Skimm'd from the Couch: Sheryl Sandberg

April 1, 2020

As one of the most prominent tech executives in the world, Sheryl Sandberg’s professional and personal experiences have taught her how to be resilient. Even in the most difficult circumstances. This week, she sat down with us to talk about navigating the uncertainty of COVID-19, and how to have perspective even when it feels overwhelming. 

She shared how learning from mistakes can lead to better outcomes later on, why we should show empathy in uncertain times, and how to build resilience.   

On Learning From Mistakes

Danielle: When you think about Facebook's response [to the COVID-19 pandemic], especially the external efforts involving small businesses, it unfolded pretty quickly, as everything has with this. How did you develop a leadership team that can be reactive in the face of such uncertainty? How do you come up with these responses in a way that can actually help people in real time?

Sheryl: I actually think some of the troubles we've had and some of the mistakes we made over the past years, we've worked so hard to correct those and set ourselves up. They're serving us well. So for example, when you think about harmful misinformation, you know, years ago, we didn't have a policy to take that information down. 

But we learned the hard way that we needed that. So we had that in place so when COVID-19 came around, we already had a system to take down harmful misinformation... So this time, we immediately went to the WHO, the CDC. We knew, okay, this is not going to be a situation where we can rely on our own expertise.

On Empathy

Sheryl: [Remember] that the people around you are really human. I mean, we're all doing video conferences… you don't start every meeting at work when you're all in the office with, "How's everyone feeling today? How are your families?" I am trying to start literally every meeting that way. I just started doing it and … a bunch of people in the company emailed and called me and said, "Thank you for asking." People have kids at home. Their kids are not going to school. They have to take care of those children. People are under tremendous stress.

I think when you do that, and when you treat people the right way, they're just even more dedicated. And they feel that they're getting the support they deserve. And that's what people deserve.

On Building Resilience 

Carly: I want to talk to you about resilience. You wrote your book, Option B, in the wake of your husband's untimely passing. And your book touched Danielle and I both in really different ways. And we both really leaned on the lessons of compartmentalizing that you talk about through a lot of different personal challenges over the last few years. And I want you to walk us through what resilience has meant to you in the workplace and what you think it should mean for others in the office.

Sheryl: Resilience is our ability to deal with hardship. But it is not something that we have a fixed amount on, that we draw on. It's like a muscle which means you build it… So the question is how do you build it? A couple things. You build it by recognizing that whatever you're going through almost certainly is not permanent. And that applies to the very worst things you go through.

The second is, and this is a hard lesson, but remembering that things could be worse… thinking about how things could be worse is a way of feeling grateful for what you have, and that, along with remembering that whatever state you're in is not permanent, are ways of building resilience.

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