Dare To Lead
When a new CEO is brought into a company, and announces he's reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, you pick it up and read it. When you realize that said CEO's leadership style grates on you uncomfortably, you wonder what he can be doing better to be a better leader. Which is why, say, you'd pick up this book and read it.
Which is nominally what happened with me, but really, with a slight twist of also wanting to see what leading well looks like. I've had a number of good managers (four of them to be exact), people I want to work with and for. I was curious if their style of leading matched what Brené Brown suggested. I absolutely loved Daring Greatly and hoped this book would continue the lessons I started there.
I was not disappointed.
I wish I could have handed copies of this book to all the upper management where I was working. Alas, the opportunity did not present itself. However, this book is amazing. If its lessons are learned and practice, this book is life-changing. Let me buy you a copy.
I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.
Here are the ten behaviors and cultural issues that leaders identified as getting in our way in organizations across the world: We avoid tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback. Some leaders attributed this to a lack of courage, others to a lack of skills, and, shockingly, more than half talked about a cultural norm of “nice and polite” that’s leveraged as an excuse to avoid tough conversations. Whatever the reason, there was saturation across the data that the consequence is a lack of clarity, diminishing trust and engagement, and an increase in problematic behavior, including passive-aggressive behavior, talking behind people’s backs, pervasive back-channel communication (or “the meeting after the meeting”), gossip, and the “dirty yes” (when I say yes to your face and then no behind your back). Rather than spending a reasonable amount of time proactively acknowledging and addressing the fears and feelings that show up during change and upheaval, we spend an unreasonable amount of time managing problematic behaviors. Diminishing trust caused by a lack of connection and empathy. Not enough people are taking smart risks or creating and sharing bold ideas to meet changing demands and the insatiable need for innovation. When people are afraid of being put down or ridiculed for trying something and failing, or even for putting forward a radical new idea, the best you can expect is status quo and groupthink. We get stuck and defined by setbacks, disappointments, and failures, so instead of spending resources on clean-up to ensure that consumers, stakeholders, or internal processes are made whole, we are spending too much time and energy reassuring team members who are questioning their contribution and value. Too much shame and blame, not enough accountability and learning. People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or being wrong. Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change. When something goes wrong, individuals and teams are rushing into ineffective or unsustainable solutions rather than staying with problem identification and solving. When we fix the wrong thing for the wrong reason, the same problems continue to surface. It’s costly and demoralizing. Organizational values are gauzy and assessed in terms of aspirations rather than actual behaviors that can be taught, measured, and evaluated. Perfectionism and fear are keeping people from learning and growing.
The Heart of Daring Leadership 1. You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Embrace the suck.
Courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. Most of us feel brave and afraid at the exact same time. We feel vulnerable. Sometimes all day long.
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, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.
If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. Daring is not saying “I’m willing to risk failure.” Daring is saying “I know I will eventually fail, and I’m still all in.” I’ve never met a brave person who hasn’t known disappointment, failure, even heartbreak.
Vulnerability is not winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their lives but who will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgment at those who dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fearmongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in what you have to say.
To love is to be vulnerable.
Get a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper and write down the names of the people whose opinions of you matter. It needs to be small because it forces you to edit. Fold it and put it in your wallet.
The people on your list should be the people who love you not despite your vulnerability and imperfections, but because of them.
They should be people who respect you enough to rumble with the vulnerability of saying “I think you were out of your integrity in that situation, and you need to clean it up and apologize. I’ll be here to support you through that.” Or “Yes, that was a huge setback, but you were brave and I’ll dust you off and cheer you on when you go back into the arena.”
I looked at these brave soldiers and said, “Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Can you give me a single example of courage that you’ve witnessed in another soldier or experienced in your own life that did not require experiencing vulnerability?” Complete silence. Crickets. Finally, a young man spoke up. He said, “No, ma’am. Three tours. I can’t think of a single act of courage that doesn’t require managing massive vulnerability.”
Pretending that we don’t do vulnerability means letting fear drive our thinking and behavior without our input or even awareness, which almost always leads to acting out or shutting down.
In the absence of authentic connection, we suffer. And by authentic I mean the kind of connection that doesn’t require hustling for acceptance and changing who we are to fit in.
