Thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg and Her Book “Lean In”

Lean InSheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, nationally syndicated speaker and author of the book “Lean In”made the news recently due to the tragic death of her 47-year-old husband, Dave Goldberg while traveling on a family vacation in Mexico.

Ironically, I had been working on a story for my blog that pertained to Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” which was published in 2013. When I originally heard about the book, my first reaction was to hate it. I remember thinking, “easy for Sheryl Sandberg to tell women to lean it. After all, she is the COO of one of the most successful and progressive companies on the planet.” In addition to her success at Facebook, Sandberg had previously held senior management positions with Google and the U.S. Treasury Department. She represented to me sort of the “1 percent” of most working women out there.

Can All Women Learn to Lean In?

Most women I have known over the years didn’t have the luxury of an ultra-high price tag compensation package or of working for a company like Facebook with progressive workplace policies & culture. Many of these women worked because they needed to support their families, put their children through school, or provide a caring home and environment for their aging parents. In other words, I didn’t particularly think her advice applied to these women — the other 99% who might feel pressured not to speak up for fear of financial or professional reprisals.

I have experienced first-hand and through my coaching clients what can sometimes happen when women “lean in.”

 What About Push Back?

At first blush it seems rather obvious and simple. Right? How hard can it be to lean in? I have found, through coaching countless female executive clients and in my own experience as a corporate executive and entrepreneur, it can be plenty hard!

For many women, speaking up can still be challenging for a number of reasons. It seems that many in our society still believe that when a man speaks his mind forcefully he is being assertive, an effective leader per se. But when women speak their minds – especially in the business world — it is often perceived in a negative manner and they can be labeled the “B” word. 

It Really Does Work

But I gave the book a chance, and I liked it. In fact, I thought she provided pragmatic advice to women as to why we should have the confidence to do things like speaking up at a business meeting or conference when we feel strongly about something–even if we are in the minority. Instead of sitting back and deferring to those in power (often still men,) Sandberg suggests we sit forward in our chairs, lean in and speak our mind. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you pick up a copy of the book, “Lean In.” It provides outstanding advice for women.

 The advice Sandberg offers is not only applicable in the workplace, but it is also in our personal lives. So when I read the story about Sandberg’s tragic loss, I realized how fleeting life is. How in an instant our lives can change. And the courage that is required of each of us when we are faced with an unkind twist of fate. Dealing with such a profound loss is perhaps one of the most difficult experiences one could imagine. So in the coming months as she processes the loss of her husband, a man she describes as “her best friend – her rock; the person who makes everything possible,” I hope that she draws upon the great advice she offers to other women. 

Read, Watch and Learn

So, take some time to sit with Sheryl’s message and put some of her suggestions into practice. In addition, I suggest observing Sandberg as she works through her loss and the grieving process. I suspect she will do so with the utmost level of dignity, grace and fortitude. I suspect she will deal with this incredibly difficult period in her life by leaning in.

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A Quiet Mind

chester path_Fotor

We’ve all had those experiences if life when something touches our soul in a profound way. I had one of those experiences recently at an Enneagram training program I attended in the beautiful Connecticut countryside.

The Enneagram is a personality assessment that has been around for ages and is now hitting the mainstream in the coaching profession. The program I attended was a grueling six and a half day affair with sessions that went late into the night–especially difficult for me because I’m a morning person. But I stuck with it; in fact, we all stuck with it: 17 fellow students and two master Enneagram teacher.

Be Present in the Quiet

We began each day with a meditation or chant–a much more difficult task than I expected. I found it to be one of the most challenging aspects of the training: to be present in the stillness with a quiet mind.

Like many working parents, I am always so busy doing: checking email, writing proposals, doing laundry, working out, organizing the carpool, feeding the dog, texting, sending invoices, coaching, making dinner, etc., etc. Just the thought of stopping to take a breath seems implausible. But deep down I have known that I needed to find some way to slow down and be still.

Yoga has been one of the ways I have found to accomplish stillness. Mind you, I was not a big fan of yoga originally. The thought of sitting around humming with a bunch of strangers seemed downright silly. But, after some initial misgivings, I gave yoga a try. You know what? It worked. It is the one place where I can go and find inner peace, a quiet mind so to speak. I have since learned that there are many methods and ways of meditation. It could be prayer, yoga, taking a walk in the woods or any practice that allows us to enter a place of stillness: a quiet mind.

Look Inside to Move Forward

I’ve also learned how necessary it is for personal or career growth to be quiet and listen to yourself to learn what success means to you and how to achieve it.

