Lessons Learned from Sheryl Sandberg's New Book

She passed on being the CEO of LinkedIn, and the Google founders still owe her some babysitting hours.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, speaks at a Facebook event for marketing professionals, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 in New York. New, potentially lucrative advertising opportunities are coming to Facebook as a prelude to its initial public offering of stock. The idea is to lure big brands with the promise of effective, precisely targeted ads that reach the social network's 845 million users.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, speaks at a Facebook event for marketing professionals in 2012 in New York.

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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has been a force in Silicon Valley for over a decade, but she captured national attention with a 2010 TED Talk exhorting women to "lean in" at the workplace. That talk has been viewed nearly 2 million times on the TED website, not to mention over 350,000 YouTube views. In her highly anticipated forthcoming book, Lean In, Sandberg extends that message into nearly 200 pages, in which she tells about her climb to the top, in both Washington and the tech world.

A few of the more interesting details she reveals:

She's been the boss as long as she can remember.

As a child, Sandberg trained her younger siblings to follow her around the house and yell, "Right!" at everything she said. Good preparation for her days at Facebook (though, as she writes, she accepts negative employee feedback these days).

Don't ask her (or anyone) to be your mentor.

Sandberg devotes a whole chapter to this concept. Being asked to be a younger colleague's mentor makes her uncomfortable, she says: "The question is a total mood killer—the equivalent of turning to a pensive date and asking, 'What are you thinking?'"

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When younger women think that a mentor is going to grab them by the scruff of the neck and pull them up the career ladder, she says, they are succumbing to a fantasy similar to the idea of Prince Charming rescuing the princess and living happily ever after with her—it makes women too dependent on others. While mentors can be valuable, she says, young women shouldn't go chasing one down.

Even she had to be pushed to negotiate.

Though Sandberg is a proponent of women negotiating for themselves and getting what they're worth, even she has been timid in the past. She admits that her husband and brother-in-law had to push her to negotiate for a better salary and benefits package when Mark Zuckerberg offered her the position at Facebook.

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It's good to be in charge.

Like many married couples, Sandberg and her husband have had their difficulties in negotiating how their jobs and children fit together. At one point, her husband, Dave Goldberg, worked in L.A., while Sandberg worked at Google's campus five hours north in Silicon Valley. Goldberg sought out a new job to simplify their lives, limiting his job search to the San Francisco area.

Things worked out: "He eventually became CEO of SurveyMonkey and was able to move the company headquarters from Portland to the Bay Area," Sandberg writes.

Bringing the company with you: nice work if you can get it.

She could have been CEO of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman approached Sandberg in 2006, when she was still working at Google, to ask if she would be the chief executive at the networking company. He even offered to volunteer full-time for a while until Sandberg got the hang of it. Still, Sandberg declined out of concerns about timing—at the time, she was planning on having a second child.

Tip O'Neill got on her bad side early.

When a teenage Sandberg was a page in the House of Representatives, Speaker Tip O'Neill greeted her by patting her on the head, noting that she was "pretty," and asking, "Are you a pom-pom girl?"

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Larry Summers is a stand-up guy.

Summers has taken a lot of heat in the past for statements that have been construed as sexist, like in 2005, when he suggested that men might be more predisposed to math and science aptitude than women, as well as suggestions that married women have been less committed to their careers than married men.

Still, the former Treasury Secretary, under whom Sandberg worked as chief of staff, gets plenty of props in the book for being supportive of the women in his life. For example, he pushed his wife, an attorney, to "bill like a boy"—that is, to bill for all the time she spent thinking about a case, as men would.

Google still owes her some babysitting.

While she was working at Google, company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin attended Sandberg's baby shower and each presented her with certificates entitling her to one hour of babysitting. She still hasn't taken them up on the offer.