Leave “Lean In” to Sheryl Sandberg
- On August 3, 2015
Melissa Rivers was being interviewed about the book she wrote about her mother, Joan Rivers (I know Joan crops up a lot in my bulletins—it’s not intentional), who was well known for having lots of plastic surgery.
“Does that make you lean in to plastic surgery—and things like that that she did—or lean back or lean away?” the interviewer asked.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Surely this was not how Sheryl Sandberg intended the term to be used.
A little while later I came across a summary about Medicare trends. “Margin pressures on Medicare health plans are increasing,” the piece read. “How should insurers respond? Should they lean out benefits, services, and choice?”
Is that supposed to be a nicer way to ask whether health plans for senior citizens need to reduce the benefits, services, and choice they offer? If it is, it’s not working. It’s fuzzy and buzzy—and a good example of how people adopt buzzwords and catchphrases to sound more current but instead end up sowing confusion.
I asked a few people what they thought “leaning out benefits” meant and pretty much heard, “Your guess is as good as mine.” (I shudder to think we’re developing yet another euphemism to sugar coat harsh realities. I thought this was supposed to be the age of transparency.)
A career coach I know writes how grateful she is to have so many women role models leaning in and creating the personal and professional lives they want. While I’m pretty sure this is how Ms. Sandberg intended her phrase to be used, the coach didn’t appear more relevant for its use.
Ms. Sandberg coined the phrase to encourage women to become more authoritative. Using the term, however—or worse, modifying it—does not confer authority, so think twice before jumping on the bandwagon.
I had just put this bulletin to bed when I heard about a campaign called “Lean In To Lunch,” launched by a magazine to encourage people to take a real break for lunch—to which I say, “Give me a break!”