What do you do if you aren't a hilarious comedian or a Nobel peace prize winner? Just be honest with yourself. This is what Lean In author and Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg told students at her alma mater, Harvard last month.
Sandberg's talk focused on the value of honesty, accepting "hard truths" at work and in our private lives. While Sandberg's messages may seem almost commonsense, it is her personal stories and anecdotes which invite us to ask ourselves: how can we listen intuitively to ourselves and accept our hard truths in our work and also, in our private lives? Here are a few key lessons from her talk.
Acknowledge the hard truths
Sandberg told students "I can't be as funny as Amy Poehler, but I am going to be funnier than Mother Teresa". She urged them to be truthful, not only with themselves, but also with others, and to listen carefully when someone is telling the truth.
"We don't always see the hard truths, and once we see them, we don't always have the courage to speak out. "
She recounted a story about how, her first boss told her that deferring law school for the second time was perhaps a sign that she shouldn't go, and that she seemed to only want to go because her parents encouraged her to. She decided not to go.
Sandberg spoke of the importance of soliciting feedback and taking criticism on board. Feedback is a critical professional skill to master, she said.
Nothing is someone else's problem
"Nothing at Facebook is someone else's problem," reads Sandberg's favourite sign at Facebook HQ. She told students, "I hope you feel that way about the problems you see in the world, because they are not someone else's problem."
And what about the sexist invitation she received from a prominent Silicon Valley executive to speak at an all-male members' club in California? Instead of politely declining, she told the club owner that she would not speak to any group that would not admit her as a member. "Really," she said, "A year after Lean In, this dude thought it was a good idea to invite me to speak to his literal all-boy club."
Her response was shaped by her strong views on truth and honesty: "I wrote a long and passionate email arguing that they should change their policies." The club's leaders wrote back to me and said change would come "eventually".
Finishing up, Sandberg reflected that "Our expectations are too low," she said. "'Eventually' needs to become 'immediately.'"
See the address here.
This article was written by guest author Petra Zlatevska.