The big question: How do we fix the mismatch between talent and opportunity in this country? Can leading with qualities like vulnerability, empathy and trust help with that?
Rachel, Adam and Brené discuss leadership, vulnerability, and addressing the mismatch between talent and opportunity in the United States. Dr. Brown discusses introducing vulnerability and bravery into leadership with a focus on America’s frontline workforce.
Key takeaways from our conversation with Brené:
- Contagious Calmness: Learn tactics for becoming a calm leader and creating space between stimulus and response. Discover how to break free from the grip of anxiety and inspire tranquility within your organization.
- Unscripted Empathy: Understand the fundamentals of empathetic leadership, where active listening, thoughtful questioning, and genuine reflection reign supreme. Say goodbye to rigid scripts and hello to deep connections that foster trust, creativity, and innovation.
- Overcoming Shame with Empathy: Shame is a universal emotion that can cripple individuals and organizations. Unearth the power of empathy in challenging negative self-talk and transforming workplace narratives. Learn how to construct a compassionate environment where everyone thrives.
“You can’t ask people to be vulnerable and brave in systems that are not built for their vulnerability and courage. We have to think about identity. We have to think about power…We have to build systems where armor is not rewarded or required.”Brené Brown, Renowned professor and author of six #1 New York Times best-sellers
Meet the guests
Renowned professor and author of six #1 New York Times best-sellers
Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She also holds the position of visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.
Brené has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is the author of six #1 New York Times bestsellers and is the host of two award-winning podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead.
NYT Best-Selling Author of Think Again
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author who explores the science of motivation, generosity, original thinking, and rethinking. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 5 books that have sold millions of copies and been translated into 45 languages: Think Again, Give and Take, Originals, Option B, and Power Moves.
Rachel Romer is Guild’s CEO — a Public Benefit Corporation that provides employees of America’s largest companies access to education, skilling, and career mobility through their employers without paying for tuition or career services on their own.
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Podcast transcript: Brené Brown, Rachel Romer and Adam Grant
Rachel Romer [00:00:00]:
How do we fix the mismatch between talent and opportunity in this country? And how do qualities like vulnerability, empathy, and trust help us do that work?
Brené Brown [00:00:14]:
You can't ask people to be vulnerable and brave in systems that are not built for their vulnerability and courage. We have to build systems where armor is not rewarded or required.
Rachel Romer [00:00:34]:
America's workforce, we lead them, we need them. We rely on them. But can the rely on us? I'm Rachel Roemer, CEO of Guild. And this is Opportunity Divide.
Adam Grant [00:00:55]:
I never knew this, but are you saying that if I want to work for you, I have to go and wait tables first?
Brené Brown [00:00:59]:
I'm saying you have to demonstrate some skills and humility that can only really be taught by frontline work.
Adam Grant [00:01:05]:
All right, I've got that.
Rachel Romer [00:01:06]:
Being frontline work, this is like as a leader, we so often spend years of training in the tombs of intellectual, business, and leadership environments, whether that's business school or the plethora of books that you could pick up at any airport, the boardrooms we get trained in and the programs we all engage in. For me as a leader, those only took me so far. And COVID was the moment where I realized I had hit the brick wall or perhaps the ceiling on IQ based training to help me figure out how to lead. If my best trainers in that world were the Eric Betting Jurors, the Perry Clevelands, the Michael Deerings of the world, brene Brown was who unlocked the empathy based training that I think I actually needed as a leader, and more importantly, the entire tome of EQ that I think is required for the leadership of today. She's a household name at this point. Her research and work on empathy, shame, vulnerability, and leadership has shifted the paradigm for the business world well beyond me, thanks in large part to her widely viewed Ted Talk and her now six number one New York Times bestselling books, including Dare to Lead and one of my favorites, Atlas of the Heart. She's recently hosted two podcasts and has also filmed a lecture for Netflix and a series about her latest book, Atlas of the Heart, on HBO. Max, it is such a privilege, to have Brené here for this conversation as we dig into how leaders can facilitate tough conversations and listen in order to identify the true opportunity divide that is holding back their organization and their people from reaching their full potential. If you had the chance to teach dare to lead, to be the exec coach of new frontline managers, what's the top thing that you would want to coach a new frontline manager in breath work?
