Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Let me begin by saying that this may be the most difficult review I've chosen to write.  That being we go:

To begin, I'd like to highlight my key observations...and some of the truly positive things about this book.  As a woman, I do find it beneficial to read the work of other women in a workplace setting and learn from their experiences. I have learned the following from Sandberg's book...

On earning respect in the workplace: "women have to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men do. And this is not just in our heads.  A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments." p.8

On Fear: "Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice.  Fear of drawing negative attention.  Fear of overreaching.  Fear of being judged.  Fear of failure...." p. 25

On Feeling like a Fraud (Imposter Syndrome) -  "While both men and women are susceptible to the imposter syndrome...women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it."  In a lecture to professional women, "...Dr Peggy McIntosh from the Wellesley Centers for Women, gave a talk called 'Feeling like a Fraud.'  She explained that many people, especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments.  Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made.  Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can't seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are - impostors with limited skills or abilities."  In a conversation after hearing this lecture, the author was telling a male colleague about what she learned. His response?  "Why would that [topic] be interesting?"  The author joked that the men's lecture that day might have been titled, "How to Cope in a World Where Not Everyone is as Smart As You." 

On Underestimating Ourselves: "Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their own performance as better than it actually is." p. 29  "...when women evaluate themselves in front of other people or in stereotypically male domains, their underestimations can become even more pronounced."  "Author Ken Auletta summarized this phenomenon in The New Yorker when he observed that for women, 'self-doubt becomes a form of self-defense.'  In order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others.  We put ourselves down before others can."  p. 41

On Explaining Failure:  "Men and women also differ when it comes to explaining failure.  When a man fails, he points to factors like 'didn't study enough' or 'not interested in the subject matter.'  When a woman fails, she is more likely to believe it is due to an inherent lack of ability.  And in situations where a man and a woman each receive negative feedback, the woman's self-confidence and self-esteem drop to a much greater degree. The internalization of failure and the insecurity it breeds hurt future performance, so this pattern has serious long-term consequences." p. 30

On Lack of Confidence:  "...a lack of confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy." p. 33  "Owning one's success is key to achieving more success." p.44

On Being More Cautious:  Women are more naturally cautious about things like changing roles in their career.  Men are more likely to chase a new opportunity while women made statements such as 'I'm just not sure I'd be good at that' or '...I've never done anything like that before.'" p. 34  "Women need to shift from thinking, 'I'm not ready for that' to thinking 'I want to do that - and I'll learn by doing it.'" p. 62

On Ramifications of Women Becoming Successful:  "When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women.  When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less." p. 40  Women are expected to be "nice" and when they are aggressive in any form to achieve a goal or advocate for their rights in the workplace, this has negative ramifications.  "...this is why a woman needs to combine niceness with insistence, a style that Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, calls 'relentlessly pleasant.'"  p. 47

On Withstanding Criticism:  "Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, believes that learning to withstand criticism is a necessity for women." p.49.  We can't please everyone.  When Mark Zuckerberg gave Sandberg her first evaluation, he stated that her desire to "be liked by everyone would hold [her] back. He said that when you want to change things, you can't please everyone.  If you do please everyone, you aren't making enough progress." 

My Observation and sense of the book as a whole: The thought that kept recurring again and again (to borrow from Shakespeare) is "methinks she doth protest too much." A large part of the book seemed to be Sandberg dealing with her own guilt as an extraordinarily busy mother because of the high demand of her career.  So much effort went into her research and writing in order to dismantle her guilt complex, that it made me think if its that hard to shake, maybe there is a legitimate reason for it.

Now let me state my position on working mothers: Its fine with me.  Some people are in situations that require it, and for many families in our current economic situation - it is necessary.  I highly respect families that make major sacrifices to keep Mom at home and more available to the family.  My own mother stayed at home for many years when we were small, earned income through in-home childcare, and then went back to work when we were a bit older. I guess I have seen both 'sides.'  Some friends believe that the Bible teaches that women must stay at home, but I do not see that.  It does teach that women are to submit to their husbands and to be caretakers at home. As one scholar stated, Scripture must be interpreted in a global light - many impoverished areas of our world do not allow the luxury of one person working and one at home. Our Good Father in heaven knows and understands each person's unique economic and familial situation and how we can honor Him in the midst of it.  Sandberg's book does give some practical advice and suggestions for working mothers, to figure out how to live the balancing act, including the challenge to the husband to step-up and take responsibility inside the home.

Sandberg is making heavy sacrifices.  She juggles the sacrifices - back and forth between a cost to her family and a cost to her career.  But as I kept reading, I continued to experience an uncomfortable feeling - something just didn't sit right with me.

