan, a woman in her 50s whom I’ve not met.  My impression is that she wants to find a different kind of job, while remaining in the same broad career field.

“I am physically fit and healthy and plan on working eight to ten more years.  I want to get out of [this] environment, have a different set of responsibilities and make more money.  Can you advise me?” Susan asked. 

Well, that’s a big question. And if Susan were a coaching client I’d start by asking her lots of questions in return.  However, in case an investment in coaching is not be an option for Susan, I told her I’d take up the challenge of suggesting steps that might lead to a career shift. 

This post is my plan for Susan. I hope you enjoy these suggestions, as well, and I’d welcome your comments, suggestions or requests regarding other topics.

If you want to stay in your broad field, but find a different kind of job, here’s a plan for getting started:

  • Write a big list.  Start by listing everything you want in your next phase.  Dream about what would be great not only in your job, but also in the rest of your life.  Sometimes we think we want a career adjustment, but part of what we’re seeking may be available without a job change.  For example, if you’re bored or lonely, you might create a richer life by pursuing new interests in your free time.  Or, if you love your job but want more income, you might consider a side business. 
  • Organize your list.  Break your comprehensive list into categories of what you want, like “health and fitness” or “social life,” as well as “ideal job factors.”  You are creating this broad picture partly because it will help you to see that not everything must be found through your work.   But this is exciting: when you create positive change in any part of your life it’s likely to bring new energy to your work life.  I see it with clients all the time.  When you make progress in one area, like your fitness program or your social activity, it has a positive impact on your work life
  • Commit to small steps. Once you have your categories, start moving slowly forward in each one. Decide how many steps you’ll take each week, for each category. It’s important to find a realistic pace, and stick with it.  For example, you might decide that each week you will:
    •  Pursue your job search by taking three steps.  The first week might include (1) going out for coffee with a friend, (2) spending 20 minutes doing research on the Internet, and (3) working on your resume for 30 minutes. 
    • Start exercising by walking for 20 minutes three times during the week.
    • Take one social step, like making a phone call to arrange a future dinner with friends.
  • Do research and notice trends.  While you’ve been busy in your day job, you may not have been tracking developments in your professional area or in fields that are just a step or two a way.  Your job-related steps should include looking around, seeing who is making contributions, money or headlines.  Read everything you can, but don’t stop there.  Look for conferences and associations where you can learn from people working in fields not far removed from yours.
  • Network methodically.  On your list of steps will be the names of people who might be willing to brainstorm with you.  Include not only those you’ve known well over the years but also professional acquaintances who seem career savvy.  Then work your list. Set up coffee dates, or find other ways to visit with just about anybody who might be able to spot trends or suggest opportunities.  Ask your contacts if they can suggest others who might be willing to talk with you. If people are too busy to help, they’ll let you know.  And, if they are willing to chat, know that someday you’ll be able to return the favor or pay it forward with another job seeker.
  • Engage on-line.  Social media now are playing a huge role in the hiring process.  Job seekers today are at a disadvantage if they don’t at least have LinkedIn profiles.  And Twitter is a tool that will allow you to connect with recruiters and others you might not be able to reach by phone or email.
  • Learn something new.  Taking classes is an excellent way to pick up new skills and broaden your perspective.  When you are engaged in learning, it helps you see your routine work in new ways and become more creative. And certifications earned through course work can demonstrate your commitment to excellence.  Taking classes at a local college could have the additional benefit of broadening your network.  But if there’s no convenient local option, there are many good providers of distance learning.
  • Volunteer.  If you want to build additional skills, look for ways to get new kinds of experience.  A good starting point can be to join clubs or service organizations.
  • Find a buddy.  Making a career shift can be a lonely process. Find a friend who also is engaged in reinvention and meet regularly to share ideas, networks and encouragement.  You don’t have to have similar careers.  Somebody in a different line of work might offer a new way of looking at things. 