“There’s probably not a single act at work that requires more vulnerability than holding people responsible for ethics and values, especially when you’re alone in it or there’s a lot of money, power, or influence at stake. People will put you down, question your intentions, hate you, and sometimes try to discredit you in the process of protecting themselves.
We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.
It turns out that trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.
Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time. Trust and vulnerability grow together, and to betray one is to destroy both.
In her book Teaming, she writes, Simply put, psychological safety makes it possible to give tough feedback and have difficult conversations without the need to tiptoe around the truth. In psychologically safe environments, people believe that if they make a mistake others will not penalize or think less of them for it. They also believe that others will not resent or humiliate them when they ask for help or information. This belief comes about when people both trust and respect each other, and it produces a sense of confidence that the group won’t embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up. Thus psychological safety is a taken-for-granted belief about how others will respond when you ask a question, seek feedback, admit a mistake, or propose a possibly wacky idea.
Items that frequently show up as things that get in the way of psychological safety in teams and groups include judgment, unsolicited advice giving, interrupting, and sharing outside the team meeting. The behaviors that people need from their team or group almost always include listening, staying curious, being honest, and keeping confidence.
one of my favorite rumble tools: “What does support from me look like?” Not only does it offer the opportunity for clarity and set up the team for success, asking people for specific examples of what supportive behaviors look like—and what they do not look like—it also holds them accountable for asking for what they need.
We’re much more accustomed to not asking for exactly what we need and then being resentful or disappointed that we didn’t get it. Also, most of us can tell you what support does not look like more easily than we can come up with what it does look like.
Not only is fake vulnerability ineffective—but it breeds distrust. There’s no faster way to piss off people than to try to manipulate them with vulnerability.
The stealth intention is a self-protection need that lurks beneath the surface and often drives behavior outside our values. Closely related is the stealth expectation—a desire or expectation that exists outside our awareness and typically includes a dangerous combination of fear and magical thinking.
if you come across an explanation of vulnerability that doesn’t include setting boundaries or being clear on intentions, proceed with caution.
there is nothing more uncertain than the creative process, and there is absolutely no innovation without failure.
As the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio reminds us, “We are not necessarily thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.”
Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
most of us avoid clarity because we tell ourselves that we’re being kind, when what we’re actually doing is being unkind and unfair.
I took a deep breath and leaned into the mother of all rumble tools—curiosity. “Tell me more about how this plays out for y’all. I want to understand.”
In my research and in my life, I’ve found absolutely no benefit to pushing through a hard conversation unless there’s an urgent, time-sensitive issue at hand.
People think it’s a long walk from “I’m not enough” to “I’m better than them,” but it’s actually just standing still. In the exact same place.
Stockdale told Collins, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
As leaders I certainly believe we all want to do the right thing, but we don’t always have the bandwidth or experience to take care of someone the way they need to be taken care of.
In a sense I’m telling them: Let’s go there together. I am strong enough to hold this for the both of us.”
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.
Stop talking. Even if it’s awkward—which it will be the first fifteen times. And when they start talking (which they normally will), listen. Really listen. Don’t formulate your response while they’re talking. If you have a great insight—hold it. Don’t do that thing where the listener starts nodding faster and faster, not because they’re actively listening but because they’re trying to unconsciously signal the talker to wrap up so they can talk. Keep a lot of space in the conversation.
It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave, and worthy of love and belonging.”
The problem is that when we imprison the heart, we kill courage.
joy is the most vulnerable emotion we feel. And that’s saying something, given that I study fear and shame.
When we feel joy, it is a place of incredible vulnerability—it’s beauty and fragility and deep gratitude and impermanence all wrapped up in one experience.
Like most hurtful comments and passive-aggressiveness, cynicism and sarcasm are bad in person and even worse when they travel through email or text. And, in global teams, culture and language differences make them toxic.
Cynicism and sarcasm often mask anger, fear, feelings of inadequacy, and even despair. They’re a safe way for us to send out an emotional trial balloon, and if it doesn’t go over well, we make it a joke and make you feel stupid for thinking it was ever something different.
a cynic might argue that someone who clings to hope is a sucker, or ridiculously earnest,
As the theologian Rob Bell explains, “Despair is the belief that tomorrow will be just like today.”
People use history to criticize different thinking.
We can also use the invisible army: “We don’t want to change course,” or “We don’t like the direction you’re taking the project.” I hate the invisible army, and if you use it with me I will drill you down on exactly who makes up your we.
