Posted June 14, 2017

Resiliency and empathy – lessons from female Home Depot leaders and Sheryl Sandberg

A few words of inspiration from GCC Social Media Marketer Abigail Sawyer on being inspired by co-workers and the words of Sheryl Sandberg, read her 5 tips for future Home Depot and GCC leaders here too:

I first heard Sheryl Sandberg speak four years ago when I was fresh out of college and brand new to the working world. I was attending my very first conference (the behemoth, BlogHer) by myself in a city I’d never been to. Sheryl was promoting Lean In, her book on women’s leadership in the workplace and asked the 4,000+ women in attendance, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

As an enthusiastic, but unsure new social media marketer, this is exactly what I needed to hear. On the flight back from the conference, I devoured Lean In and couldn’t stop talking about it to my co-workers.

Image Via BlogHer

Girl Power in the workplace – a work in progress

Girl Power was instilled deep in me from an early age through Girl Scouts, working at an all-girl’s camp, and growing up in the 90’s Spice Girls “You can do anything” era. After graduating from college, Lean In and podcasts like Stuff Mom Never Told You, helped me grow my passion for empowering women, in and out of the workplace.

Under Sheryl’s tutelage, early in my career I made it a point to speak up in meetings, take on projects that scared me, step away from the “housekeeping” tasks in the office, and learn from the incredible women leaders around me at However, I felt that my feminist/girl power passion was still something I kept under the surface and didn’t go into detail too explicitly.

Inspired by a showcase of women leaders Women in Leadership Seminar

GCC celebrated Women’s History Month by organizing sessions featuring four of our women in leadership to share their stories. I already had great admiration for many of the women leaders at, but could never have imagined all that they had been through get to where they are today.

We heard from our VP of Customer Service who was the first in her family to go to college.

Our Project Management Officer who took the leap to move to China for her job and work among a completely different culture for several years.

Our Creative Director who was told in no uncertain terms to be a “nicer” leader so that people would like her better – when men around her were not held to the same expectations.

In hearing these stories and the discussion that emerged from my co-workers in these sessions, something sparked my passion. I felt I had finally found my like-minded, girl-power crew.

The power of resiliency and friendship

So, when this group of women from all levels of leadership at decided to go see Sheryl Sandberg promote her new book, Option B, I jumped at the chance to join. I had somehow missed Sheryl’s many other book tour interviews over the past few months and went into the session only vaguely knowing that she would discuss the 2 years following her husband’s unexpected death.

I was blown away to hear Sheryl’s powerful message about feeling utterly broken and alone after her loss – and then discovering the concept of Post Traumatic Growth. Through her research, she found that amidst those who have faced a life altering tragedy, some are left with PTSD, and others are able to mold it into a growing experience that helps them become more impassioned to help others in similar situations.

Sheryl is now using her experience to encourage others who are dealing with loss to find resiliency and a renewed passion in life.

She also gave advice to the friends of people experiencing tragedy. A standout moment of Sheryl’s presentation was her description of the loneliness and isolation she felt after her husband’s death. On top of the weight of her grief, no one wanted to talk to her for fear of “saying the wrong thing.” Sheryl said that loss is bad enough; as friends, we need to help chip away that loneliness too.

Rather than just saying “Tell me if you need anything”, her advice was to be pro-active and specific.  Physically being there, check in on your friend frequently, remember them during hard times like big holidays and the anniversary of a loss, and help them get their confidence back.

When it comes to tying Lean In and Option B together, Sheryl told a story about Mark Zuckerburg. The big message of Lean In is to help women find the confidence to achieve what they want to but,  after returning to work following her husband’s death, she was truly a zombie for weeks. She slept through meetings and could hardly focus – but, after one such meeting, Mark came up to her afterward and said, “I really like what you said in there.” Sheryl said that she knew she hadn’t said anything of substance, but Mark’s comment helped her get her confidence back.

Let’s go out and lead with empathy and confidence!

I’d love to hear your stories about the amazing women in your life, leadership in your workplace or your experience with loss. Let’s continue the discussion on Twitter @whatabigailsaw.