Networking roundup: Building your social network is a big part of preparing for a career shift.  If you want to read more about networking, here are suggestions:

4 networking tips for busy people

Make requests to make friends

A strong network supports career resilience

Work that conference

Tips from great networkers

6 surprising networking tips


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Bev’s Tips on Networking for Busy People

4 Tips for building your network,

even when you don’t have time!

You probably know that a circle of positive relationships is important for every aspect of your life.  Being connected is good for your mental and physical health, and it makes life more enjoyable.  In your professional life, a strong network can be vital.  Connected people stay in touch with trends and opportunities during the good times.  And when a career crisis comes, your network can help you spot the next move and go forward. 

But what do you do to strengthen your network if you don’t have the time or energy for one more project?  Try these networking tips for over-burdened professionals:

1.    Listen & notice.  You probably have casual contact with people throughout your work week.   But in many interactions you’re not fully engaged.   Instead of listening, maybe you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next, or perhaps you’re worrying about another project.  Like most of us, you’re often so distracted that you’re not taking full advantage of your opportunities to connect.  Get more from your routine conversations by becoming more mindful of what others are saying.  In each conversation, focus all your attention on the other person.  If your mind wanders, bring it back to the moment.  You might try arriving at meetings one minute early, and devoting that minute to listening to the person sitting next to you.

2.    Use every occasion.  When you are in networking mode, it makes sense to vary your patterns and get out more often.  But don’t think of “networking” occasions as special events that you attend just once in a while.  Great networkers engage with others wherever they go.  Every time you are out and about, whether it’s at a PTA conference or the gym, there’s a chance to meet somebody who could become a friend.  The goal is to connect with people as often as possible, in a genuine way.  And when you meet somebody new, do follow up, even if it is just with a two sentence email saying what a pleasure it was.

3.    Try a little social media.  My clients sometimes say they don’t want to try social media because it takes too much time.  But I urge most of them to at least sign up for LinkedIn.  At a basic level, LinkedIn operates as both a simple on-line resume and an easy-to-manage interactive address book.  By joining, you make yourself available to folks who may want to reach you.   And you acquire a tool for staying in touch with contacts, even if they move around.  When the time is right, you may choose to go further and mine your LinkedIn network for new connections and useful discussions.

4.    Give and ask for help.  The essence of networking is exchanging help and support with other people.  In a brief, positive interaction, you might simply share a smile or a kind word with the other person.  A key principle is to remain alert to small, easy ways you can add value in any situation.    Look for opportunities to offer a little assistance, or make someone’s day by saying  “thank you.”  At the same time, routinely ask for help.  For more about the smart way to build your network by requesting help, please read my recent post on


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Bev’s Tips on Managing Your Brain

Unleash the power of your mind

to change your brain &

foster surprising achievement

Not long ago, we were taught that your brain is hard-wired and losing cells daily, and there’s not much you can do to change it or slow the process of decline.  But recent breakthroughs in neuroscience research suggest that the human brain is far more flexible, resilient and open to change than anyone ever thought.  You can manage your brain, helping it to grow beyond its current limits.  Your brain can evolve and improve throughout your lifetime, supporting the development of new skills.

Recent years have brought a wave of books that reintroduce us to the brain and explore its amazing potential.  In two of my favorites, leading scientists use ordinary language to describe how the brain works and how we each can use our mind to manage our own brain, whether we’re seeking greater achievement or a happier life.

Perhaps the most intriguing is by Alzheimer’s scientist Rudy Tanzi and prolific spiritual and medical writer Deepak Chopra.  Their book is “Super Brain – Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness and Spiritual Well-Being.”

“The human brain can do far more than anyone ever thought,” Chopra and Tanzi say. The brain is malleable. Because of its “neuroplasticity,” your brain is constantly changing.  And you have the power to promote and help shape that change.  This can be the “golden age for your brain,” they say, and you can develop a “super brain.”  Your super brain will help you to thrive on activity and change, staying in a good mood despite the unexpected.