Voicing and owning our concern is brave. Pretending that we represent a lot of folks when we don’t is cheap-seat behavior.
At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.
in Memphis, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., defined power as the ability to achieve purpose and effect change.
The phrase power over is typically enough to send chills down spines: When someone holds power over us, the human spirit’s instinct is to rise, resist, and rebel. As a construct it feels wrong; in the wider geopolitical context it can mean death and despotism.
sometimes we overlook our own strengths because we take them for granted and forget that they’re special.
The less people understand how their hard work adds value to bigger goals, the less engaged they are. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and frustration.
When we operate from compliance and control, we also have a tendency to hold on to power and authority, and push only responsibility down. This leads to huge alignment issues for people. They’ve been asked to do something that they don’t actually have the authority to accomplish. They’re not set up for success, so they fail. This just reinforces our power and resentment loop: I knew I should have done it myself. I’ll be responsible for this, you just do these small tasks that you can handle versus Let’s dig into how we could have set you up for success. I know I have a part.
TASC approach: the Accountability and Success Checklist: T—Who owns the task? A—Do they have the authority to be held accountable? S—Do we agree that they are set up for success (time, resources, clarity)? C—Do we have a checklist of what needs to happen to accomplish the task?
Leaders who work from compliance constantly feel disappointed and resentful, and their teams feel scrutinized. Compliance leadership also kills trust, and, ironically, it can increase people’s tendency to test what they can get away with.
In the midst of uncertainty and fear, leaders have an ethical responsibility to hold their people in discomfort—to acknowledge the tumult but not fan it, to share information and not inflate or fake it.
People desperately want to be part of something, and they want to experience profound connection with others, but they don’t want to sacrifice their authenticity, freedom, or power to do it.
That means having the courage to acknowledge our own privilege, and staying open to learning about our biases and blind spots.
We also have to watch for favoritism—the development of cliques or in/ out groups.
Bill Gentry talks about the need to “flip the script” when we find ourselves in a new role as a leader. His book Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders
We all know that it saves a tremendous amount of time and mental capacity to just turn around and face whatever is at our heels head-on. The other advantage of stepping into the discomfort? It’s actually much less scary and intimidating to appraise the situation from a face-first position, rather than looking back over our shoulder while running.
To put it in simple terms, we work our shit out on other people, and we can never get enough of what it is we’re after, because we’re not addressing the real problem.
Shame can only rise to a certain level before people have to armor up and sometimes disengage to stay safe.
SHAME 101 I always start with the Shame 1-2-3’ s: We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame are those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Here’s your choice: ’Fess up to experiencing shame or admit that you’re a sociopath. Quick note: This is the only time that shame seems like a good option. We’re all afraid to talk about shame. Just the word is uncomfortable. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.
First, shame is the fear of disconnection.
Shame is the fear of disconnection—it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.
Shame is not a compass for moral behavior.
where shame exists, empathy is almost always absent. That’s what makes shame dangerous.
We feel guilty when we hold up something we’ve done or failed to do against our values and find they don’t match up.
The discomfort of cognitive dissonance is what drives meaningful change. Shame, however, corrodes the very part of us that believes we can change and do better.
When you’re delivering the news, be kind. Be clear. Be respectful. Be generous. Can you let the person resign rather than be fired? Can you provide severance pay? Ask the person how they want to let colleagues know about their departure and follow their lead on that if possible.
In those bad moments, it’s not our job to make things better. It’s just not. Our job is to connect. It’s to take the perspective of someone else.
Empathy is a choice. And it’s a vulnerable choice, because if I were to choose to connect with you through empathy, I would have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.
But empathy isn’t about fixing, it’s the brave choice to be with someone in their darkness—not to race to turn on the light so we feel better.
Empathy Skill #1: To see the world as others see it, or perspective taking
Empathy Skill #2: To be nonjudgmental
We judge in areas where we’re most susceptible to shame, and we judge people who are doing worse than we are in those areas. So if you find yourself feeling incredibly judgmental about appearance, and you can’t figure out why, that’s a clue that it’s a hard issue for you.
Staying out of judgment means being aware of where we are the most vulnerable to our own shame, our own struggle.
