How to “Lean In” Without Falling on Your Face

By: Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP

Like many professional women, I rushed out to buy and read Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. The main premise of Sandberg’s book was that to be successful, women need to more actively “lean in”; lean in so that they had a seat at the meeting table and not on the sidelines; lean in with their supervisors and ask for that raise; lean in to carving out time in their professional ascent to have children, etc. Sandberg’s book intrigued, inspired and motivated me to work harder, sleep less, and say “yes” to every opportunity. I thought “having it all” as a professional woman meant that I just had to be creative and find more hours in the day – to succeed at work, have a relationship, workout, hangout, meet up with friends…the list goes on and on. 

When I look around at the women in my life– with or without kids, working outside the home or in – I wonder if anyone else feels like they’ve “leaned in” so far that they’ve fallen flat on their face. Leaned in so far that they don’t feel like they’re doing a very good job at anything; leaned in so far that they don’t have any “margin” left; that they’re too tired, too busy, spread too thin to be effective at anything in their lives. I know that I sure have. However, for the first time in my life, I find myself also willing to raise my hand and say that as a woman, mother, colleague and full-time consultant, I simply can’t “do it all” successfully. At any given moment, there is someone – a client, my child, my husband, my friends, colleagues – that should be my top priority, but quite simply isn’t. 

As parking professionals, we’re lucky to belong to one of the most supportive industry families that I’ve ever experienced, and for my part, I want to make sure that I’m leaving the industry better than I found it. As such, I would challenge you all to not only talk about our successes and what’s going well in your lives, but where you’ve failed; where you’ve disappointed someone, where tough choices had to be made and where you maybe haven’t performed to the best of your ability. I believe that it is these moments where true change and progress are made. I also believe that it is in these moments that we set meaningful examples for those who are looking up to us or who depend on us. It is in these moments that you’ll set an honest example for your team, co-workers and the other women and men that you supervise, mentor and train. And finally, it is in these moments that you can say yes, I’m leaning in, but today, I also might need to lean on you too.