Deep Breath and… Go For It

Sheryl Sandberg speaking at PBWC

“Opportunities are handed to people who reach for them. In those quiet moments when you’re not sure, take a deep breath and go for it.” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, spoke at the Professional Business Women of California Conference in San Francisco last week.

She covered many of the topics she covered in her famous TED talk on Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders; among them, how men will put themselves forward more than women, even if they have the same ability.  She encouraged attendees to be more aggressive about reaching for opportunities, as women tend to underrate themselves.

Sandberg also spoke about how a doctor changed his teaching style after hearing her speak.  Originally, when he did rounds with his students, he would ask a question and students would raise their hands to answer. After he heard Sheryl’s story about how women would lower their hands before men (see her TED talk about 9 minutes in), he changed his method.  He stopped asking for people to raise hands and started cold calling on students.  The result? He felt he was getting better answers and engagement from student with this new method.  I’m not surprised that he was getting better answers. Cold calling in class makes every student prepare more and sweat a lot more in class.

But how do you get better inclusive engagement in the corporate world? I tend to do a mix.  If it’s a general brainstorming session, I’ll ask for hands to get things rolling, then cold call people. That gives people more time to think.  If it’s a decision making session, then everyone is familiar with the subject.  In those situations, I’ll call on the stakeholders who will be most impacted and then I’ll ask for further input.  What works for you?

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