Take This Advice from Facebook’s COO

CaptureI am sure I used to be somewhat of a pain in the behind. When I had a job and it was appraisal time.

I’d push hard for more. More money, more grades. More moreness.

Boss – “What do you WANT Mark!!”

Mark – “What have you got?”

Rebel without a cause.

I conditioned most of my bosses to believe that they couldn’t please me. I am slightly embarrassed to admit it but that’s what I did. I conditioned them with my own consistent behaviour – where I set an expectation that I wanted a bigger piece of whatever pie was on offer. It was a plan and it worked.

Year-in. Year out. Being assertive and setting an expectation makes a difference. You don’t have to be the employee from hell to make this work. You just have to be a bit more hellish than the others.

Sheryl Sandburg wrote about this in her book “Lean In” which is targeted at women (strangely, as if lack of assertiveness is a female only problem.) By lean in she means be more assertive.

Sheryl is COO of Facebook.

That’s Chief Operating Officer, as opposed to the sound the damn pigeons on my chimney make. At 5am.

Sheryl has set up a blog. It was referenced in the Telegraph recently in an article entitled “What are we all so afraid of?” (Links below.)

It asked the question what would you do if you weren’t afraid and then there’re lots of pictures of women holding up placards with their individual answer to the question scrawled thereon.  

What I like about both these articles is that they recognise that what’s missing from our success is derived from what we do (or don’t do).

Sandburg says “lean in”. The blog asks what would we do if we weren’t afraid…The onus is on us.


… in the comments section of the Telegraph article, some people, whilst accepting the need to do different stuff to get different stuff, could not help but immediately revert to blaming others. I paraphrase but it goes like this:

“Yes, I am afraid to ask for a pay raise. But it’s because I have been taught by society to be demure and men have such deep voices blah blah blah.” Really – someone actually blamed men’s deep voices.  

I think we have two choices:

1. Focus on externalities…

…all the real and imagined ways in which the world keeps its boot on our face…

The problem with this is that it usually leads to massive inaction through learned helplessness.

Or you could do this:   

2. Focus on the internalities…

…that we can control, like what we do and say and think.  And this is harder than blaming outside forces.

But like life itself, the more you do it the easier it gets. So start doing it.

This is also a sphere of control issue…you can spend your life pulling the levers you have easy access to (that is, the things you can do), or you can spend your life at full stretch desperately trying to get your fingertips on that just-out-of-reach lever that someone else has both their hands on…

I used to be a practising scientist.

It taught me this – any explanation of any observation that is correct is usually the most likely or obvious of all the alternative explanations.

And when dealing with failure, nine times out of ten, the non-obvious (wrong) reason given for failure is an externality (“there’s a glass ceiling!”, “I’m a Scouser”…etc) whereas the obvious (and correct) reason for failure is usually an internality (“I bottled it.”)

Hope you had a great August. I did, but now it’s definitely time to get back to leaning in.

The Telegraph article is HERE and the pics of the women saying what they’d do if they weren’t afraid are HERE

2 Responses to Take This Advice from Facebook’s COO

  1. Julie Abbott August 27, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    Hi Mark

    I loved your article, and where Lean In had passed me by, I now have it on my radar and will have to get it on my Kindle.

    I have a funny degree – 50% languages and 50% Economics. I always remember something I was taught in Economics – that people make choices which may seem odd to us, but which are logical for them – people do what they want to do, unless they are under duress.

    So, a lady I know who hosts events and then complains that no-one appreciates her efforts and that she is put upon allows herself to be put upon rather than stand up for herself – the internality is “I daren’t rock the boat, people expect this of me”.

    It’s a bit like going on a fitness programme – short term pain for long term gain. You have to force yourself to do stuff that is alien to your nature – say No to freeloading friends, ask for the sale, be more assertive. Or stand aside and let the people who want “More moreness” barge past you!

    I don’t think the meek will inherit the earth… Mark and Sheryl Sandburg will!

    • Mark Nugent August 28, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks Julie, we’re on the same wavelength. Mark

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