The Emotional Life of Your Brain” is written by another influential neuroscientist, Richard Davidson, and respected science writer Sharon Begley.  You can train your brain to shift your “Emotional Style” to one that is more resilient, positive and aware, according to Davidson and Begley.  Your Emotional Style is your way of responding to experiences and challenges, and is governed by identifiable, measurable brain circuits.  Through simple exercises and practices like meditation, you can rewire your circuits and change the way you function on a daily basis.

Here are 4 tips for using your mind to transform your brain:

  • Manage your thoughts.  “The first rule of super brain is that your brain is always eavesdropping on your thoughts.  As it listens, it learns,” say Chopra and Tanzi.  In other words, if you think limiting thoughts like, “I can’t remember a thing,” your brain will perform in a way that is consistent with your expectations.  But you can push your brain to a higher level of performance, including by “trading out toxic beliefs,” adopting a higher vision and enthusiastically learning new things.
  • Become more adaptable.  Highly successful people, like Albert Einstein, aren’t simply more intelligent than the rest of us.  According to Chopra and Tanzi, they use their brain in a way that is keyed to success.  And the “key is adaptability.”  Einstein developed the strengths of “Letting go, being flexible and hanging loose.”  Instead of remaining stuck in the same old behaviors you, too, can become more adaptable.  You need to stop repeating what never worked in the first place.  And “See righteous anger for what it really is – destructive anger dressed up to sound positive.”
  • Express gratitude.  You can make your Emotional Style more positive through exercises that promote well-being, say Davidson and Begley.  They suggest you “Pay attention to times you say ‘thank you.’ When you do, look directly into the eyes of the person you are thanking and muster as much genuine gratitude as you can.”  And at the end of each day journal about your moments of gratitude.
  • Try mindfulness meditation.  By meditating, you can change your brain and become more self aware and resilient.  Davidson and Begley suggest you try out mindfulness meditation with a simple technique involving awareness of breathing:
  • Sit upright on the floor or a chair, with a straight spine and a relaxed but erect posture.
  • Focus on your breathing, on the sensations it triggers in your abdomen and throughout your body.
  • Focus on the tip of your nose, noticing the sensations with each breath.
  • When you are distracted by unrelated thoughts, simply return your focus to your breathing.


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Monkey Business, Unequal Pay & Fairness

I’m attending a course on negotiation at Harvard and we were shown a  one-minute clip from Frans de Waal’s TED talk on Moral Behavior in Animals (full video here):


Capuchin monkeys are fed different foods and the monkey fed a less desirable food has a surprising reaction to it.

Silver Medal Universities and Unhappy Faculty

Medalists: Gold, Bronze & Silver

As the memory of the London Olympics fades into the rearview mirror, an interesting piece of psychological research gives us a clue to the origins of a certain kind of dysfunction in a number of universities.  Researchers have noticed that among medalists in the Olympics, gold medalists and bronze medalists tend to be happy campers, living happy post-Olympic lives, and that silver medalists tend to be dissatisfied wondering what might have been.

The problem according to one research study (here) is “what if” or counterfactual thinking and the idea is straightforward.  When gold medalists consider what might have been, the counterfactual thoughts that run through their minds are all negative (“I might not have won the gold medal!!”) and they are justifiably grateful for the result they achieved.  Similarly, bronze medalists when they consider what might have been, concentrate on the negative possibility of getting no medal at all, and they too are happy with their result.

Silver medalists, on the other hand, are different.  When considering what might have been, silver medalists consider the counterfactual possibility that if they had only tried a little harder that they would have won the gold medal.  This counterfactual opportunity causes them dissatisfaction at the time of the event and for periods of time thereafter.

Universities: Gold, Bronze & Silver

Similar reasoning applies to faculty happiness at what we might call gold, bronze & silver universities.  At the top of the heap, the very best universities have faculty who feel blessed to be where they are because counterfactually they would be at a less prestigious place.  At lesser institutions faculty are happy because counterfactually they might not have an academic position at all.

