Lean In – Women, Work and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (Book Review)

Lean In – Women, Work and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (Book Review)

Hi friends!

I was in a career seminar a while ago when the speaker highly recommended Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I finally got to read the book, and I have to say that it totally lives up to the hype!💃🏽💃🏽 The book is thought-provoking, educative, informational and at the same time, quite honest and vulnerable. Throughout the book, Sheryl manages to combine personal stories from her winding career journey, with research – based facts.

I loved it! 🔥

In this book, the writer advocates for women to take their place in the workplace and particularly in leadership positions. She applauds the ongoing fight against institutional and external barriers that prevent women from taking chances, advancing and leading at an equal pace with their male counterparts; the author however recommends that women must also tackle internal barriers to their progress – all the ways that we usually hold ourselves back.

It is a call to stop leaning back, but rather to lean in!

I do not agree with everything said in the book. For instance, I am not a fan of constantly and completely comparing women with men, when we know that both genders are physiologically, biologically and otherwise different. But I stand with the writer in saying that those differences should be the very reasons for us to stay compassionate and proactive in helping women overcome the barriers to their upward movement in the work environment, because we need them at the top!

Below are 8 career tips that I garnered from the book.

I mean, who better to take career advice from, other than a woman who was once the Chief of Staff at the US Secretary of the Treasury, a Vice President at Google and now the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook? 😮💃🏽🎊

Career choices: Sheryl recommends that one should prioritizes opportunities that afford potentials for growth above job titles one might prefer. For instance, when companies grow quickly, they tend to have opportunities that can expose one to more responsibilities as the company may not have enough hands to do the work. Also, staying too long in the same department or organization causes a form of inertia. In order to prepare for leadership, one must actively pursue different experiences.

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” Ladders only allow vertically translational movement—it is either people are moving up or they are going down. With jungle gyms, there is a lot of room for “creative exploration”. This is great news especially for women who find themselves at different points starting or switching careers, tackling external barriers or rejoining the workforce after taking time off.

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

Sheryl Sandberg

Growth: Our advancement requires both focus and flexibility and for this, the writer advises adopting two concurrent goals: a long-term dream (the big picture) and an eighteen-month plan. She shares that she tries to set more personal goals like learning new skills in the next few months.

“In many cases, women need to be more open to taking risks in their careers.”

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success. Professional advancement relies on the value that people perceive that the employee delivers. She alludes that men generally feel more comfortably with claiming credit for what they do. But for women, sometimes, taking credit can be really costly yet it is necessary.

“Sit at the Table!”

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Mentorship: Although mentorship & sponsorship have been greatly emphasized in recent years, the writer informed that asking someone you rarely know to become your mentor is awkward. (Who else found this point quite table-shattering? 😁🤭) She opines that pursuing such connection with a near-stranger hardly ever succeeds. According to research, mentors choose protégés based on potential and performance. They select people intuitively, and will usually only continue as the mentees maximize the opportunity, keep up growth efforts and stay respectful of their time. Sometimes, this basic professional relationship progresses into friendship.

“If you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.”

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Criticism: Sheryl quoted Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, who stated that learning to withstand criticism is a necessity for women. Sheryl confided that she wishes I were strong enough to ignore what others say, but experience tells her that she often can’t. (I know what you mean, mamma! 😢) Allowing herself to feel upset or very upset, and then moving on is the best she can do. (Same here!)

Taking career breaks for maternity, the author states that she has observed that women sometimes refuse job opportunities or stall their career progress because they envisage that they may have a baby in the coming months or years. She argues that “the time to scale back is when a break is needed or when a child arrives… The months and years leading up to having children are not the time to lean back, but the critical time to lean in.”

Women must support and validate other women! “Mothers who work outside the home should regard mothers who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option.” I did not bother to rephrase the last 2 sentences because…they simply looked perfect and I couldn’t bring myself to alter those lines! A shout 🔊 out to all the men who support and encourage the women in their lives – you guys are the real deal!

Women must support and validate other women. Men should support women as well.

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Hey, do you all know what it means to be “relentlessly pleasant,” how to “combine niceness with insistence”? Apparently, it is yet another skill that female leaders need under their belt. I will let you read the book to get all the juice! 😜

Good news! The narrative is changing. I mean, there is still work to be done with supporting and promoting women in the workforce, but guess what? In the last several months, most of my bosses have been women. One time, my boss, my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss 😊…up to the highest level were women. Plus, I see several examples of successful women around including my very own mother 🥰 who built a successful business while raising her children in partnership with her husband. How inspiring! 🙌🏽

Until next time, this is me choosing to lean in, to show up, and to keep faith. We move!🚶🏾‍♀️✌🏽

SUCCESS & SERENITY

SUCCESS & SERENITY

I have written a number of blog posts on academic success in the past but in this article, I am so excited to be drawing specifically from a recent personal experience.

