I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, ever since I watched Brené’s TED talk (link). I’ve been experimenting with vulnerability, something I have always found difficult, for a couple of years now (Time to get personal – 2016). This book is the gospel on vulnerability, shame and courage. It is really easy to read and is structured with checklists and summaries throughout.
I thought it would be helpful to summarise some of my big takeaways – though I encourage you to read this book and apply its lessons yourself.
- asking for help
- saying no
- starting a business
- encouraging my kids to try (even if they might fail)
- calling someone who lost a loved one
- publishing your work, sending it out, etc
- falling in love
- trying something new
- admitting I don’t know
- admitting I’m afraid
- trying again after failing
- standing up to peer pressure
She has 10 questions she asks to understand the culture of any group or organisation:
- What behaviours are rewarded and punished?
- Where and how do people spend time, money and attention?
- What rules and expectations are followed, enforced and ignored?
- Do people feel safe and supported taking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
- What are the sacred cows?
- What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
- What happens when someone fails, disappoints or makes a mistake?
- How is vulnerability perceived?
- How prevalent are shame and blame and how do they show up?
- What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, giving and receiving feedback normalised or is there a premium on comfort?
The space between our practiced values and our aspirational values is the values gap. This is where we can lose people.
In an organisational culture where respect and dignity of individuals are held as the highest values, shame and blame don’t work as management styles. We can’t control the behaviour of individuals, we can only create cultures where certain behaviours are not tolerated and people are held accountable for protecting what matters most – human beings. There is no leading by fear, if we are looking for creativity, innovation and engaged learning.
A daring greatly culture is one of honest, constructive and engaged feedback. However, in most teams and organisations effective feedback is rare. There are two main reasons:
- we are not comfortable with hard conversations
- we don’t know how to give feedback in a way that moves people forward.
There’s a big difference between mean spirited criticism and constructive feedback: When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection, but when we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss criticism we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to hatefulness, our spirits get crushed.
Vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process. She has a great checklist for preparing to give feedback.
I know I am ready to give feedback when:
- I’m ready to sit next to you rather than opposite you, and put the problem in front of us rather than between us.
- I’m ready to listen, ask questions and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
- I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
- I recognise your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
- I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
- I’m willing to own my part.
- I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticise you for your failings.
- I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
- I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.
We can tell a lot about how we are engaging with Vulnerability by observing how often we say:
- I don’t know
- I need help
- I’d like to give it a shot
- I disagree – can we talk about it
- I did it
- Here’s how I feel
- I’d like some feedback
- Can I get your take on this?
- What can I do better next time?
- Can you teach me how to do this?
- I take responsibility for that
- I’m here for you
- I want to help
- Let’s move on
- I’m sorry
- This means a lot to me
- Thank you
My commitment as a leader:
- I want you to show up, to be yourself, to be open to learning.
- I want you to take risks, embrace your vulnerabilities and be courageous.
- I commit to engaging with you, standing beside you and learning from you.
- I commit to be vulnerable, to be courageous and to dare greatly.
“The key to our transformation as leaders is in realising that getting people to engage or take ownership isn’t about the telling but about letting them come to their own idea in a purpose-led way, and our job is to create the space for others to perform. This is a shift from “having the best idea” or “solving all the problems” to “being the best leader of people”.
This is a shift from controlling to engaging with vulnerability – taking risks and cultivating trust.”
– Christine Day, CEO Lululemon
Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and trust. If you want your employees that take responsibility, take risks and have an entrepreneurial spirit, you have to encourage people to try and to make mistakes (and be willing to stand by them when they do).
Go read it and apply her lessons for yourself!
(Brené has a great chapter on “wholehearted parenting” that is builds on these ideas powerfully.)