It is particularly important to recognize that the managerial challenge does not end with the allocation of mentors. Both Lean In and Blindspot urge us to check for structural impediments, including the "like me" bias and in-group favoritism. Yes, these tendencies may lead to more "natural" mentoring relationships; but they may also be less effective.
In connection with this, Sandberg rightly urges companies to recognize two realities: What motivates a good, two-way mentoring relationship is a common perception of capabilities and prospects; and this is best formulated in the context of the specific operational themes and strategic goals of the organization.
The last point I would note here is Sandberg's endorsement of a point first made by Pattie Sellers at Fortune. It is best to view a career not as a ladder to climb, but as a jungle gym.
This is an important distinction. A jungle gym allows for great exploration, optionality, and success. It recognizes that, for both internal and external reasons, linear careers are not the norm anymore. It is also a better motivator, and a stronger enabler of team work. (As Sandberg notes, "A jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top. On a ladder, most climbers are stuck staring at the butt of the person above.")
In all this, we should never underestimate the extent to which small adaptations can cumulatively have a meaningful impact. Indeed, as Sandberg rightly points out, "Major changes can result from these kinds of 'nudge techniques,' or small interventions that encourage people to behave in slightly different ways at critical moments. The simple act of talking openly about behavioral patterns makes the subconscious conscious." Again, Sandberg shares insightful examples that are also operational.
Due to framing problems, there is a material risk that reviewers of Lean In will not spend enough time encouraging managers, and especially male managers, to access Sandberg's insightful tips. This would be a great shame. Lean In is extremely valuable for gaining a better understanding of talent management, including (but not limited to) an improved appreciation of the challenges women and other minority populations face in many segments of the workforce.
I worry that, rather than characterize this book as also providing a guide to help broaden and deepen talent at every level of a company, too many reviewers may opt for a very narrow interpretation -- that of viewing Lean In as just for women looking for insights and inspiration as they navigate careers and think about real and perceived trade-offs.
This would unfairly limit the book's scope and influence. Such a narrow characterization would also play straight into the hands of those that wish to impose on important gender-related debates many over-simplifications, highly artificial distinctions, and extreme corner solutions.
Managers, and especially male managers, are well-advised to think of Sandberg's book as one that speaks effectively to a general theme that we should all recognize and appreciate: There is a very strong business case for inclusion and diversity.
Like other managers, I know that a critical part of delivering on my fiduciary responsibility is to ensure that our company employs, enables, develops, stimulates, and retains the best talent available. And like other parents, my strongest hope and aspiration is for our daughter to pursue her professional passion without holding back or being unfairly held back. Lean In provides important guidance for both these roles.
Thank you, Sheryl Sandberg!
Mohamed El-Erian is the CEO and co-chief investment officer of PIMCO. He also heads the U.S. global development council.