Brené Brown [00:04:53]:
I've worked retail. I bartended away tables for eight years. I was a customer service rep for at and t and a union stewart. I took calls at a service center in english and in spanish. I've had a ton of frontline jobs. And I I don't really hire very many people, at least that are going to be working with me directly who have not had a lot of frontline experience. There's a quote I can neither confirm nor deny that I have a symbol that represents that quote tattooed on my arm. But there's a quote and the attribution is really unknown, and it says, between stimulus and response there is a space. And in that space is the power of choice, and in our choice is our liberation and our growth. The way I write it to myself is s close parentheses r so between stimulus and response, there is a space. I grew up in a family where there was no space. Between stimulus and response, something happened. You responded right away. Sometimes even how I grew up, fifth generation Texan, you anticipated the stimulus and you responded before it even happened. So there was no space. The more I think about what leadership is and what I would teach folks, starting with myself, this would be my me search. Not my research, but my me search, like trying to understand something for apply it to me first is when you've got stimulus in response, something happening and our response to it just back to back. How do we get a foot in there and then use our hands to pull open the space between something happening and how we respond to make sure that response is aligned with who we want to be. When we're talking about frontline workers, people are not okay right now. The public is not okay. I am not okay. As part of the public, I've talked honestly about this. I've been with Steve for 30 years. We met coaching swimming. We were very young, hardest season of my marriage. During COVID during the racial reckoning, my kids really struggled. They were in college and high school. And I'm barely okay and I have a ton of resources and a ton of privilege that other people don't have. And I'm barely holding on some days. So when I think about frontline workers leading a team of people, they're kind of holding on right now too. And a public that is also barely holding on right now. Leadership becomes about creating space between stimulus and response. Imagine an elevator door closing and sticking your foot in and then reaching in and trying to pull that door back open. To me, I would really want to lead a team that said, hey, when something hard happens, let's figure out a way that we can respond that protects our nervous system and each other that's.
Rachel Romer [00:07:52]:
So beautiful and feels so appropriate for what we've seen frontline workers go through over the last three years. But it feels like it just keeps getting harder. When we think about our hospital workers, who we serve, when we think about the folks who work in retail or in environments that are constantly dealing not only with just grumpy customers but also theft and crime and these incidents that now happen, they're sort of the front line of America. They're not really the front line of just their jobs. They're the frontline of the country in a lot of ways. Adam, I'm curious what you think. How do you think about if you had the chance to coach a new frontline manager? How would you want to partner with.
Adam Grant [00:08:35]:
The I'm going to tell them to listen to Brené Brown because, Bren, you just did something really powerful, which is you took a concept that I've always loved as a psychologist and you completely changed the way that I think about it. I guess this idea of space between stimulus and response, I've always seen it as something that we're responsible for in our own heads, right? So that's about me marshaling emotional intelligence or some level of mindfulness and I need to have the sort of the equanimity to be able to do it right. And here you are saying, actually this is the act of leadership, that you can create that space for your colleagues, for your team, maybe even for your boss or for your boss's boss. Right. Because we can lead upward as well as laterally and downward. And I've never thought about leadership that way before, but I think it's profound. I mean, one of the things we've seen during the pandemic is we all became a little bit more reactive. There are more stressors, there's more pressure, there's more uncertainty. And so we feel like, well, the only way we get a sense of control is I'm just going to respond and fight fires really quickly. And you're saying we've got to fight those instincts it's what you mean when you've often referenced pathing. And I think it's a much deeper idea than just stopping, right? It's actually allowing people to analyze what does this stimulus mean? What impact is it going to have on us and how do we choose the best response as opposed to just reacting with the first response? I love that.