A couple of years ago, I decided to enrol in college for a one-year course to hone my skillset and prepare for a professional exam.

From the onset, I told myself that I was going to excel in the program. I had a lot of motivation for this goal. Firstly, it was important to me to prove to myself and my loved ones once again that if I gave a pursuit my best, I could ace it and bring something beautiful out of it. Also, as a recent immigrant who wished to pave her path in her new country, I wanted my result to be a testimonial to my competence. 

However, there were a few small complications that seemed to position themselves against my target.

  1. I was pregnant throughout the course of the program, having to combine the unique ride that is called “first-time pregnancy” with school work. In addition, looking at the school year calendar, there was the slight chance that I would not be able to complete the course before my baby arrived.
  2. The program I went in for was heavily team-performance-based, meaning that if your team has an A in a project, then you have an A. But if your team flukes, sorry that would also be a Fail for you. And you, dear reader, will agree that human beings are not the easiest to manage.

In spite of these and many other unlisted obstacles, I am glad to say that I did in fact complete the course successfully and even made it on the Dean’s honours list. 

Wow! I was beyond thrilled. It meant so much to me because I looked back to all the times when I was nauseous, sickly or simply worried that I might not actually complete the school year at the same time as my colleagues. I looked back at the time when I performed rather poorly in a test and almost gave up hope of making a distinction in that course. So, you can imagine the ecstasy I experienced when we graduated and I received the congratulatory mail whilst cuddling my baby. God is indeed gracious and He is the giver of all good gifts.

I cannot in all sincerity take credit for everything that went into succeeding with flying colours because I had the kind help of my darling husband, my parents and siblings, my friends, my team members, my other classmates and my professors. In fact, there was a lot that I had no control over. 

However, I would like to mention 3 tips regarding academic success from that experience. It is interesting that the 3 recommendations I have are found in the the Serenity Prayer, commonly quoted thus:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

The Serenity Prayer

One key to success in life is to ride on the things we can change and to rest on the things we can’t.

For exploits in academics and other life endeavours:

  1. Get a strong head start
  2. Add an extra to the ordinary
  3. Rest to the things you cannot personally change

A Head Start:

Getting a strong head start is something I would almost always recommend for any life endeavour. As much as possible, do something early in the game that can influence your outcome positively. The advantage that your head-start gives you would especially come in handy when you hit some murky waters ahead. It would provide a cushion to bounce back on.

In my case, a dear friend of mine volunteered to give me a tour of the campus before school opened for the year. Then she shared with me a tool on excel that I could use to stay organized and ahead on my deliverables throughout the semester, which turned out to be quite helpful as the program progressed.

Getting a strong head start in an academic pursuit also involves getting the required reading materials early on, choosing like-minded study partners, rearranging your schedule and planning your next several months to accommodate study time, making a study time-table, attending tutorial classes ahead of the semester, and so on. 

Getting a strong head start is something we can control, it is a part we can influence. And when we do, we enhance our likelihood for success.

Do the extraOrdinary:

To excel implies that one performed above average, one had additional touches beyond the basic, an icing on their cake. The bare minimum does not cut it.

Back in my first year in the university years ago, my slogan was “My best for God.”

My best for God! 

Four little words so powerful and profound, they drove me to long hours in the library, haha.

I did not share the slogan with anyone. I simply wrote the words in my personal notebook where I could stumble on them and be stirred afresh to work hard.

This time around, extraOrdinary for me meant being present at every single class, no matter how boring that professor was or how much my lower back ached especially towards the last trimester of pregnancy. It meant turning in every assignment, including the ones that had just 1 mark attached to it. It was just 1 mark out of 100, right? What difference could that make? A world of difference, actually. That was the extra in my ordinary.

ExtraOrdinary for me meant taking on a little bit of extra work in the tasks that were demanding, including pulling my weight when a team member was unavailable. It is the same in a relay race (and in most daily activities). If one person drops the baton and the whole team does not complete the race, it ends up being a sad day for all.

I wonder what might be the extra, the little final brush that would ensure the success in your next endeavour. Perhaps a kind word, a reminder email to a team member, or a few hours in the midnight.