Sometimes it requires the help of a coach, teacher, mentor, priest or rabbi to find what works best for you. The Enneagram workshop I took did this for me. I have learned so much more about how to look inside and be present.

Find Your Style

Be good to yourself and find the time to pick the practice that works best for you. You just might find that doing so will help you to achieve a quiet mind and state of inner peace. You also might find that you will have a renewed sense of purpose, clarity and energy to tackle whatever life brings – whether it’s about your career or your personal life. It’s amazing how loud the quiet can be if we just listen.

Enneagram 2_Fotor

To learn more about the Enneagram and my work as an executive coach, Contact Us today.

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Spring Cleaning—It’s Not Just for Closets!


Spring has sprung in my part of the country and it brings with it so many wonderful things: daffodils in bloom, birds chirping and the itch to start spring cleaning closets, storage spaces and even the dreaded garage.

Careers Need Cleaning Too!

Many of us get the urge to de-clutter our homes at this time of year, but our efforts don’t have to be confined to our private space or any space at all. In fact, spring is a great time of year to de-clutter our work environment and habits as well.

I find that the best way to start cleaning up my business life is to revisit my objectives for the year: what are the things I really want to accomplish and then take a critical look at the tools, resources, skills I will need to accomplish those objectives.

First, take a look at the physical clutter in your office. I recommend using the 5-year rule: if something hasn’t been used in five years, it means it ‘s time to send that item to the recycle bin. In today’s age of electronic everything, it really isn’t necessary to keep hard copies of materials that are saved electronically.

The de-cluttering concept can also apply to purging old, nagging habits that are no longer serving us well. I have worked with many of my clients to identify what are the skills they need to take them to the next level. Sometimes, it’s even more important to identify what to leave behind.

Old Habits Die-Hard

Old habits die-hard and often we don’t realize what ‘s no longer needed for success in a new role. For example, you may have always been a detail person and that served you well in the early days of a career. But as you move into higher leadership roles, staying too focused “in the weeds” can prevent you from seeing the bigger picture. It might be holding you back from being perceived as more strategic: a valuable skill for leaders.

Working with a coach or mentor is a great way to get an objective look or assessment of your skills in key areas. It’s hard to get this kind of clarity on your own and working with an objective third party might help you achieve greater success in your current role or the next role/assignment you are shooting for.

Shake Out the Dustwebs

So take some time this spring to reflect on the steps you can take to make your work-life less cluttered. By doing so, you just may find that you have more time and energy to focus your efforts on the things that will bring greater career satisfaction and success.


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Play at Work

A friend of mine recently suggested I write a blog about having fun at work. I remember thinking at the time it was kind of a crazy idea – an oxymoron if you will. Just the idea of putting the two words together in the same sentence seemed rather silly.

The more I thought about the topic – the more the concept intrigued me. What if we could find a way to play at work? Surely there must be research out there on the topic. So I did what good bloggers do when facing writer’s block: I Googled it.

Play at work. Right before my eyes came streaming a litany of articles, books, research and – you guessed it, blogs. Even the New York Times had an article in the Sunday paper – actually an obituary – about Brian Sutton-Smith, a professor, author and developmental psychologist who spent his life and career studying play – more specifically children’s games.

And while Sutton-Smith’s loci of study pertained to child’s play, there are some concepts in his theories that can be applied to the workforce such as team building programs, brainstorming and participating in March Madness brackets at work.

I reflected on my own career and times when along with my co-workers we played at work. In my case, the best example was when I worked for a small, entrepreneurial geo-demographic firm in San Diego. We had a blast! We were constantly playing trivia games with one another and spoofs on holidays such as when one of the researchers brought his large stuffed rabbit into the office the day after Easter. Another time one of the staffers road her bike around the main floor of the office to let off steam. Both examples were playful and they worked to create an engaging, creative and fun work environment.

So it turns out that the concept of having fun on the job – play at work – is not such a silly idea after all. In fact, it just might lead to more creativity, job satisfaction, and productivity in the workforce.

Or in the words of the famous poet Emily Dickinson, “It is easy to work when the soul is at play.”

So, the next time you want to shake things up with your staff,  encourage a little fun in the office. Set the tone—try it yourself. It might be just the trick to turn things around. 

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Go Ahead, Harry. Make My Day!


It was Halloween; I was a newly minted MBA who had recently joined the venerable medical supply company, Baxter International.