Brené Brown [00:10:07]:
Can I ask a question?
Adam Grant [00:10:09]:
No. You're giving me answers here.
Brené Brown [00:10:11]:
No, I have a question and we can learn together. And I have to say that I thought this I did not think about this as a leadership skill. I'm taking a really huge company through Dare to lead and I was asking a group of 180 VPs about we know that anxiety is a very contagious emotion. We're starting to understand that calm is also in fact, some people who study in bow and family systems, people who study anxiety, they don't actually believe anxiety is a function of individuals. It's so contagious. They really talk mostly about anxiety being a function of groups because it's hard to contain within an individual. And so most of us have been in a situation when there's been four or five of us and then one person comes in and is so anxious, the whole group catches fire with anxiety. And I think we're starting to understand now a little bit that calm is also contagious. And so what was interesting when I was leading this group of leaders just this week through this, and I said one of the things that we've noticed, we went in to organization after organization and said, who's the person that walks in where everybody goes? And so when I asked this week this group of people about who do you know that's calm? We were on teams, and the chat blew up with one person's name. And I said, well, you're here. Let me ask you. And he said, I've never thought about it before. It's a skill probably in his 50s. I've learned it over many years. I guess I see my job as creating that space between stimulus and response. I see my job as making your tattoo work.
Adam Grant [00:12:36]:
Brené Brown [00:12:37]:
Yeah. And so I don't want to take credit for that. I want to say that it's in working with leaders and understanding the power of calm. The other idea about frontline right now and everyone I mean, not everyone, but I would say a critical mass of people, in my opinion, are emotionally unregulated right now.
Adam Grant [00:12:57]:
Brené Brown [00:12:58]:
We have a ton of fight energy that comes from the Dysregulation. And so Calm space makers, that's a leadership superpower right now. And I don't care whether it's like, because you're leading a floor team of waiters at a sports bar or you're leading a team of software engineers in Silicon Valley, breath and space makers, calm leadership, thoughtful matters.
Adam Grant [00:13:27]:
This is like human chamomile.
Brené Brown [00:13:30]:
Rachel Romer [00:13:31]:
I love that, Adam.
Adam Grant [00:13:33]:
It's so much richer than just breathing. Yes. And rich. I want to get your take on this, too, but you're making me rethink something that I now want to go back and undo. Some advice I've given to some Frontline leaders and managers. Quick backstory. A few years ago, we had a doctoral student, Alison WoodBrooks, who did her dissertation on managing anxiety. What she found was, when you ask people, what do you do when you're anxious and what do you tell other people to do? Something like 94% of people said calm down, but they couldn't do it because we all know anxiety is an intense, highly activated emotion, and it doesn't just go away. It's like slamming on the brakes when you're going 100 miles an hour down the freeway. Not good for anyone involved. And so what Allison had found was instead of trying to calm down, it was easier to reappraise anxiety as excitement and say, look, anxiety involves uncertainty. Yes, it's possible something bad might happen, but it's also possible something good might happen. And if you're nervous about having to give a big speech in front of your team or to deal with a really difficult customer, then instead of saying, I got to calm down, you should just say, I'm excited. And she found that actually improved people's performance in these stressful situations. But, Bren, I think what you're bringing to the table that I never thought about before is that's relevant if you're in your own head, because calming down is so hard individually. Right. But if you have a leader who's great at creating that space and who, I guess serves as a calming agent, maybe calm is a better place to go than excitement.
