What does “leaning in” mean to you?

Whether you are a recent graduate or have been working for decades, there is something for everyone in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. The current COO of Facebook, and formerly an executive at Google, Sandberg’s take on women in leadership topped both Amazon’s and the New York Times bestsellers lists in 2013. In a nutshell, Sandberg’s thought-provoking read is advice for women, encouraging them to “lean in” at work by asserting themselves more than they may have in the past.

In March 2013, Forbes.com contributor Kerry Hannon wrote an article about Lean In, sharing her takeaways from the book, along with what she thought were the five best tips for women. For those of you who would rather skip reading the book and just get to the good stuff, below are Hannon’s highlights mixed with a bit of Sandberg’s advice:

  1. Be more open to taking career risks. When women are offered an opportunity that may not fall within their comfort zone, they may back away. Sandberg writes, “At a certain point, it’s your ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters. Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing it.’”
  2. Skip the people pleasing. Sandberg was told that her “desire to be liked by everyone” would hold her back by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive. Both men and women should be pushing colleagues to dig a little deeper, work a little harder, and not worry so much about being best friends at the end of the day.
  3. Visualize your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder. Hannon’s favorite tip from the book helps explains Sandberg’s not so typical view on reaching for the next step in your career. “Ladders are limiting. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many way to get to the top of a jungle gym,” the author explains.
  4. Allow yourself to fantasize about your career. Sandberg stresses her belief that everyone should have long-term dreams, along with an 18-month plan to achieve immediate goals in the workplace, such as learning new skills. “If I am afraid to do something, it is usually because I am not good at it,” she said.
  5. Start a Lean-In circle. According to the website leanin.org, these circles are “small peer groups that meet regularly to learn and share together—studies show we achieve more in groups than we do as individuals. A Circle can be a monthly roundtable at your house, a regular brown-bag lunch or even a virtual meet-up.” The site offers kits to download that show users how to form a Lean In Circle, run one, or simply share stories online. This kind of meet up can help people feel more comfortable with sharing their fears, career aspirations, and often provide a strong support system for like-minded individuals.

What will you do to “lean in” in the workplace? Speak up more at meetings? Volunteer to help with a project that you may not be an expert at? Run some new ideas by your boss? Whatever “leaning in” means to you, try it. You just may find that being a little out of your comfort zone is right where you’re meant to be.

Visit forbes.com for Hannon’s full article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/03/13/sheryl-sandbergs-5-best-lean-in-tips-for-women/