The extra is another thing we can change. That too we can influence – the extra in our ordinary.

What is the Christian motivation for excellence?

I have to clarify that doing the extraordinary does not in any way encourage an unhealthy obsession over success, distinctions or fame because our identity as christians is not founded on anything that we acquire or possess. Our identity is rooted in the fact that we are deeply loved by God just the way we are, and this has nothing to do with whatever we have or do. Just loved. Absolutely loved.

Our identity as Christians is not founded on anything we possess. It is rooted in the fact that we are deeply loved by God just the way we are. Just loved. Absolutely loved.

ExcellerBlog

That said, the basis for reaching towards excellence as Christians should be that we want to be all that God wants us to be.

I pray that God will spark and sustain in us the desire and strength for the extraordinary. Sometimes, it gets wearisome. Other times, we couldn’t care less and there’s no real passion to pursue excellence. It takes God to spark the drive in us.

Rest:

Do your best and leave the rest.

There is a tendency to feel worked up over the things we cannot control. We spend a considerable amount of time worrying or complaining about them. But what good does that ever do? For instance, throughout the school year, I often wondered if the dates would align to enable me complete my course at once. I may also have whined a bit the few times when my team members were not pulling their weight, lol. But no matter how long I thought about those things, they weren’t in my power to change. So, I confided in a few friends and my family to pray that somehow the calendar would work in my favour. I did what I could to cover my team’s bases. And God did the rest!

It may look like this last tip is a passive activity in achieving one’s goals but it is an equally important one! Rest. Rest over the things you cannot change by yourself and enjoy divine serenity in the process. Once it comes into your thought to worry you, convert that thought to a sentence of prayer. You may not be able to change everything but God can! He can control seasons, kings, world leaders, inanimate objects and wicked people. And yes, He will control them all in our favour!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

Philippians 4:6-7

As we launch into a new week and month, may the Lord show us everything that we should do to change the things we can, and fill us with rest over everything we must trust Him to do.

Exam Fever???

Exam Fever???

exam

Examination anxiety disorder popular known as ‘Exam fever’ is the emotional, psychological, mental and sometimes physical ill health that students face as they approach tests and examinations.

It is often characterized by a feeling of extra tension, worry, fear of failure, withdrawal or depression, crankiness, lack of concentration, inability to be organized and in extreme cases, real panic attacks.

So, usually you are a cool, calm and collected dude/damsel. But you can’t explain why examination periods are your most dreaded seasons. Some things you learned just grow wings and fly from your memory. Or you suddenly start to feel a dark cloud in your mind, a scary voice whispers to you that you are definitely going to fail! Butterflies in your stomach always dancing kenkediike. Your heart drumming louder than military band. Guess what? Doctor diagnoses that you may be sick with exam fever. *lol* Do not feel too bad because almost every one faces it, but in different degrees.

CAUSES of Exam fever may include:

  1. Lack of or inadequate preparation for a subject.
  2. ‘Crash jacking’ i.e. waiting for only few weeks to exams before starting to read.
  3. Rumors that a particular subject or teacher is difficult
  4. Past experiences of failure

Of all these, I realized that the ultimate cause of exam fever for a Christian is removing one’s trust in the Lord and putting it on yourself. When we depend on our own efforts to succeed and lose faith in God, we mount pressure on ourselves and get into a critical, unpleasant situation. When Peter lost sight of Jesus while walking on water, He started to sink.

SOLUTIONS:

  1. CONSCIOUSLY SHIFT YOUR DEPENDENCE TO GOD: This is very important. Sometimes, our confidence quietly and subtly shifts from God to our own efforts, intelligence and abilities. And that is when we get results that have been marred by pride and human limitations. You must deliberately restore your hope on God in the place of prayer. Praying for your examination is an act of faith that says, “Lord, I have prepared for my examinations but despite my preparations, my hope to excel is on You. Grant me resounding success in this exam, I know that You can and You will, in Jesus’ name!”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In every of your way, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path (Prov. 3: 5 – 6). Remember that God your Father loves you and is committed to your future (Jer. 29:11). Pray before and after every examination to reaffirm your faith in Him. You can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you.