Brené Brown [00:15:08]:
So it's really interesting. So I'm thinking about Kersten Lindquist work on language and neurobiology when you say that. So in Atlas of the Heart, I actually write about anxiety and excitement because they present very similarly, as Adam was saying, in the body and then what we know. And this is the craziest research that I've come across in a long time, and I again go to Kersten Lindquist . But how we label emotion often dictates how our body responds to it, right? And so people are like, what is she talking about? And the only way I can just think to describe this is if Adam comes to my house and says, hey, your chocolate chip cinnamon cookies are my favorite cookies in the world. Can you make them for me? And I'm like, sure, I make them. And the said they kind of taste different. And I said, oh, I use the blue bowl instead of my traditional yellow bowl. And he's like, Exact same ingredients, exact same ingredients. Why did the yellow bowl make a difference? That's how language is. Language doesn't only describe emotion. It tells our body what to do to respond to it, right? And so I think the distinction between anxiety and excitement for me is super helpful when my anxiety is about uncertainty and there's an upside, like, I'm going to give a big talk and, oh my God, I'm anxious. No, I'm actually kind of excited. I'm excited. Yeah, I'm excited, but it could go wrong. But I'm excited. Okay. As a leadership skill and even as an internal skill, I think we need both the language in our toolbox and I think we need some calm practices in our toolbox.
Rachel Romer [00:16:55]:
I wish I could play on the field. You all are on research, but it makes me think of all the parenting advice because I'm in the middle of parenting two little four year olds, and I think about when they are anxious, saying calm down is about the worst thing you can tell a four and a half year old. But I love that research about just breathing with them and sometimes without even telling them you're doing it. If you just start to sync your breathing with them, it feels like that system that can take a different approach where if you're all breathing together differently, you create that space versus the language amplifying. So this is such a fascinating oh.
Brené Brown [00:17:31]:
Man, let me tell you, your kids are not too young either for this. I don't even know what book it was that I was researching when I was really starting to understand calm as a superpower. And I'm like Nouveau calm. I was not built to be a calm person. I am like, nouveau calm. I am 100% self made calm, and I'm also calm contextually. So if my husband is around, who he's a pediatrician, and he is not nouveau calm, he is wired for calm. And so I've learned a lot for him because watching over 25 years as he takes calls from patients who are panicked. And so they would call and be like, potential level seven head injury. She rolled off something that was four inches above the ground. But what I would see is how he would respond. He would never match tone. He would get really quiet, and he would say, like, okay, tell me what she was doing before she rolled off. And tell me, if you had to measure the distance that she fell when she rolled, how high would you say it was? Four inches. Okay, what is she doing now? Just look at her and tell me about her laughing and holding your feet. Okay, we're probably good, but I think when I was writing about this, about calm as kind of a superpower, before I even thought about it applied to leadership, this is when I was interviewing a lot of people that said, oh, breath. Breath is your teacher yoga. Breath, breath, breath. And I was like, man, I am not wired for this bullshit right here. And then I ended up at West Point, and I ended up talking to some Special Forces folks at West Point who were teaching there. And I said, how do you stay safe? How do you make decisions? And the yoga people had taught me about the box breathing, and they're like, Ma'am, it's all about breath. And I was like and I said, what kind of breathing? They're like, tactical breathing. And I was like, okay, this sounds cooler than, like, box pathing, because box breathing is like, in for four, hold for four, out for four. And I said, so what's? Tactical breathing? And they're like, in for four, hold for four, out. And I was like, Damn it. The yogis got here first. But I taught my kids very young, and we would draw little boxes, and I would even have them just trace their finger. 1234, nothing 1234. And so I do think as a parenting tool, as an anxious student tool, as a frontline worker tool, as a leader tool, we can't underestimate the power of breath anymore. We just have too much science behind it. Would you agree, Adam?
Adam Grant [00:20:19]:
Yeah. I've also been a converted skeptic, and I think part of what persuaded me was just reading about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and realizing there's a physiological basis of this. And we all know, I mean, all you have to do is pause and take a deep breath to experience that effect. But there's a part of me that still wants to roll my eyes whenever someone talks about, well, you just need a better breathing technique. And I think what's really exciting to me about this conversation, although maybe I should call it calming, because I need to work on that, too. I'm a few years behind you on that journey, Renee, but I think one of the things that I do like about this orientation is to say I like the term practices. You use because we could think about building this into our culture, not just to our individual routines. So it's one thing to have your own education or yoga or breathing habit, right. Or however you choose to work out and regulate. It's another thing to say collectively, we need a series of practices that allow us to be in the best emotional space possible, to serve customers, to solve problems, and to do our best work together.