She refers to an article in The Atlantic in June 2012, by Barnard president Debora Spar. She explores why she and so many successful women feel guilty - "She decided that it's because women 'have been subtly striving all our lives to prove that we have picked up the torch that feminism provided.  That we haven't failed the mothers and grandmothers who made our ambitions possible.  And yet, in a deep and profound way, we are failing.  Because feminism wasn't supposed to make us feel guilty, or prod us into constant competitions over who is raising children better, organizing more cooperative marriages, or getting less sleep.  It was supposed to make us free - to give us not only choices but the ability to make these choices without constantly feeling that we'd somehow gotten it wrong.'" p 167

I understand the idea of misplaced guilt and how powerful it can be.  But sometimes when I feel that deep, continual sense that I'm somehow 'getting it wrong' its because I really am getting it wrong and something, somewhere deep inside of me needs some attention.  As a Christ-follower, that feeling is often the work of the Holy Spirit.  I cannot judge Sandberg's choices, but I can state the following as standards that I want to live my life by...and even my future possible motherhood someday: 

In response to the subtle urge for women to advocate for their own advancementProverbs 27:2 "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth, a stranger, and not your own lips."  In response to aspiring to a high and powerful seat at the table, Jesus states in his parable in Luke 14, "... When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  And again, Proverbs 25:6-7 "Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, 'Come up here,' than to be put lower in the presence of a noble..."

In response to ambition for greater recognition, I choose to believe "It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory."  Proverbs 25:27  In response to the subtle idea that a successful career is a top priority: I choose to believe that it is possible to gain the whole world but lose your soul. (Mark 8:36)  Sacrificing for the sake of one's family is one of the highest honors a woman can aspire to.   In response to the idea of self-promotion and power: I choose to believe that humility in the eyes of God is of greater worth than all of the professional recognition in the world.  I desire the smile of my Almighty God.  The meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).  Psalm 149:4 "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation."

The REALITY is that in making these choices - to choose humility and meekness and possibly family over career advancement is that we as women most likely WILL be overlooked, underestimated, and undervalued.  I have been there!  But it still does not change my decision to live by these convictions because ultimately it is not where my value comes from.

Success = becoming more and more like Jesus. 

In being like Jesus:  it is good to give my life away as a sacrifice to others.  It is good to take a low place and serve in a way that is noticed only by a few.   It is good to sacrifice for one's family and for those whose lives may be made better if I give away part of myself.  And anything I 'lose' on earth in service for others pales in comparison with the glory that awaits because I have followed in the footsteps of my Savior.  Confidence in His Sovereignty and in Eternity mean that I can advance or not advance, be noticed or unnoticed, serve and sacrifice and be JOYFUL in it.

I hope and trust that Sandberg someday will find this JOY.  Reading between the lines in her book, I think she is still searching for something.

For those working mothers who read this blog - your motivation for your work is between you and God and your family, I am not giving any blanket judgments. I honor your hard work and the balancing act I know that it is each and every single day.  May God give you His peace, strength, and direction.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Emotional Intelligence & the Church by Rupert Hayles

In writing this review, I must disclose that Rupert Hayles is an instructor and soon-to-be coach in my life.  In preparing for my coaching sessions on emotional intelligence, what better way than to read my mentor's book?

That being said, I applaud Rupert's bravery.  His research is thorough, but I must say that I feel that the strength of this book lies in his self-disclosure and the story of his personal journey through emotional awareness. 

In this book, Rupert seems to have purposed to (1) explain emotional intelligence to those unfamiliar with it, (2) make the case for how emotional intelligence fits with Scripture and our Christian faith, and (3) give examples of life challenges and changes that we may resonate with, and finally (4) share what he learned in his spiritual life and in the area of his emotions, giving us hope for life change of our own.

For those unfamiliar with emotional intelligence (EQ) - here is Salovey and Mayer's definition:  "...the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional meanings, and to reflectively regulate emotions in a way that promotes emotional and intellectual growth." 

To simplify: it is how you and I understand our own emotions, how those emotions affect those around us, and how we can regulate our emotional responses so that we do not alienate others around us or hurt ourselves.
Your success in life is based largely on your EQ...not your IQ. 

I believe that the most direct Scriptural comparison might be the Fruit of the Spirit.  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  I like Pete Scazzero's idea that you cannot be spiritually mature and emotionally immature at the same time.  You must do the hard work of addressing your emotions/emotional responses in order to grow more deeply in your life with Christ. 