With my new colleagues, I was at my first quarterly results presentation. Normally given by the division president, on this day his stand-in was the CFO for Global – the wiz kid finance guy, Harry Kraemer. He donned a mask – I can’t remember if it was the Joker or Nixon. Makes no difference. There was no joke about this guy. He was witty, engaging and obviously going places within Baxter and beyond. The folklore is that Harry was the brains behind Baxter’s bold move to acquire American Hospital Supply in 1984. Whether fact or fiction, Kraemer was definitely a man to watch and went on to become the CEO of Baxter International nearly 10 years later.

Fast forward to 2015. His Baxter days long behind him, Harry is thriving in one of perhaps the finest examples of an “encore” career. Having been “run out of town” at Baxter, as he states in his book From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2001), Kraemer now appears to be having the time of his life as a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and executive director at Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm.

In addition to Values to Action, Kraemer has written a new book Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization through Values-Based Leadership (Wiley, 2015). Both are outstanding – well worth the read. He suggests that the most effective leaders must employ techniques of self-reflection and values-driven leadership in order to inspire others. He embodied these principles in his leadership role at Baxter and was the type of leader that you wanted to get behind and work hard to achieve the best outcome.

As I read his most recent book, I remember being inspired by Harry all those years ago. I thought, this is heady stuff in today’s era of corporate leaders who are usually perceived to be anything but self reflective and values-driven. As I closed the book, I felt inspired to incorporate this style of leadership in my work and pass it along to my clients. Thanks, Harry. You made my day.

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Change Management in 8 Easy Steps

A Review of Leading Change by John Kotter

Whether you are looking to change careers, jobs or introduce a new process at your current job, change is never easy. Isn’t it so much easier just to do things the way we have always done them? In the short term, that may be true. But over the long term, stifling change can be a recipe for disaster.

So how do we make change less painful and productive in the work place? One of the most prolific authors and scholars on the topic is John Kotter. His book, Leading Change, offers actionable steps you can take to make organizational changes effective and powerful.

He recommends this eight-step process:

Step 1: Establish a sense of urgency

Sometimes referred to as the “burning platform,” as leaders of change we need for others to understand that the need for change is real and not doing so is detrimental. Kotter recommends for leaders to find this sense of urgency by examining the market & competitive landscape; and identifying & discussing crises, potential crises and most importantly, major opportunities.

Step 2: Create a Guiding Coalition

In other words, who is going to help you implement this massive change? We already know that by nature human beings are resistant to change. So we need to put together a group that is powerful enough (aka has the street cred) to lead the change. But it’s not enough to identify the group, an effective change leader needs to be able to get the group to work together like a team.

Step 3: Develop a Vision and Strategy

You’ve got your posse on board, but now what? As an effective change leader, you need to craft a solid vision that will help direct the overall change initiative or effort. Think of it as the “Big Idea.” And once you have that big idea, you need to develop the strategies for achieving that vision.

Step 4: Communicate the Change Vision

So, it’s not enough to come up with a really profound vision for your change, you need to communicate the rationale for your change effort. And sending one email doesn’t count! You need to communicate, communicate, and then communicate again using every vehicle you can get your hands on. Next, you and your posse need to model the new behaviors that you are expecting from others. That’s right: walk the talk.

Step 5: Empower Broad-based Action

Many a change initiative has failed because leaders were unable to empower their employees to take action. This inability to empower others leads to stagnation and possible derailment of the very vision the leader is trying to create. In addition, leaders need to get rid of the obstacles and change the systems that undermine the new vision. Doing so does not come without risk so leaders need to encourage others to take risks and utilize innovative and out-of-the-box thinking.

Step 6: Generate Short-Term Wins

Be strategic and plan for visible signs of progress improvements or wins. Create additional wins along the way, and celebrate those early wins by recognizing those responsible for making the success possible.

Step 7: Consolidate Gains and Produce more Change

At this stage of the change process, you hopefully have earned some credibility through actions such as generating short wins. Now is the time to build on that momentum and seek out other processes, programs and people support the change. It may require hiring some new individuals, retraining and reinvigorating the process the process through new projects themes and change agents.

Step 8: Anchor New Approaches in the Culture

The final step in Kotter’s process is for the change leader to anchor or reinforce the new culture by making the connections between how the change has lead to organizational successes. This can be done through enhanced communication as well as leadership development and succession. Planning.

Kotter’s complete approach is outlined in his 186-page book, Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press, 1986). Don’t have time to read the book? Check out his articles on Harvard Business Review’s website –

Need help making change happen in your organization?

Contact the Annin Group and start today.

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The Power of a Nap

napping girlPicture that yourself: You’re 19 getting ready to compete in the Alpine ski race of your career, in your hometown, in front of thousands of cheering fans and broadcast on national television. You’re seeking redemption having failed to medal in your last previous races despite the fact you are the reining Olympic Gold Medal Champion.

