Work, and life advice I hope to follow

I’ve had this video from TEDWomen on my to-watch list for a couple of months. I finally watched it after reading the Metafilter commentary on it and this New Yorker article earlier today.

This video features Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook talking about “why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite”. (Quote taken from TED page.)

You should take the time to watch this whether you’re a woman who works “outside the home”, if you’re home with your family, or if you’re somewhere in between. It’s about fifteen minutes in length.

This video really resonated with me. The three points she talks about are really good career (and life) advice for women at any stage in their career.

It seems that in some circles, there are training programs, mentors and coaching to women (and men) who are on their way up in the business world. These are good things.

What I’d like to know: where are the programs for people (women and men) who are high performers, but not quite management material. The ones who aren’t ready, or (heaven forbid!) don’t have the desire to be in management but want to be high-level individual contributors. What about the people who don’t realize that they would be great business leaders because they are too busy handling their regular job? And because their company is stretched so tight, the powers that be can’t let that high performer stretch beyond their role because they need someone to turn that cog or push that pixel.

How do we develop those people so they feel like they could even climb the next step of that ever-lengthening ladder? Or is the only option that we develop those people so they eventually move into jobs at other companies as the current company simply cannot see that person outside of their current role? How can those high performers help themselves move forward, if being a high performer isn’t enough?

Sorry, I’m getting a little off-topic here.

Another facet of this presentation that impressed me was that Ms Sandberg admitted that she didn’t know the answers and that she was struggling with a lot of the same issues. As a person who has worked as a high-level executive at both Facebook and Google (among other places), I wrongly assumed that she was childless. That she had to sacrifice her personal life to achieve professional success. When she spoke about her children, it reminded me that all parents have the same problems balancing their family, professional and personal lives no matter what their title and salary are. (EDIT: It bothers me that I made that assumption – that the only way to get to the top at work is to sacrifice the rest of your life to your job. It’s unfair to the people at the top and sets unrealistic expectations for those at the bottom.)

I believe a lot of things about the modern workplace are wrong. I’m very intrigued by the ROWE concept. What I’m not sure of is how to fix the workplace to ensure that more people are engaged in their work and producing great things for their companies. I believe that taking the time to think about the points Ms Sandberg makes: staying at the table, owning your success and not checking out before you leave will make me – and anyone else – a happier worker. That will lead to higher engagement and productivity. That benefits company and worker alike.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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