Empathy Skill #3: To understand another person’s feelings
Empathy Skill #4: To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
The vast majority of us find it easier to be mad than hurt.
To review, empathy is first: I take the perspective of another person, meaning I become the listener and the student, not the knower. Second: I stay out of judgment. And third and fourth: I try to understand what emotion they’re articulating and communicate my understanding of that emotion.
Ruminating and getting stuck is as unhelpful as not noticing at all.
this also works if you’re practicing empathy with someone you don’t know that well. Engage, stay curious, stay connected. Let go of the fear of saying the wrong thing, the need to fix it, and the desire to offer the perfect response that cures everything (that’s not going to happen). You don’t have to do it perfectly. Just do it.
Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin, mentioned earlier in this section, runs the Self-Compassion Research Lab and is the author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.
Do not take responsibility and ownership for the words of other people—just own your part. So in practice, change “She was so irritated with me” to simply “She was so irritated.” Don’t fixate, don’t ruminate, don’t get stuck.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m a cusser from a long matriarchal line of cussers. I’m super comfortable with that; I just try to limit it in my writing. I think it has to do with my belief that in conversation, a well-placed cuss word or three seems really good, but in writing, it seems more intentional and less organic.
Self-kindness is self-empathy.
Common humanity recognizes, she writes, “that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience—something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone.”
strategies of disconnection: Moving away: Withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets. Moving toward: Seeking to appease and please. Moving against: Trying to gain power over others by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame.
Curiosity is an act of vulnerability and courage. Researchers are finding evidence that curiosity is correlated with creativity, intelligence, improved learning and memory, and problem solving.
Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, Ian Leslie writes,
Here are some specific rumble starters and questions that we use: The story I make up…( This is by far one of the most powerful rumble tools in the free world. It’s changed every facet of my life. We’ll walk through it in the part “Learning to Rise.”) I’m curious about… Tell me more. That’s not my experience (instead of “You’re wrong about her, him, them, it, this…”). I’m wondering… Help me understand… Walk me through… We’re both dug in. Tell me about your passion around this. Tell me why this doesn’t fit/ work for you. I’m working from these assumptions—what about you? What problem are we trying to solve? Sometimes we’ll be an hour into a difficult rumble when someone will bravely say, “Wait. I’m confused. What problem are we trying to solve?”
“Walk me through all of the assumptions you are working off.
“Help me understand what you see as the benefit of this approach.”
1994 article “The Psychology of Curiosity,” George Loewenstein
We aren’t curious about something we are unaware of or know nothing about.
What was once an entrepreneurial, fast-moving, and empowering culture had over the course of several years of struggling performance become hierarchal, siloed, political, and filled with fear.
We would stop the shaming and blaming and the judging of outcomes as good or bad, and instead continuously ask ourselves, “What did we set out to do, what happened, what did we learn, and how fast can we improve on it?”
Sometimes my prayer is simply If I miss the boat, it wasn’t my boat.
In those hard moments, we know that we are going to pick what’s right, right now, over what is easy.
One of my courage behaviors is Don’t choose silence over what is right. It’s not my job to make others more comfortable or to be liked by everyone.
Show up for people in pain and don’t look away.
Value #1 ___________________________________ What are three behaviors that support your value? What are three slippery behaviors that are outside your value? What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value?
To opt out of conversations about privilege and oppression because they make you uncomfortable is the epitome of privilege.
Who is someone who knows your values and supports your efforts to live into them? What does support from this person look like? What can you do as an act of self-compassion to support yourself in the hard work of living into your values? What are the early warning indicators or signs that you’re living outside your values? What does it feel like when you’re living into your values? How does living into your two key values shape the way you give and receive feedback?
Often, in the midst of a feedback session, we forget that we’re supposed to be facilitating and fact finding from a place of curiosity, not lecturing.
If you are in such a state of anger that you cannot come up with a single positive quality that this person possesses, then you are not in the right headspace to give good feedback until you can be less emotionally reactive.
allow people to have feelings without taking responsibility for those feelings. If I’m sharing something that’s difficult, I need to make space for people to feel the way they feel—in contrast to either punishing them for having those feelings because I’m uncomfortable, or trying to caretake and rescue them from their feelings, because that’s not courageous, and that’s not my job.
When receiving feedback, we can identify a value-supporting behavior or a piece of self-talk to help in the moment.