The stress is palpable. Many a seasoned athlete might crumble from the stress. Not Mikaela Shiffrin, the youngest person ever to win the Olympic gold medal in slalom skiing. She did the unthinkable: SHE TOOK A NAP!!

That’s right. The best skiers from across the globe had gathered to compete in the World Championships to secure their place in history, and the hometown favorite decided to take a nap — and she won.

I have always been a big fan of taking naps. This is not the most popular confession in today’s society with our frenetic pace and obsession with multitasking.

Unplugging, recharging, checking out, call it what you may, I am a firm believer that it works. How many times have we looked at the same spreadsheet only to miss the glaringly obvious mistake in our calculations?  Or the missed opportunity that we dismiss because we are too tired to spend the time it takes to think out of the box and consider something new.

Recharging can take many forms so pick the ones that work best for you. My husband and I like to get away from the frenetic pace of our lives by spending time at our lake home that is far away from the noise and stress. But we don’t always have the luxury to take a long trip so I suggest thinking about those every day activities that allow us to refresh and recharge – take a yoga class, a walk in a forest preserve, or relaxing by the fire with a good book.

The irony is that if we take the time to step back and recharge we can come back to our greatest challenges with a renewed sense of inspiration and purpose.

So the next time you are faced with a challenge, think about the power of taking a nap. And you just might win a gold medal.



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What’s your Dawn Wall?


Kevin Jorgeson & Tommy Caldwell inspired a nation recently by accomplishing a feat many thought impossible: free climbing Dawn Wall, the rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite. After 19 grueling days – representing several years of training and preparation – both climbers were exhausted, but exhilarated upon reaching the Summit.

Here’s what Jorgeson had to say.

“I think the opportunity is for everyone to find their own Dawn Wall.

We had our project that we saw to the end. What’s yours?”

While few of us may have the wherewithal to achieve this feat, we all have the opportunity to set goals, make a plan, and accomplish our dreams. The Yosemite climbers spoke of perseverance, dreaming big, teamwork, and having a positive attitude — skills that each and every one of us can apply as we think about reaching our goals.

This is a great time of year to initiate this process whether you are thinking about changing careers, starting a new job, pursing an advanced degree or getting back into shape.

As an executive and life coach, I work with clients to help identify goals and achieve results. Some clients are very specific about their goals while others are looking for help to jumpstart the process. A great way to get started consists of four steps: mind mapping, assessments, smart goals, and accountability partners.

Mind Mapping & Dreaming Big: Start by using divergent thinking! A mind map is a great tool to help jumpstart the creative process. Start with a central theme or main concept. Write down this idea in the center of a piece of paper and then build out limbs or branches related to that concept. For example, if your main goal is to start of fitness program, branches might include: start walking, join a gym – or even single word concepts such as “yoga.” The branches can be represented by words, phrases, or symbols. Use colorful pens to add flare to your mind map.

You can also use the colors to connect similar concepts from one branch to the other. . There will be plenty of time to critique your ideas – not now. Keep your options open by using brainstorming techniques such as mind mapping. It works and it’s fun. Once you have built our your mind map you can start to create a to-do list by identifying what you have completed and what still needs to be done. A great resource for more information on Mind maps can be found on Wikipedia –

Strengths & Pressure Points Using Assessments: Do you know what you do best? When you felt you were operating in a Zen state? There are tons of assessments out there. My go-to assessments include the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator,) Strong Interest Inventory,  FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior,)  Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EQ,) and Enneagram. They are sound and actionable. There are others and I am always on the hunt. One I’m currently exploring is the Enneagram: age-old but it offers profound insights for our complex world.

Smart Goals & Reaching the Summit: It’s best to identify 3-5 SMART goals: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-bound. Think about a 12-month timeframe, but that can vary depending on the goal. It took the climbers more than 12 months to prepare for reaching the summit of El Capitan. Think about stepping-stones, milestones, and celebrating small accomplishments along the way to stay focused to reach the summit.

Teamwork & Accountability Partners: Teamwork works. We can’t always do it alone. But sometimes we don’t have team members to rely upon. A great technique that I suggest is to identify accountability partners to help us stay on track and achieve our goals. These can be friends, family members, colleagues or working with a coach.

Just like the climbers who accomplished their goal, it takes perseverance, dreaming big, and sometimes enlisting the help of a partner or team member. By committing to these ideals perhaps each and every one of us can find our own Dawn Wall.

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