I had the good fortune of being influenced by a visionary. Frank Moran was a champion for women executives back when author Sheryl Sandberg was in elementary school. In the 1970s, he asked a very successful Plante Moran partner, who happened to be a woman, to help the firm figure out how to best recruit, develop, and encourage young women executives. The firm did a lot of things right — and I’m sure we did a few things wrong — but our intent was always pure.
I found Sandberg’s book, Lean In, refreshing. So often, people try to portray themselves as super-human, but I found Sandberg to be very transparent, and I think her book is a must-read for business women and men. I thought Chapter 7, “Don’t Leave Before You Leave,” was especially relevant. I have several very successful executive clients who are women, and I have encouraged each one of them not to say, “I’m not interested in being CEO (or whatever).” You never know where you might climb, and why exclude yourself from consideration some day? You can always say “No, thank you,” if you’re not interested when an offer is made, but why would you drop out prematurely?
Sandberg also does a very nice job of discussing mentoring in Chapter 5, and talking about giving and receiving developmental feedback in Chapter 6. She offers terrific advice to both women and men.
If you’re a leader and you have female executives, do you really understand their special challenges? What would they say if I asked them?