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Allison’s Book Corner – April 2024: Dare to Lead

This quarter’s Book Corner examines Brené Brown’s book, Dare to Lead. The focus of Brown’s book is courageous leadership—what it looks like and how to do it.

Vulnerability

Brené Brown has many years of experience studying, speaking about, and writing on the topic of leadership. It’s my understanding that she didn’t start out thinking that vulnerability was part of the equation. But, through years of research, she has come to this conclusion: “Vulnerability is necessary if we are going to make deep connections with people and be effective at work.” Does that ring true to you?

Brown defines vulnerability as the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Here’s more about vulnerability:

“Courage is contagious. … If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

Essentially, Brown tells us leaders, “You first!” In other words, if we want people to behave in a way where they care about the work, their coworkers, and customers, they first need to know they’re cared for by us, their boss.

How can leaders exhibit this vulnerability at work?

I’ve chosen to focus on three tangible ways Brown says we leaders can be vulnerable: (1) in conversations and meetings, (2) when we delegate, and (3) during feedback.

In conversations and meetings

One way we can be more vulnerable and create a culture of trust is in our conversations and meetings about important issues. We should be less worried with perceived nice-ness and more concerned with engaging in a rumble—that means having a real conversation, even if it’s tough.

“A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and … to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

I’ve shared some ideas about how to start a rumble conversation in this graphic.

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Delegation

I admit to being a little surprised about the author including a discussion about delegation in Dare to Lead. I’ve seen a lot of leaders take delegation for granted, unaware they’re missing an opportunity to invest in their employees and get meaningful buy-in about their team’s work.

Brown explains, “[Daring leaders]take the time to explain the ‘why’ behind strategies, and how tasks link to on-going priorities and mission work. Rather than handing down black-and-white mandates stripped of story, they hold themselves responsible for adding texture and meaning to work and tying smaller tasks to the larger purpose.” In other words, any time you assign a task, be transparent about what the final product should look like, give a clear deadline and parameters, and finally, explain why the assignment is important. How does it relate to your mission and values?

Consider: With whom do you need to share the “why?” What purpose story do you need to tell?

Feedback

The last area of vulnerability I’ll focus on is feedback. The author wrote this section as a series of statements; until we agree with these statements, we’re not ready to give feedback. There are ten total, but I’ve shared my three favorites here:

I know I’m ready to give feedback when:

1.    I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.

2.    I’m ready to acknowledge what you do well instead of just picking apart your mistakes.

3.    I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming.

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To wrap up, there’s a lot of work for us to do. I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes from the book: “Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.”

Take some time this week to ponder how you can be more vulnerable at work. And join us virtually on May 3 for our related half-day course, Giving and Receiving Feedback. See you there!