  1. PREPARE PROPERLY: Before each exam, study the lecture notes and practice questions on it. Discuss and solve problems with your course colleagues. This is the way to ensure mental preparedness. There is a fear that creeps in when you know that your brain is blank and you have not learned enough. It is a worse situation.
  2. ATTACK YOUR FEARS WITH THE WORD OF FAITH: Learn and master God’s promises to you as a Christian student. Speak those words to yourself until the fear in your heart is dispelled. Watch for your unguarded moments when those fears come back. FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real, so do not believe the lies of the devil. Believe the truth of God’s word.
  3. REMEMBER YOUR PAST VICTORIES: Like David before Goliath, remind yourself of the victories when you met lions and bears in the wilderness. Remember other examinations that you passed. Let those be fuel for your faith. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

  1. Eat very well during your exams period. Take a lot of milk if you are not allergic to it. Ensure that your mind and body are working at their optimum. Remember that studying is an energy – consuming activity on your brain and body.
  2. Take adequate sleep. Rest and sleep have a refreshing effect on our minds. Do not let the pressure of what you still have to study prevent you from taking some much needed rest.

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2Timothy1:7

“…Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit.” 1Corinthians2:9-10

With much love from Excellerblog to you, dear reader friend. We will celebrate your testimony soon!

Tips For Preparing A Study Timetable

Tips For Preparing A Study Timetable

“Study to show yourself approved to God…” II Tim. 2:15

A few of my friends have bitterly asked. Why do they spend time studying and end up forgetting during the examinations? How do they deal with the pressing needs of assignments, practical reports, long course outlines and approaching examinations without crashing?

I wish to ask, Do you have a study timetable?

A study timetable is as important to a student as the rainy season is to a farmer, or as a compass is to an unknown-land traveler. In other words, without a study timetable, a student is likely to be uncertain about his academic results or worse still, he could feel completely lost.

The best way to learn in an organized manner and to prepare for examinations is to use a study timetable.

At the beginning of every new semester, it is imperative to prepare a fresh timetable that will cover the work for that semester.

This timetable must be PRIORITIZED. It is more important than your assignments schedule, your surprise tests or other unforeseen contingencies that may arise as the days roll past. Stick to the plan!

Here are a few tips for successfully preparing a study timetable:

  1. List out all your subjects for the semester
  2. Rearrange these subjects in order of importance (credit load/units) and difficulty (some subjects are more difficult than others).
  3. Prepare a template. This should run through the days in a week (Sunday through Saturday)
TIME SUN MON TUES WED THUR FRI SAT
7.30pm – 9.00 pm
3.00 am – 6.00 am
  1. Examine your “academic body chemistry”. This is very important.

You must know the best way and the best time that your brain can assimilate information. Lack of this understanding is the reason why many students give many hours to intense reading but in the examination halls, they forget or perform below their limits.

Do not feel discouraged about this.

Instead, study yourself and master yourself. Then, you can master your courses.

Some students understand at any time of the day. Some understand when they read in the evenings. Others prefer the early hours of the morning.

Some students simply read and they understand. Some read and jot down key points before they can remember. Others have to read, write and discuss aloud before what they read sticks in their memories.

Know your unique academic body chemistry. Read more here.

Armed with this information, then you are ready to draw your study timetable.

For example, if John understands best early in the morning, then he can fix his most demanding courses at that time and the easier courses in the other periods of the day.burning-midnight-oil--large-msg-115465452335

  1. Fix demanding courses on the days of the week when you are usually less busy.
  2. Every day, briefly go through everything that you were taught on that day. Do this as a personal development habit. It aids memory retention.

Experts say that the key to move information stored in your brain from your short term memory to your long term memory bank is to go back to the information within about 24 hours of learning them.

Do not bother to study it deeply. Simply skim through the notes and calculations. This works like miracle. Your mind will draw back scenes from the lecture period as you go through your book. After this is done, you can then go to the subject on your timetable for in-depth study.

The implication of this is that you have to allocate about 30 minutes or less for an overview of each day’s lessons.

  1. Beware of academic time killers. There are some academic activities that will require your attention but are not on your timetable. Deal with these with wisdom.

If you do not take care, you may spend four hours solving an assignment or reporting a practical that you could complete in less than an hour. As important as these may be, they do not weigh heavy on your Grade-Point (GP) and you know it.

  1. Stick to your timetable. Make your timetable Priority Class A. If laziness, boredom or pressure from friends tempt you towards another subject, receive grace to say NO! Do not be discouraged also when you do not complete the schedule for any day. Remember, it gets better. You will get better by God’s grace.
  2. Prepare an interim timetable for Test Weeks and Examination. This will depend on your level of preparedness for each course and the exam’s timetable.
  3. Pray before and after your study every day. Engage the help of the Holy Spirit as you read. He is available to teach you and remind you (John 14:26). Read your Bible everyday too. This will make you wise, wiser than your colleagues, your teachers and the elders (Psalms 119:99).