At silver medal universities, faculty members, like silver medal athletes, reason counterfactually how if only things had been a little different that MIT, Harvard, or Stanford would have hired them instead of the very good but not great institution that actually did.  At one university in my experience a commonplace would be to meet faculty members who would say the following:

When I first came here, I expected only to be here a few years, and I blinked and I’ve been here 25 years.  Of course, it’s a great place to raise kids.

The expectation to be in a silver medal university only a few years suggests that a gold medal university will come to its senses (and to the rescue) and hire the silver medalist faculty member away.  That this doesn’t happen is a source of deep career disappointment that often never heals.

Silver Medal Administrators

The dysfunction of a silver medal institution can be pervasive.  Faculty members have a heightened need to seek recognition in an environment unable to dole it out.  Silver medal administrators–due to their own counterfactual thinking–tend to act as if they were gold medalists, and doing so requires them to withhold honors from all but the very best faculty members.  Kudos are reserved for the Nobel Prize winners and National Medalists, and excellent faculty member has trouble getting a mention in a press release.  This cycle of seeking, not giving, and not getting recognition exacerbates individual silver medal feelings, creating a situation that sustains unhappiness and dissatisfaction among a substantial proportion of the faculty.

First Step: Awareness

Matters of status and recognition are difficult ones, but the start of a way out of the cycle of dissatisfaction is for faculty and leaders to become aware of this mechanism and to reflect on the validity of the underlying counterfactual thinking.

Need a Strategic Plan? Consider SOAR in Place of SWOT

In strategic thinking circles, the SWOT model is a commonly used framework for strategic planning and stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  The model is generative and has been helpful to many strategic planners over many years.

Having said this, there’s an alternative that is getting increasing attention called SOAR or strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results.  SOAR grows out of the movement toward appreciative inquiry in which emphasis is placed on considering positive opportunities and possibilities as opposed to problems.  While SWOT spends half of its distinctions on the what might go wrong, SOAR spends 100% of its categories on creating intention for future positive outcomes.

The shift from problem solving to opportunity finding is a subtle one, but results from positive psychology and innovation studies support the approach.   For more on SOAR consider the Thin Book of SOAR and for more on appreciative inquiry consider the Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. 

A Letter to Mr. Churchill: “You Are Not So Kind as You Used to Be”

Garza Baldwin

Guest post by Garza Baldwin,

Below is a nugget that may interest students of leadership. It comes in the form of a letter to Winston Churchill written by his wife Clementine in June 1940, just after her husband became Prime Minister. Speaking truth to power, she makes some observations that we all might wish to preserve in our Emotional Intelligence files. I have excerpted portions of the original post and Mrs. Churchill’s letter, and those interested in the original post can read the full Churchill article here and other letters on the delightful blog called

Full Post Source:

It’s difficult to imagine the stress experienced by Winston Churchill in June of 1940, as WWII gathered pace just a couple of months after he first became Prime Minister. Behind the scenes, however, the weight on his shoulders was noticed and felt by all those around him , so much so that on the 27th of the month, his wife, Clementine, wrote him the following superb letter and essentially advised him to calm down and be kind to his staff.

(Source: Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills, via Mark Anderson)

One of the men in your entourage (a devoted friend) has been to me & told me that there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough sarcastic & overbearing manner ˜ It seems your Private Secretaries have agreed to behave like school boys & ‘take what’s coming to them’ & then escape out of your presence shrugging their shoulders ˜ Higher up, if an idea is suggested (say at a conference) you are supposed to be so contemptuous that presently no ideas, good or bad, will be forthcoming. I was astonished & upset because in all these years I have been accustomed to all those who have worked with & under you, loving you ˜ I said this & I was told ‘No doubt it’s the strain’ ˜

My Darling Winston ˜ I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not so kind as you used to be.

The letter goes on to remind Mr. Churchill of the need for what we now recognize as emotional intelligence, even in times of great organizational stress, and it is comforting to know that  a leader of Winston Churchill’s caliber needed the occasional reminder from loved ones to be mindful of such matters. Read the full post and letter here.

