The 5 Secrets To Sheryl Sandberg’s Super Powers

The Facebook COO helped Zuck bring in a cool $1.6 billion last quarter, not long after writing a book that launched a movement. And she still has time for dinner with her family. How?

The 5 Secrets To Sheryl Sandberg’s Super Powers
[Image: Flickr user Steven Lilley]

Sheryl Sandberg helped Facebook post some insane numbers: after their IPO debacle of May 2012, shares have gone up 140% in the past year, to about $50.


As Miguel Helft writes for Fortune, that’s partly due to the company’s reorganization around mobile, which critics once bashed them for being weak in. Less than a year later, mobile ads were 41% of Facebook’s $1.6 billion in ad revenue over the last quarter.

Meanwhile, as you may have heard, she released a book (and launched a nonprofit) called Lean In early this year–a “sort of manifesto” for women’s ambition that’s stood atop bestseller lists and has sold a million copies since it dropped in March. To put it lightly, as Helft did, the book-as-movement “reignited feminism.”

Together, Sandberg has spent 2013 righting the ship of the world’s foremost social network and galvanizing social change–otherwordly feats that you’d expect to come from two very different people, not one hard-hustling woman. So how does she do it? Mark Zuckerberg’s answer is simple: she’s “superhuman.”

The question for us productivity nerds, then, is this: what are her super powers?

1) She divides, so Facebook may conquer

As venture heavyweight Marc Andreesen tells Fortune, every company is looking for a “Sheryl”: someone who allows the founder to decide who has ultimate authority–but ensures that there’s “superlative business execution.”

2) She works insanely hard–but doesn’t only work

She gets to the office around 7 a.m., phone at her ear, an hour of emails already sent. Then she’ll peace out around 5:30 p.m. to have dinner with her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg (who’s all about such things) and their two kids. Then, after the kids are in bed, she delves back into the inbox–as many a executive-with-a-fam will do.


3) She manages hard

When Facebook re-oriented around mobile, Sandberg instituted biweekly meetings with product and ad execs to counterbalance the needs of marketers with the experience of users.

4) She uses her network

When negotiations were getting tough with PayPal a few years ago, Sandberg would call up John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay, PayPal’s parent company. Soon enough, the wrinkles were ironed. “I like dealing with Sheryl because I trust her enormously,” Donahoe tells Fortune.

5) And she’s insanely efficient

We know that going analog can provide individual focus; from Sandberg’s example, it can streamline a meeting’s attentiveness as well. As Helft describes:

Her days are a flurry of meetings that she runs with the help of a decidedly undigital spiral-bound notebook. On it, she keeps lists of discussion points and action items. She crosses them off one by one, and once every item on a page is checked, she rips the page off and moves to the next. If every item is done 10 minutes into an hourlong meeting, the meeting is over.

Bottom Line: You don’t have to be superhuman to develop super powers.

Hat tip: Fortune

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.