What Brené Brown Teaches Us About Effective Leadership Training
After recently finishing Brené Brown’s newest book, Dare to Lead, I already think it’s my favorite book of the year – and it’s not even summer yet! I resonated so much with this book personally, and as someone who professionally helps organizations grow their teams, it was hard to ignore what Brown’s message means for how we develop effective leadership training.
Brown defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”
Throughout the book, she answers the question leaders in organizations ranging from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 50 companies are asking: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?
What struck me was that I’ve always thought of courage as an inherent trait; however, thankfully for Brené Brown, I now understand it differently. In Brown’s words, “it is less about who people are, and more about how they behave and show up in difficult situations.”
And fortunately, courage is a collection of four skill sets that we can learn. Yes. Learn!
The four courage skill sets are:
- Rumbling with Vulnerability
- Living into Our Values
- Braving Trust
- Learning to Rise
Most effective leadership training today contain these four components. Let’s look more closely at how we can teach and develop these skills in our content.
Four Effective Leadership Training Components
1. Rumbling with Vulnerability
If we want to develop daring leaders that push our organizations forward, we must create environments where our leaders and teams can be vulnerable. Brown defines vulnerability as, “the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” And I think we can all agree that in our work, we encounter at least two of these on a regular basis. After all, some of the most life changing inventions of all time – the lightbulb, air travel, and the iPhone – definitely didn’t come in the world without a little uncertainty and risk.
Creating Psychologically Safe Environments
Brown writes, “If we want to 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.”
Google’s five-year study on highly productive teams found that psychological safety – team members feeling safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other – was “far and away the most important of the five dynamics that set successful teams apart.”
So, how do we train our leaders to create these kinds of environments? We need to train leaders on listening, honesty, and keeping confidence with a heavy emphasis on emotional intelligence.
We also need to teach that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. You can feel brave and afraid at the same time. This is vulnerability and it’s okay. When our leaders are beating this drum and encouraging their teams to embrace these feelings, we’ll get innovation and creative-problem solving as a result.
We Need to Rumble
According to Brown, 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 problem 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.”
And in order for our teams to rumble with vulnerability, we need to empower our leaders against rewarding armoring behaviors like blaming, shaming, cynicism, perfectionism, and emotional stoicism. It’s time to take the armor off, and when it’s laid to the side, we’ll get teams that can fully thrive and create groundbreaking work.
2. Living into Our Values
Organizations and Leaders Need to Define their Values
In the organizational development world, we hear about values a lot. Many of our organizations have them (if yours doesn’t, advocate to make them a priority), but how many of us have taken the time to define our own values? The foundation of effective leadership training should be helping your leaders intentionally define their values. Brown recommends having just two values. Why? Because according to her research, “The participants who demonstrated the most willingness to rumble with vulnerability and practice courage tethered their behavior to one or two values, not ten. At some point, if everything on the list is important, then nothing is truly a driver for you. It’s just a gauzy list of feel-good words.”
Translate Values from Ideals to Behaviors
It’s not enough for organizations and leaders to just identify values, we have to teach people the skills they need to demonstrate them. I think Brown explains it best when she says, “The reason why we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one.”
And the proof is in the pudding, according to Brown, “Only about 10 percent of organizations have operationalized their values into teachable and observable behaviors that are used to train their employees and hold them accountable.” Yikes!
This means that our leadership training needs to clearly outline how the organization’s and leader’s values translate into specific behaviors. Here’s an example of what this looks like from Brown’s organization. “Be Brave” is the organizational value and below that are the three behaviors to support it.
- I set clear boundaries with others.
- I lean into difficult conversations, meetings, and decisions.
- I talk to people, not about them.
3. Braving Trust
Without trust, we have no connection, and if we can’t connect, vulnerability has no place. Trust is so vital to our teamwork that in Fortune’s research done for the annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, they found that, “Trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces.”
Brown takes our understanding of trust even further by defining the seven elements of trust (she calls this The BRAVING Inventory), so leaders have the language they need to give constructive feedback to their teams. She says, “Rather than rumbling generally about trustworthiness and using the word trust, we need to point to specific behaviors. We need to be able to identify exactly where the breach lies and then speak to it.” Your leadership training should be speaking to these seven elements too.
The BRAVING Inventory – The Seven Elements of Trust
- Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask.
- Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do.
- Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
- Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share.
- Integrity: You choose courage over comfort.
- Nonjudgement: We can talk about how we feel and ask for help without judgment.
- Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.
4. Learning to Rise
Daring leaders also need resilience skills. Brown says, “We can’t expect people to be brave and risk failure if they’re not prepped for hard landings.” Effective leadership training wouldn’t be complete without content on these skills. Brown has created a process called Learning to Rise that outlines how to be resilient.
The Learning to Rise Process
- The Reckoning: Knowing that we’re emotionally hooked and then getting curious about it.
- The Rumble: Acknowledging the stories (often untrue and based on our fears and insecurities) we tell ourselves to make meaning of hard situations.
- The Revolution: Taking off the armor and rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust with open hearts, and learning to rise so we re-claim authorship of our own stories and lives is the revolution.
In the spirit of Brené Brown, I’ll be vulnerable with you. Writing this post was challenging! Dare to Lead is chock-full of wisdom that should not only impact how we create meaningful and effective leadership training for our organizations, but also how we personally lead ourselves and our teams. Brown gives us so much valuable information that can be applied to leadership training (definitely read the book for yourself), and the four components you just read about are what I think is missing from leadership training today.
I’m so grateful for Brené Brown and the work she’s doing to help us step into daring leadership. When these tactics are incorporated into our leadership training, we’ll get the results we’re looking for and arm our leaders with the meaningful information and skills they need to be successful.