Brené Brown [00:21:30]:
Can I ask you a question, Adam? Because I'm curious about this. As a competitive athlete who engaged in a sport that you could not pay me enough money to dive from off of anything into anything. Like, nothing. Not like a 1 meter board into a VAT of chocolate pudding. I'm not going. Tell me about your breath on the board.
Adam Grant [00:21:50]:
It was terrible. I thought that my stealing and diving came from a lack of physical talent, flexible, and that was true. But there was always a little bit of a gap between how good I was in practice and how good I was in competition, because I would get really anxious and I didn't have good techniques to regulate it. I think this comment of I would never dive into anything is interesting to me because I think that's part of why I did it is at the time, I was afraid of heights, and I said, okay, this is going to be a great way to overcome my fear. And I didn't know it at the time, but I was following some of your principles of courage, Bren, and I think that I know, Rachel, one of the things that you've been spending a lot of time on is helping frontline leaders and managers work with courage and bring out courage in their people. And so I wondered if we could talk about that a little bit.
Rachel Romer [00:22:41]:
I love that. I was thinking, Bren, we encounter what we call educational shame and educational trauma all the time in our work with the frontline workforce because nearly half the folks we serve have tried college and dropped out. And by the way, we even hate that phrase drop out. We put the whole label on people as if they did something wrong, when in reality, the majority of them ran out of money. They didn't fail classes, but we call them a dropout. And then the rest never had a chance to go to college to begin with, and most often had a horrible K Twelve experience. I mean, you just hear horror after horror of the learning experience. So we end up in this tango of trying to build confidence with the frontline workforce in their mobility, to learn as adults and reconcile with some of the shame and sometimes grappling with their worthiness about whether they can dive into it. How do you see those concepts interact? And if you were one of our coaches, we have hundreds who do this all day long. What kind of questions would you want to ask an employee to help them think about how they could overcome that experience and take on that courage?
Brené Brown [00:23:51]:
Look, I think some Shame 101 is super important. One, shame, we all have it. Two, no one wants to talk about it. Three, the less we talk about it, the more we have it. 85% of the research participants we interviewed can remember something so shaming that happened in K through twelve. It forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners. 85%, 85%. Now this is bigger, about between 92 and 95% can remember a single teacher that was their only reference point for their own worthiness. So what does that tell you? What does that mean? It means whoa. The power in school systems that people have shame is how we see ourselves through other people's eyes. And you can even experience shame alone because you can just think about how someone might see you and be like, oh my God. So I think we have to normalize shame and we have to normalize that. I mean, I know this because I graduated when I was 17 from high school. I graduated from college when I was 29. I was a college dropout. At some point I got kicked out of a university with a note that said, this is not a country club. You can't live in the dorm, skip all your classes and play tennis. And when I dropped out, I probably had $40,000 in school loans. When I finished, I had $130,000 in school loans and I worked my way through school and so I was the dropout. And I got a great job as a customer service rep for a large telecom company. And people would say, Where did you go to school? Because I got promoted and I got promoted again. And I would say where I went to school. But I wouldn't add the fact that I didn't graduate from there. It's just where I went. Until finally one day I went to my boss. I got a promotion. And she said, you got to go to New Jersey. This is where we're headquartered. You need to let me know in two days. And I came back and I handed her an envelope and she said, you're quitting? And I said, I am. I got to go back to school. And so the I began the long slog back, waiting tables, picking up triples to pay tuition when tuition was due. And we got to normalize a bunch of broken systems. We got to normalize the shame. And I think the coaching, maybe a coaching place in addition to doing a little bit of education about shame and how powerful that is and that we all have it, you're not alone. And that shame can't survive empathy. Shame really requires us to believe we're alone in something. And I think the other thing is teaching people how to check the narratives, the stories they tell themselves about themselves. Because there are three really dangerous narratives. And I think one of them is because someone didn't put value on our work doesn't mean that our work doesn't have value or that we don't have value. One of them is just because someone didn't have the capacity or willingness to love us doesn't make us unlovable. And I think another one is really about oppression and systems that really privilege some over others and how these are not individual issues but collective issues. I think we need to help people check out the stories they make up, give them the skill to deconstruct the story and then also normalize some of that shame. It is real.