Enjoy, Garza Baldwin

Garza Baldwin is a principal of Baldwin Davis Group (, a coaching and leadership development firm in Charlotte, NC.  Garza specializes in providing such services to law firms and lawyers, other service professionals, and C-suite, senior management and middle management executives.

Calm and the 2nd Agreement

An earlier post (here) talked about understanding the nature of complaints and one royal road to feeling calmer through the speech act of making clearer requests.  This post discusses an important point made by Don Migel Ruiz in his bestseller, The Four Agreements, in particular, a point made in his 2nd agreement, “Don’t take anything personally,” but before getting to that point let me recount a short story of my introduction to the text.

I was introduced to this text by my coach Bev Jones (here), but I must confess that I was a reluctant reader of the book, resisting her suggestion for the better part of 9 or 10 months. When I originally looked at the book in early 2010, it seemed like a lot of soft-side hooey, and as an engineer, my strong left brain resisted the idea that it might contain anything useful for me.  Later, when I was taking training as a coach myself, I had been softened up sufficiently to open and read the book, and I must confess that the four agreements almost immediately blew my mind and changed my life.

The poster to the left reproduces the agreements with some elaboration.  The agreements are easy to state, and not so easy to apply, but if you do apply them, they can result in a calmer, easier existence.  Here they are:

    1. Be impeccable with your word.
    2. Don’t take anything personally.
    3. Don’t make assumptions.
    4. Always do your best.

This post is not the place to go into each of them, and for a fuller treatment, just read the book (here and don’t wait 9 or 10 months to overcome your hooey filter), but I do want to spend a bit of time on the 2nd agreement: “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”

A major source of lack of peace in our lives is the words that people say about us or the actions that they take with respect to us, and our interpretation of those words or actions and our resulting feelings. When someone says something that offends us, for example, there are three distinct parts to the chain of events:  (1) The thing said, (2) our interpretation of it, and (3) our emotional reaction to our interpretation.  Two of the three things are occurring in our minds, but oftentimes we experience the three collapsed into one.

This unity of experience is revealed in the way we talk about such events, words such as “He made me feel bad,” “She snubbed me at the party.” and the like, but the simple decomposition of the discrete events (speech or act by another, interpretation, and feeling) shows that there is a way to nip the bad feeling in the bud by refusing to interpret the words or deeds personally.  In other words, when you are about to feel bad as a result of something someone says or does (or doesn’t say or doesn’t do) with respect to you, invoke the 2nd agreement.

When I first discuss this with clients, they tend to resist, and say that it is impossible.  After all, how could you interpret the act any other way? It was intended, wasn’t it?  But even when harm or insult is intended, we have a choice, and recognizing that we are always in choice about our interpretations (and thus our feelings) is liberating in a way that is hard to fathom at first.  The trick to this is catching the reaction before it happens, and neuroscientist Dan Siegel says that we have a magic quarter of a second to invoke our awareness before a reaction takes place. If we use this quarter of a second, and invoke the 2nd agreement, we can have greater and longer lasting calm, even in the face of controversy or other external turmoil.

To get on the road to greater calm, read The Four Agreeements here or visit Don Migel Ruiz’s website here.


An Engineering Education Tops Disciplinary ROI

CNNMoney reports that of the 15 top college majors, ten are in disciplines of engineering or engineering technology.  Here’s the list and the associated salaries:

  1. Pre-med $100,000
  2. Computer systems engineering $85,000
  3. Pharmacy $84,000
  4. Chemical engineering $80,000
  5. Electrical and electronics engineering $75,000
  6. Mechanical engineering $75,000
  7. Aerospace and aeronautical engineering $74,000
  8. Computer science $73,000
  9. Industrial engineering $73,000
  10. Physics and astronomy $72,200
  11. Civil engineering $70,000
  12. Electrical and electronics engineering technology $65,000
  13. Economics $63,300
  14. Financial management $63,000
  15. Mechanical engineering technology $63,000

Even the non-engineering disciplines in the top 15 are quantitative in nature.  Read the full article here.