“I’m brave enough to listen. I don’t have to take it all in or add it to my load, but I’m brave enough to listen.”
“There’s something valuable here, there’s something valuable here. Take what works and leave the rest.”
“This is the path to mastery, this is the path to mastery,”
“I always stay curious about what I’m hearing, because I know I can take this feedback and turn it into a learning, or use the knowledge I already have to improve or better understand.”
The ultimate goal in receiving feedback: a skillful blend of listening, integrating feedback, and reflecting it back with accountability. Being able to fully acknowledge and hold the discomfort gives us power in both the giving and receiving of feedback.
it’s okay to say: “You know what, I’m overloaded right now. If we can pick one of these and dig into it, and then make time to come back and talk through the other issues, I’m willing to do that, but I can only hear so much right now.” That is productive and respectful and brave.
What boundaries need to be in place for me to be in my integrity and generous with my assumptions about the intentions, words, and actions of others?
“Crap,” one man said. “If he’s really doing the best he can, I’m a total jerk, and I need to stop harassing him and start helping him.”
Assuming positive intent does not mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change. It’s a commitment to stop respecting and evaluating people based solely on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing.
In The Thin Book of Trust, Feltman defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” He describes distrust as deciding that “what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).”
First, when we’re struggling with trust and don’t have the tools or skills to talk about it directly with the person involved, it leads us to talk about people instead of to them.
Second, trust is the glue that holds teams and organizations together. We ignore trust issues at the expense of our own performance, and the expense of our team’s and organization’s success.
The only way I know to get knowledge into our bones is to practice it, screw it up, learn more, repeat.
Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no. Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities. Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends. Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential. Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them. Nonjudgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment. We can ask each other for help without judgment. Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.
There are two variables that predict when we judge and whom we judge. Typically, we pick someone doing worse than we’re doing in an area where we’re the most susceptible to shame:
we’re afraid of being judged for a lack of knowledge or lack of understanding. We hate asking for help.
We asked a thousand leaders to list marble-earning behaviors—what do your team members do that earns your trust? The most common answer: asking for help. When it comes to people who do not habitually ask for help, the leaders we polled explained that they would not delegate important work to them because the leaders did not trust that they would raise their hands and ask for help.
Asking for help is a power move. It’s a sign of strength to ask and a sign of strength to fight off judgment when other people raise their hands. It reflects a self-awareness that is an essential element in braving trust.
recontextualize the elements for self-trust. Boundaries: Did I respect my own boundaries in the situation? Was I clear with myself and then others about what’s okay and what’s not okay? Reliability: Could I count on myself?
Accountability: Did I hold myself accountable or did I blame others? And did I hold others accountable when I should have? Vault: Did I honor the vault, and did I share, or not share, appropriately? Did I stop other people who were sharing inappropriately? Integrity: Did I choose courage over comfort? Did I practice my values? Did I do what I thought was right, or did I opt for fast and easy? Nonjudgment: Did I ask for help when I needed it? Was I judgmental about needing help? Did I practice nonjudgment with myself? Generosity: Was I generous toward myself? Did I have self-compassion? Did I talk to myself with kindness and respect and like someone I love? When I screwed up, did I turn to myself and say “You gave it the best shot you could. You did what you could do with the data you had at that time. Let’s clean it up, it’s going to be okay,” or did I skip the self-love and go straight into berating myself?
line: If we don’t have the skills to get back up, we may not risk falling. And if we’re brave enough often enough, we are definitely going to fall.
Learning to Rise. It has three parts: the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution.
You make yourself the center of something that has nothing to do with you out of your own fear or scarcity, only to be reminded that you’re not the axis on which the world turns.
When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending.
the skill that the most resilient among us share: Slow down, take a deep breath, and get curious about what’s happening.
Pain is hard, and it’s easier to be angry or pissed off than to acknowledge hurt, so our ego intervenes and does the dirty work. The ego doesn’t own stories or want to write new endings; it denies emotion and hates curiosity.
It’s much easier to say “I don’t give a damn” than it is to say “I’m hurt.”
tactical breathing this way: Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your stomach, for a count of four. Hold in that breath for a count of four. Slowly exhale all the air through your mouth, contracting your stomach, for a count of four. Hold the empty breath for a count of four.
The bad news is that anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions that we experience.
