Book Club: Discussing Lean In – Chapters 4 and 5

October 18, 2016

Looking at Chapters Four & Five

We’re at the half-way point of Lean In. And honestly, we do not want this book to end. We are learning more and more about ourselves the importance of leaning in. What about you? Do you agree with our thoughts on chapters four and five? Take a look and let us know!

Chapter 4: It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder

Initial Thoughts

Jen Barson: I like the analogy that ladders are limiting – you can go up, down or get off. But a jungle gym gives you so many paths to explore. She pushes us to look for the places that have the potential for growth, whether it’s the industry or a section within a company and set that long-term dream but support yourself with an 18-month set of goals as well. I love the idea of building a career with a focus on continuous learning.

Kelsey Walker: I agree with Jen. The jungle gym analogy provides countless opportunities for both professional and organizational growth. At the professional level, it challenges us to think beyond a traditional career path and to push ourselves. At the organizational level, it removes the corporate hierarchy structure that holds so many organizations back. And everyone knows jungle gyms are more fun!


Curt Hammond: It sounds like we all enjoyed the metaphor of the jungle gym. It really is powerful and eye-opening as we build professional development plans with each team member. We work hard to create a culture of learning at Pearl Street, and I hope that puts us in a good place to support every team member with the tools needed to grow professionally. This also ties in with our individual DiSC profiles. Female or male, we all want to add value at work and know it is recognized in ways that are meaningful to us.

Peter Barrow: This chapter reinforces that, whether you think of yourself as an entrepreneur, or not, you need to pursue your career based on entrepreneurial principles: flexibility, a willingness to try new things, less aversion to risk and more openness to opportunity. Mark Carney, world famous Governor of the Bank of England, has repeatedly said that he has no career plan. He looks for opportunities and pursues those he likes. If it works for him, it can probably work for you too.

Key Takeaways

JB: Don’t get stuck on upgrading your title. The more important choice may be a sideways path that presents opportunities to learn new skills. And if that path makes you happier – you ARE moving forward.

KW: It’s all about continual growth. Whether or not it’s a linear path, as Sandberg says on pg. 59, “everyone has room to improve.”

CH: Encourage your team to ask for help early and often. The more we can empower people with the support and tools they need, the better and faster they will get things done. My eight-year-old niece often reminds me that “sharing is caring” (especially when it comes to my dessert). I’m going to start adapting her expression to “sharing is good for the bottom line.”

PB: Pg. 61: “In business, being risk averse can result in stagnation.” A great principle, when asked if you can do something, is to say “Yes” first- and then figure out HOW to do it later.

Chapter 5: Are You My Mentor?

Initial Thoughts

JB: We have often been told to go and find a mentor which is why I found Sandberg’s observations that the, “strongest relationships spring out of a real and often earned connection felt by both sides,” was an eye opener. That no matter how important they are, these relationships often will not work if you ask a complete stranger to be your mentor.

KW: I loved the concept on pg.69 that mentoring is a symbiotic relationship. For it to work, it needs to benefit both people. This is the kind of collaborative thinking that I love about working at Pearl Street. And just as Sandberg mentioned in chapter four that everyone has room to improve, I believe that everyone has something to teach.

CH: I am a strong believer in mentoring and have benefited from it greatly (tips hat in Mr. Barrow’s direction). Many leaders and friends have been very gracious with their time, ideas, and frankness and they collectively have shaped my career and our approach to work at Pearl Street. I like that this chapter helps us think about mentoring relationships as puzzle pieces that need to fit together. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Either way, it’s good.

PB: Interesting perspectives on mentoring, but nothing very new or ground-breaking. It does remind us that very few people, when asked for help, will ever deny it. The trick is to ask the right person for the right kind of help. It does make the point effectively, that mentors tend to be most willing to help when the mentee clearly has potential and a real desire to achieve. Those who ask for help because they are lazy will never get mentors- just enablers.

Key Takeaways

JB: Without realizing it, you have already had many mentors in your life. Just because you didn’t ask them to mentor you, doesn’t mean they didn’t. And conversely, you have probably been a mentor to someone else.

KW: Despite what all the young professional blogs say, finding a mentor isn’t something you can force. It should and will happen organically. Start by establishing relationships and the right people will become your mentors.

CH: Mentoring needs to be a conscious effort. Those of us who have been around the track a few times should be continuously offering to connect with others when you see something in someone that gets you excited. Equally important is for that person to engage in the conversation so they can accept and share knowledge. I also like this idea that mentoring can be project based and doesn’t have to last a lifetime. Unlike debt and speeding tickets, having lots of mentors in your network is a good thing.

PB: From pg.74- “the good news is that guidance can come from all levels”. This is only true if you are willing to seek it out and overcome gender and age barriers. Two of the most successful mentors I know are (a) both women and (b) under 40.

So what did you think about chapters four and five? We’d love to see your thoughts and key takeaways in the comments below, and on twitter using the hashtag #PSBookClub. And make sure you check back on Tuesday, November 15th for our discussion on chapters six and seven.

Happy reading!

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