Thus - enter EQ 360 testing...

EQ testing shows us two things: (1) how we perceive ourselves and (2) how others perceive us.  It is a "360-degree" evaluation that reveals the GAPS between what we think of ourselves ("I am very empathetic!" and what others might see ("that guy really doesn't care how others feel!").  For many, it can be an extremely eye-opening experience.  Our self-perceptions are not so reliable as we might think.

As I mentioned -the strength of this book is Rupert's candor about his own struggle with anger, how its impact on others was revealed to him through an EQ 360 evaluation, and how that desperately painful realization moved him toward profound brokenness and change in his life.  As Rupert states, "I was a Christian who had been serving the Lord for decades; however, I did not have the tender, gentle character Christ had.  It took confrontation."

Some may wonder - why should I bother being evaluated for my emotional intelligence?  The primary goal of EQ assessment is self-awareness.  We all have blind spots, and generally speaking, the high cost of blind spots is that we hurt others without every realizing it, and run the risk of losing significant friendships or opportunities in our lives as a direct result of our lack of self-awareness.  And as believers, those blind spots may be the areas where Christ most longs to transform us into His character.

"Emotional self-awareness is the ability to recognize my feelings, to differentiate between them,  to know why I am feeling these feelings and to recognize the impact my feelings have on others around me." 

If you are already familiar with EQ - and have no concerns over its ability to mesh with Biblical teaching, I suggest you need to read only Parts I, V and VI to get the best out of this book.  For those of you who are new to this topic - settle in for a long read - but there will be several (as I say) "nuggets" and "ah-ha" moments to greet you along the way.

I am awaiting the results of my own 360-EQ evaluation.  God have mercy! :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

His Thoughts Said... His Father Said... - by Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael always has a beautiful and simple way of expressing truth - and she does it in a way that shows her readers how much she has wrestled herself.  This little booklet is a collection of thoughts: ones that might gather in the dusty places of our minds as we navigate our life and ministry - and the responding idea of what our Heavenly Father might say to us.

One example, an entry that I loved:

"The Son said, 'I think of the pain of life that is perpetual for so many who live to serve their fellows.  Is it all worthwhile?'

His Father said, 'Those who serve their generation are like the sailors that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters.  But it is these, not those who play in the shallows, who see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.  Is not that worthwhile?'"  (entry 93)

For any who might need a reminder of His truths when our thoughts war against ourselves, I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Western Christians in Global Mission - Paul Borthwick

For years, the "West" has led the way in Christian evangelistic outreach. Missionaries were predominantly sent out from places in Europe and North America.  But that is changing, and quickly.  The term, the "Global South," refers to the Southern hemisphere and the rising church numbers and missional strength that we now see in the Majority World.

No longer is the "West reaching the rest."  NOW Christian missionary endeavors are better categorized as "from everywhere to everywhere."  There are more Christians in China (numerically) than in the United States, and they are reaching out to North Koreans.  Nigeria is now sending missionaries to the USA. Our Latino brothers and sisters are effectively reaching Muslims, and Filipino believers are sacrificially serving in Abu Dhabi.  

The question is raised: do Christians in North America still have a role in the Great Commission of Matthew 28?  Should we simply give financially and then get out of the way?  Is our job over?

Paul Borthwick reminds us that ALL believers are called to obey the Great Commission of Matthew 28.  And yet - our ROLE is changing.

If I were to summarize Paul's book in one word it would be "humility." No longer are we to act the role (even subconsciously) of rescuer, leader, driver, or power-holder.  We must now live out words like servant, collaborator, coach, or trainer. Releasing our past roles and quickly passing the baton to those in the Global South must be part of the ethos of Western missions organizations and leaders.  Great humility is needed to "change hats" and become those that exist only to give our jobs away to others.  (Paul lists several specific examples and ideas in his book).

My greatest personal takeaway from this book was Paul's emphasis on suffering and sacrifice: something that the North American church is not skilled in.  We have a great deal to LEARN from our brothers and sisters in the Majority World who have suffered for their faith.  Paul paraphrased the Majority World church's question to us in this way:  "Show us your scars, and then we'll believe that you understand the same gospel that we've embraced." 

As a result of reading this took, I have a greater commitment to stay up to date on world events, to reduce my naivete by reading to understand the complex system of economics, politics, and power that my Christian Majority World brothers and sisters live in.  I have no excuse to be ill-informed.

I have also begun to read "When Helping Hurts" - a book I have heard recommended highly for its insights into helping the poor in a wise and sustainable way. 

Read this book - especially if you are a church or missions leader!