Rachel Romer [00:27:15]:
It's so real and it's so critical because as we think about we say Guild, the four and 40 is dead. Where you went to college for four years and then you worked for 40 and you retired, it's now the every four. And to survive in this economy, you have to reskill every four years. But if you don't believe in your capability to reskill, it is the ultimate barrier on your growth. And when we dig in, there's so many stories, quote unquote, in the US about people's aptitude. But as you know all too well, when you work on the front line, the people there are brilliant. The talent is everywhere. It's not IQ. It's often opportunity that's held folks back and their perception of what the world has said about themselves.
Brené Brown [00:27:57]:
100% one of the reasons why at least into the highest leadership positions, I need both. I work from this place like nothing's wasted. I learned much more about I owe my success in my career to the years I spent on the front line. There is no college professor that could teach me about empathy. Our people, our connection. Like waiting tables on game day in Austin with a bunch of really rich kids at my table where I'm trying to pick up a triple, where I can barely walk at the end of the night to make tuition. And what that taught me about myself and everyone that was around me, what it would look like to look at somebody and say, I'm in the weeds. Great. What do you need? I need water on three, bread on four, and this on six. I use the skills every day and there's a level of intelligence. I don't know what it is about high performing teams, humility, curiosity that people are getting on the front lines that they don't even understand the value of.
Rachel Romer [00:29:07]:
Adam, what do you wish more folks in the white collar economy knew about service work? Like if you could impart the lessons to the headquarters?
Adam Grant [00:29:16]:
There's so many things. My experience personally isn't as rich as Brené's. I worked as a lifeguard and then I worked doing sort of a mix of advertising, sales and customer service exclusively over the phone. And I feel like in both of those jobs, the most important. Skill I learned was to listen. And there dare a lot of cliches and platitudes out there about listening. One of the things I did not understand until I worked in service roles, and of course, there's been a lot of research that I've read since then, but it it really just reinforced what I'd witnessed and experienced, is that a huge part of good listening is asking thoughtful follow up questions and kind of reflecting back. Not in an active listening sense, just restating, but reflecting back. I actually learned something from what you said. What do you make of that? Right? And I think that's something that I really didn't expect going in. I think when I was doing sales, for example, I was literally trained to take a script and give a pitch and then be ready to go to okay this response if the customer reacts this way. And I found that I was at my most successful when I would pick up the phone and say, hi, I'm Adam. I'd actually just love to hear a little bit about your experience with our products. Tell me what's working, tell me what's not. My job is to try to deliver something of value for you. And if it's not working, I'd really love to know what that is so that I can tell my boss we suck. It was so much more human, and I guess that's a lot of bren. What you talk about when you talk about empathy and curiosity is being able to put yourself in the other person's shoes and wonder what their experience is like. But I don't think enough people outside of frontline work are taught to do this.
Brené Brown [00:31:04]:
It's such a good answer, and I'm like, I love it so much. And also I'm thinking about think again, like, your work on the importance of being a learner and not a knower. Confirmed what I learned on the front lines. You don't have room to be a knower. You have to say, oh, I'm sorry, I apologize. What did I miss? What did I not get? And it's conceptual, except when you're on the front line, you can't be a knower, you've got to be a learner, you got to be curious, you got to listen, got to ask a lot of questions, and you have to risk being wrong about 340 times a day.
Adam Grant [00:32:54]:
It's so true. So much of that, though, I feel like I missed. If I were going to rewrite think again right now, Brené, courage would be the foundation of all of that because you have to be brave to say, I don't know, or I screwed that up or I might be wrong. And I don't think that a lot of us know how to do that. And I think where your work is so valuable to people at any level of a frontline workforce is finding the courage to step into uncertainty and accept that. I might not know what I'm doing right now, but I have to admit that in order to figure it out.
