'I'm going to need you to lean in'

As a leader, ensure what you say and what is heard aligns with what you intend

“Lean in”. This phrase has permeated my organization in the past few years. Originating from Sheryl Sandberg’s book of the same name, it was intended as a rallying cry for women in the workplace to be bold and lead. In the original context, this is a powerful message, encouraging women to stand up in the organization and lean into the opportunities in front of them.

This powerful message is diluted, even twisted when used in different contexts. The key context I hear it is a call for people to be engaged, work harder, and not check out, as if just telling people to ‘lean in’ is an antidote to disengagement in the work place. To those already over-taxed with daily demands and tasked with doing more with less, this can sound like a motivational message from the manager in Office Space.

I'm going to need you to lean in. That would be great

As leaders, its our duty to communicate clearly to our team, often in the form of motivation. But with any communication, it’s crucial that we verify that what we say and what is heard aligns with what we intended to communicate. Communication is hard.

For leaders, it is the most important thing that we do. And yet, communication is more than some pithy phrases repeated over and over. We must continually hone our skills and as with any skill, seek feedback. Otherwise we risk coming off as an out-of-touch leader.