I’m still here

January 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm (future, It's all about me, plays well with others)

This Sheryl Sandberg talk at TEDWomen has been bouncing around in my head since it was posted last month. She has three points about how women who want to stay in the workforce* can reach the C-suite, but only one resonated as anything new (for me). It wasn’t #1) “Sit at the table” or #2) “Make your partner a real partner,” it was #3) “Don’t leave before you leave.”

I have a friend who, while six months pregnant, bought a house, moved to another state, and took on a new (more demanding) job in that new state. (It is very worth noting that her ability to do this speaks to #2 as well.) I’ve been thinking (with respect and reverence) about how much she is taking on and the conclusion I’ve reached is why haven’t I considered the same? (You know, minus the baby and leaving my beloved San Francisco.) It’s not just about having children and planning maternity leave, it’s about not letting a potentiality or long-range plan limit your present preparation for the future.

There has been a leadership shakeup at work; our CEO is leaving. We know approximately when (it’s not soon), but we don’t know who will fill the position. Many departments have retreated into what is comfortable and what has always been. They haven’t proposed new projects and they immediately reject the idea of change during a period of transition. They want to wait for the new CEO to arrive before they move forward. This foolishness has been best summed up by a colleague who simply said, “When the new CEO arrives, what will s/he think if they haven’t done anything innovative in a year?”

I am not one of those departments and I’m firmly against maintaining a holding pattern for months of a leadership transition, but I too am guilty of leaving before I leave. As an individual with ideas of bigger things, I have planned my next move** and gone coasting along in my current role, behaving as if I’ve already left. Sometimes it’s just easier (read: lazier), but sometimes it’s out of a feeling of guilt. How can I leave them with project X only half-way off the ground? Won’t they be upset to know they invested in my idea if I was planning to leave? The reality, I believe, is that any employer should be thrilled that their employee wants more–for the company AND for themselves. If I think my project is an improvement on the status quo, then the mere idea, even if not full realized by me personally, contributes to the organization’s success.

Lesson learned.


*An important caveat on which I have an opinion, but I’m not in the mood to grab hold of the third rail of feminism today.
**In previous jobs



  1. Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said,

    Fascinating perspective … great moral to the story!

  2. amber said,

    I agree with you entirely. Also, I wouldn’t want to be a CEO who comes to a company full of people who have just been sitting on their heels, waiting for the change. I’d want to go into a company that was already on top of the game. 🙂 I can’t imagine a GOOD CEO would feel differently…

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