Lean In, Approachably

Easter weekend I needed to drive a long way home by myself.  To keep myself awake, I downloaded Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In”.  And then promptly listened to the radio instead for the 5 hour ride, singing at the top of my lungs.

This week I realized my trial subscription to Audible was soon to run out, so it was time to see if audio books were worth the monthly fee.  Each morning I’ve put in my earbuds and listened to the narrator read through Sheryl’s description of and advice for women in professional fields.  Interesting stuff, mostly.  Since I’m already ‘leaning in’ in every way possible, it’s mostly interesting from an anecdotal, other folks have been there kind of experience.  And then an experience today resonated with a big old ‘bong’.

Today I got told that I’m seen as ‘unapproachable’.  Thankfully, not by members of my team: if I’m not approachable to them, they won’t be able to share information that’s key for our collective success.  No, I’m deemed ‘unapproachable’ by members of our client’s advisory team, or at least, that’s the word from my client.  Tomorrow I’ll be following up with the original source…  But today’s the first day where I started to appreciate Sheryl’s statements of how important it is for women to come across as likeable, how that so resonates with folks inherent understanding of women that anything other, any other primary focus causes basically a cognitive dissonance (my phrasing, not hers).  My focus hasn’t been on being likeable; it’s been on helping my team be effective, in helping the advistors be effective in interacting with my team.  Likeable doesn’t enter into it, and isn’t my aim.  Trustworthy, accomplishing things, focused on accomplishing the right things, overcommunicating, … those are the things on which I pride myself.  You don’t like me?  That’s OK, so long as we can still work productively together.  In fact, I’ll respect our working dynamic all the more, actually, if I think we’re making things happen for a reason beyond some likeability factor.  Our relationship is a work relationship: if it proceeds into a friendship, great.  But in the meantime we’ve got work to get done.  I’ll schmooze in the context of work…

Uh, note that I’ve heard no such feedback on my male teammates, who’ve made much less effort….   Hence the mental connection to Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts….  And high level of annoyance.




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