After nearly all the women at PaperG read Lean In, I thought it’d be good to familiarize myself with the actual source rather than rely on the media’s reporting of it. It was particularly fascinating to me since I had never worked full-time post college in another work environment or for anyone else and as a result never faced or thought of some of the obstacles faced by women or junior employees in general. The founders of PaperG have always strived to build a more perfect company culture free of a lot of historical poor choices by legacy companies but that’s of course constantly under threat with every new hire, new process, or new policy we introduce as we scale up from our small group of founders to over 40 people now.
What I found in the book was actually largely relevant to anyone in business and not just women. Here were my takeaways for any entrepreneur who doesn’t want to read all the supporting anecdotes from the book in no particular order (and excluding some of the more women-specific advice):
- Initiative is what matters. "Taking initiative pays off. it is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do."
- Learning and adapting are critical. "There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have"
- You can’t make everyone happy. “When you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress”
- Mentors should be treated as accelerators and not enablers of success. "excel and you will get a mentor" not "get a mentor and you will excel"
- Don’t waste people’s time “catching up.” Contact mentors or acquaintances with insights or thoughtful questions only. You have to add value.
- If you want to learn or you hate company politics, join a growing company even if the role isn’t perfect or defined. "If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on. When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. when companies grow more slowly or stop growing, there is less to do and too many people to not be doing them. Politics and stagnation set in, and everyone falters."
- Figure out what you want of people before you see people. That way you don’t waste precious time discussing general matters but instead focus on the specific opportunity or guidance they can actually help you with.
- Framing matters as opinions can be more constructive and collaborative than insisting on one truth. "There is my point of view (my truth) and someone else’s point of view (his truth). Rarely is there one absolute truth so people who believe that they speak the truth are very silencing of others. Statements of opinion are always more constructive in the first person "I" form. Example: "I feel frustrated that you have not responded to my last four emails, which leads me to believe that my suggestions are not that important to you. is that so?’"
- Show others you are listening by acknowledging their concern, especially if you’re disagreeing or proposing something different. "We all want to be heard, and when we focus on showing others that we are listening, we actually become better listeners"