In response to the widespread publicity on Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, Money Magazine asked me to comment for their counterpoint article Lean Out. I was quoted as advising that if you seek greater authority or higher pay at your current job, you should ask your boss what it would take to get promoted and, “If there isn’t anything you can do, you should be leaning out.”
Since then, readers, colleagues and clients posed some thoughtful questions, which I would like to share, along with my responses:
If I start to expand my circles or upgrade my online profile, what will my boss and coworkers think?
I understand the natural tendency to worry about the outside reaction to your efforts to advance yourself. Rather than viewing this as a solo act or self-aggrandizing endeavor, engage your boss and coworkers in the process – ask for feedback or time to brainstorm your action plan. Present initiatives tied to strategic goals and market objectives, and discuss how you can capitalize on them together.
If you provide internal training and demonstrate and share the depth and breadth of your knowledge within your organization – it reflects well on your entire department. In one case, when I trained a client to speak with the media and introduced him to an editor at The Wall Street Journal, we also invited the CEO to participate in the interview. Hence, my client became responsible for the CEO’s most prestigious press quote to date, while also gaining the same exposure himself.
Can I lean out while still maintaining my primary focus on my current job?
The Lean Out article shares several excellent examples of professionals who decided to leave corporate roles for options which better suit their values. Is this the only way to lean out? Absolutely not!
In fact, when you start to “lean out”, you also increase your chances for promotion within your current company or potentially at another. You can “lean out” in ways that are win-win to simultaneously enhance your career and add to your company’s bottom line. There doesn’t have to be any conflict at all (see the next question).
You recommend leaning out, but how exactly can I? What can I do?
Consider three levels of leaning out, all of which benefit you and your organization:
- Enhance your own professional standing
“This quarter, I will invest $300 to advance myself by…” Reality check: If you don’t invest in yourself, how can you expect anyone else (including your boss) to invest in you? Maybe it’s time to upgrade your LinkedIn profile with details to properly convey your achievements, such as a customer acquisition milestone or the performance recognition award you received but neglect to mention out of modesty. Or, maybe this is the time to take a course you’ve been thinking about for years, buy an elegant new suit, hire a temp to organize the mounds of files in your office. Do whatever works for you, but make it count!
- Extend your company presence beyond your immediate group at work:
“This quarter, I will invite the following 5 people to lunch …” We’ve all heard “It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know.” But beyond that, it’s how well you know them. Seek out those beyond your immediate group at work who can mentor and enrich you – perhaps colleagues with whom you can exchange ideas, and former subordinates who have now gone on to new and higher roles.
- Expand your industry and media presence:
“This quarter, I will step out of my comfort zone by…” Maybe you will talk to the press, lead an event in your area of expertise for your alumni group or attend a trade show to make new contacts. It may be a challenge, but you’ll reap the rewards of increased job security and confidence.
If you are interested in accessible, actionable steps along these lines, my ebook The Power of Professional Presence: Get Their Attention and Keep It! (available on Amazon and iTunes), contains recommendations for kicking your online profile up a notch in Chapter 5, and ways to prepare for and succeed with media interviews in Chapter 6. Please contact me if you have any other questions or comments.