Guest Post: To Lean IN or ON, That Should be the Question
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Guest Post: To Lean IN or ON, That Should be the Question

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On a recent business trip, woefully behind on reading, I thumbed through the September edition of Real Simple because I noticed an article on mentorship featured on the magazine’s cover. Written by ...

On a recent business trip, woefully behind on reading, I thumbed through the September edition of Real Simple because I noticed an article on mentorship featured on the magazine’s cover. Written by Sarah J. Robbins, the article headlined “Forget about leaning in. What about leaning on?”

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Guest Post: To Lean IN or ON, That Should be the Question Guest Post: To Lean IN or ON, That Should be the Question Document Transcript

  • Guest Post: To Lean IN or ON, That Should be the Question Authored by: Megan McCann – McCann Partners, President and Founder. First seen on Built In Chicago blog (11/6/13) On a recent business trip, woefully behind on reading, I thumbed through the September edition of Real Simple because I noticed an article on mentorship featured on the magazine’s cover. Written by Sarah J. Robbins, the article headlined “Forget about leaning in. What about leaning on?” As a co-founder of ARA, an organization aimed at attracting, retaining, and advancing women in technology, the topic of mentorship is top-of-mind and a foundational influence for why my co-founders, Jane Gilligan Hamner, Managing Director and Vice President for Harvey Nash and Leslie Vickrey, CEO and Founder of ClearEdge Marketing, and I founded ARA earlier this year. In partnership with the Illinois Technology Association (ITA), ARA Chicago will host four locally-based events annually. We have expansion plans slated for early 2014 to include the New York and Seattle markets. Coincidentally, not long after the launch, the three of us had an opportunity to see Sheryl Sandberg, best-selling author of Lean In and Facebook Chief Operating Officer, speak thanks to an event hosted by Crain’s Chicago Business. From my seat, Sandberg’s presentation was met with mixed reviews. And, while I have yet to read her book from cover-to-cover, I would say she neither speaks the truth nor tells tall tales. She simply shares perspective, based upon life experience and I am going to do the same. Robbins’ article explains that “Sandberg calls the wish for a mentor ‘the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming.’ She [Sandberg] writes, ‘Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after.’ The implicit message: The notion that there is a person out there who is poised to make all your dreams come true teaches women to be too dependent on others.” The feature continues, suggesting that “a good mentor is hard to find.” I suspect those seeking a husband/life partner, a business associate, heck even a close confident, might feel the same. I surely do! So, wherein does the difference lie between leaning in and leaning on? We, as individuals, not just women, cannot rely singularly on any one factor or person to contribute to the achievement of our goals, whatever they might be. Instead, it is our responsibility to seek a variety of resources to support our journey both by leaning in and on those we meet along the way as they will equip us with insights and perspectives, all of which will help and influence the path we take. Mentorship is a key component. Mentorship is about surrounding yourself with those who have faith in your potential; advocate on your behalf; encourage risks but challenge decisions and;
  • have your back. In a sidebar to Robbins’ feature, Sylvia Ann Hewett, CEO and President of the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation, highlights these qualities as representative of “a supercharged mentor.” I could not agree more. My interpretation of “leaning on” is characterized by learning while “leaning in” by support. Both are cornerstones of any productive and meaningful mentor/mentee relationship. They are often reciprocal and, ultimately, both are necessary because nothing works in a vacuum. Bottom line, whether via male or female mentors, it is in ALL our best interests to surround ourselves with people who can help us realize how to be our best and achieve the goals that are of greatest importance. It is not about happily ever after because no one person—except our self taking proactive measures—will poise us for making all our dreams come true. Dreams coming true are the reward for hard work. Finding the appropriate support network to lean IN and ON is just one part of the equation.