The good news? Calm is equally contagious.
They talked about taking deep breaths before responding to questions or asking them; slowing down the pace of a frantic conversation by modeling slow speech, breathing, and fact finding; and even intentionally taking a few breaths before asking themselves a version of these two questions: Do I have enough information to freak out about this situation? If I do have enough data, will freaking out help?
The rumble starts with this universal truth: In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. It’s how we are wired. Meaning making is in our biology, and when we’re in struggle, our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense of what’s happening and gives our brain information on how best to selfprotect.
Burton writes, “Because we are compelled to make stories, we are often compelled to take incomplete stories and run with them.”
The first story we make up is what we call the “shitty first draft,” or the SFD.
Anne Lamott’s exceptional book on writing, Bird by Bird.
She writes: The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.
In our SFDs, fear fills in the data gaps. What makes that scary is that stories based on limited real data and plentiful imagined data, blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality, are called conspiracy theories.
Keep in mind: You can spend a reasonable amount of time attending to feelings and fears (and conspiracy theories), or you can squander an unreasonable time managing unproductive behaviors.
Confabulation has a really great and subtle definition: A confabulation is a lie told honestly. To confabulate is to replace missing information with something false that we believe to be true.
The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall explains that there’s growing
write it out when I have the opportunity simply because 70 percent of the risers we interviewed write down their SFDs. Nothing elaborate, just some variation of: The story I’m making up: My emotions: My body: My thinking: My beliefs: My actions:
Writing down your SFD doesn’t give it power—it gives us power. It gives us the opportunity to say, “Does this even make sense? Does this look right?” Writing slows the winds and calms the seas.
these are the questions that risers need to rumble with: 1. What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation? What do I know objectively? What assumptions am I making? 2. What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story? What additional information do I need? What questions or clarifications might help?
3. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself? What’s underneath my response? What am I really feeling? What part did I play?
Gottschall writes, “Conspiracy is not limited to the stupid, the ignorant, or the crazy. It is a reflex of the storytelling mind’s compulsive need for meaningful experience.”
love this line from Gottschall: “To the conspiratorial mind, shit never just happens.”
Because it’s human nature to turn on some level of self-protection when dealing with setbacks and receiving feedback, it’s important to circle back with employees to ensure that the intention of the message matched what was actually heard,
The reality check around our lovability: Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.
The reality check around our divinity: No person is ordained to judge our divinity or to write the story of our spiritual worthiness.
The reality check around our creativity: Just because we didn’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. And just because someone failed to see the value in what we can create or achieve doesn’t change its worth or ours.
When we own a story and the emotion that fuels it, we get to simultaneously acknowledge that something was hard while taking control of how that hard thing is going to end. We change the narrative. When we deny a story and when we pretend we don’t make up stories, the story owns us. It drives our behavior, and it drives our cognition, and then it drives even more emotions until it completely owns us.
Let’s set the intention for the rumble and make sure we are clear about why we’re rumbling. What does everyone need to engage in this process with an open heart and mind? Container-building is important, even if there’s established trust in the group. What will get in the way of you showing up? Here’s how we commit to showing up: from #2 and #3. Let’s each share one permission slip. More container-and trust-building. What emotions are people experiencing? Let’s put it out there, and let’s name emotions. What do we need to get curious about? Building more trust and grounded confidence by staying curious. What are your SFDs? The Turn & Learn is very helpful here. These are vulnerable rumbles, and having someone with more influence go first, versus having everyone write their thoughts down and put them up on the wall at the same time, can change the outcome for the worse. What do our SFDs tell us about our relationships? About our communication? About leadership? About the culture? About what’s working and what’s not working? Stay curious, learn to resist needing to know. Where do we need to rumble? What lines of inquiry do we need to open to better understand what’s really happening and to reality-check our conspiracy theories and confabulations? What’s the delta between those first SFDs and the new information we’re gathering in the rumble? What are the key learnings? How do we act on the key learnings? How do we integrate these key learnings into the culture and leverage them as we work on new strategies? What is one thing each of us will take responsibility for embedding? When is the circle-back? Let’s regroup so we can check back in and hold ourselves and one another accountable for learning and embedding.
Own the story and you get to write the ending. Deny the story and it owns you.
We fail the minute we let someone else define success for us.
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