If you have any further questions about any point listed above, do not hesitate to raise them. The action point is to make a study timetable. Make yours today. We anticipate great news of your resounding success.

With much love,                                                                        Excellerblog

Smell Distinction? 

Smell Distinction? 

Distinction rarely ever comes by chance.
You can smell it from afar.

Yesterday, I went through a stack of assignment scripts from a topic earlier taught in Chemical Thermodynamics. It was a single question, although it had sub questions. As I went through, I noticed the usual; almost every student had copied the same answer –  set and I got bored of making almost the same comments on each paper. Until I had only about 3 sheets left. I went through the next sheet without even checking the name.

Guess what I saw? A painstaking solution of that single problem on 4 sheets of paper with correct answers!

It was then that I checked the name of the student and my surprise metamorphosed to pleasure. This student had made a distinction in a previous certification that he took. Little wonder. He was aiming at yet another distinction and I won’t be surprised if he nails it.

Distinction rarely ever comes as a surprise.

Let me give you 2 simple characteristics of distinctive students:

1. They Start To Source Information Early:

As soon as the semester or year begins, a student that looks to make a distinction begins to gather knowledge on each subject that will be covered. (S)he gets textbooks, past notes and questions, attends tutorial classes and discussion sessions on the semester courses. They do not wait for the eve of Test Week for intensive work to begin. Rather, from Week One, everything becomes serious. Check out those who watch movies, crash (sleep nonstop) and stroll into school for no reason after 3 weeks and you can practically smell Failure or Average performance at the most. 

2. They Add An Extra To The Ordinary:

Yes, distinctive students try to be extraordinary. They check to cross their t’s and dot their i’s. What makes them distinctive is that they stand out in the lot.

So, practical manuals are reported with enough literature review and some diagrams. Assignments are not copied verbatim although they may be solved in a group. Seminars are well prepared and presented. Examination questions are answered with details and workings are shown.

It looks like some hard work but the more often you do it, the more likely you will begin to enjoy being positively different.

Then, your examiners and friends will smell distinction all around you. Do they have an option? Haven’t you heard that the best antidote to discrimination is success? A distinctive man cannot be stopped!

Distinction requires concerted and consistent efforts at getting important things done in the right way.
“And whatever your do, work at it with all your heart as unto the Lord and not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23

We love you! We want to meet you at the top, always!

… Excellerblog

The Experience 7: Applying The Lessons Learnt

The Experience 7: Applying The Lessons Learnt

apply-lessons

After the test, I walked out of the hall, worried and lost. I was disappointed at my performance and couldn’t believe I was only able to attempt just one out of four questions. It was a disaster and below my expectation. I was devastated. As I took calculated steps towards my hostel, I knew I had to do something to avert the slide. We were heading for an unknown period of school strike no thanks to demands from the National Universities Commission (NUC).

We were taking stocks some weeks ago. I was taking stock of my academic life that fateful day. Have you been able to document your life in different fields? I bet you have taken your time to play back 2016. You smiled at some and frowned at others. You wished for a replay of some events and hoped that some others will never occur again.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. -St. Francis of Assisi

There were some highlights you would love to hold on to for the new season. There were some methods that produced so much fruits. There was a reading pattern that helped you pass your exams. There was a bible app that helped you draw closer. There was a routine that made you healthier and happier. There was something that stood exceptionally glorious. There were friends that brought out the best in you. Hold on to them or still look for further improvement.

There were few that held you down and restricted your flight in some fields. There were colleagues that made you feel less of yourself and had a way of talking you away from your divine goal. There were patterns that hindered your activities. There were some activities that drew you away from God. There were some apps that took much of your time. Prune them. End them. Turn around.

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. – Matthew 5:29

Back to my opening experience story, I spent the 2 months NUC strike on that course – Engineering Thermodynamics. For the first time, I bought two past question booklets with answers. One was for Engineering Thermodynamics and the other for Computer Studies. I just didn’t understand the latter. I buried myself in these past question booklets, answering them over and over again. I was still dazed by my performance in that test.

It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act. -The Dalai Lama

These are lessons learnt but they are not just for documentation purposes. They are for your improvement. Wouldn’t you like to be better in the New Year, the new season? There is always room for improvement. You shall have no better yesteryears.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. – Philippians 3:12-15

 


Chibuzor Amos is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the prestigious Federal University of Technology, Owerri and currently a technical professional in an oil firm. He blogs at Soccergunz and Amoscp’s blog.