Brené Brown [00:34:58]:
I'll just add to it because I agree with everything Adam said wholeheartedly. You also can't ask people to be vulnerable and brave in systems that are not built for their vulnerability and courage. We have to think about identity. We think I have to think about power, we have to think about if I'm really vulnerable right now in my career. It's seen as courage. But if someone with a disability or a black leader or a new leader or someone is vulnerable, that can be weaponized as evidence of stereotypes. And so we also at the same time we're teaching people to be brave. We have to build systems where armor is not rewarded or required. And if those two things don't happen at the same time, if they're not both micro and macro interventions, then it's a disaster. Because brave people I'm thinking of James Clear, we don't rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems. Yeah. And so I'm thinking that to skill up people around courage and vulnerability but to not change systems is a disaster for individuals. And then to build systems that are courage but not skill people up and assume oh hey, I've got a system where you can be brave but not say I'm going to invest in the time. To skill people up is also so it is simultaneous work, which is why it is hard. And I will say that to ask people to be vulnerable and brave in a system that rewards armor and requires it to be safe is a disaster.
Rachel Romer [00:36:36]:
I had a question about that that I thought about because we see that so often and I give you and a lot of leaders so much credit for bringing empathy to the corporate conversation and the concept of empathy. But I was also thinking about the near enemies of empathy and whether it's sympathy or more. What does that look like when the system isn't designed for the employee or the frontline manager to bring empathy and vulnerability to work? And what do we need to scaffold in the system for that to be more possible for frontline managers, even if they're in a corporation that isn't yet making it safe for them to lead with those emotions?
Brené Brown [00:37:13]:
I think to some degree you can build a moat around your team. There's this teacher, oh God, this is an amazing teacher in a tough school and she really believed in kind of the dearing classroom vulnerable. And so what she ended up doing is kind of having an invisible coat rack so the kids actually kind of mimed taking off their armor and hanging it up and then the sat down in the classroom and it was a really safe space to be vulnerable and open and courageous and empathetic. But then the cut class five minutes early and had them put their armor back on, which was really painful. But a lot of our students, even years later, came back and said it was so hard to put it back on. I needed to put it back on before I went back, even walked home or went home with my parents or into other classrooms, but to have one single space where I knew what it felt like. And so I think we can do it in a team with a moat saying, look, I don't know what's going to happen when you walk out of this team, but in here, here's how we're going to be. I think that's possible.
Rachel Romer [00:38:21]:
It's tough, but I do love that idea of your management team as a moat, the manager and that small, often eight person team that works a shift or works in a department that's really powerful and could go a long way when the system isn't yet ready to change at the macro corporate level.
Brené Brown [00:38:39]:
Yeah, because what are you going to do? Are you going to tell a group of people, I mean, I believe with not just my heart but my head that vulnerability is the birthplace of really important human experiences love, trust, belonging, creativity, innovation, courage. Are you going to tell generations of people, hey, we don't have the systemic change in place now for you to be vulnerable, so we're going to shut down all this stuff in your life? I don't believe that. That's like sometimes in Dear to Lead, we'll have Facilitator BIPOC, Facilitators, do just all that next groups, because in that group I can do that. And when I get back to work, man, I don't know if it's safe or not. So maybe it's just a critical mass of people finding a safe space to put it on and then losing our tolerance for vulnerability and courage, being a privileged act. That's just wrong. Morally, ethically wrong.
Adam Grant [00:39:36]:
Yeah, that goes to one of the ideas that I was sort of pondering, which is I think this tracks really well with the basic premise that it's hard to change the culture of a whole organization, but it's much more doable to shape the culture of your own team. And I think to do that, one of the things you have to do is prenate what you call rumbling. For a lot of people, that's a difficult conversation or it's an uncomfortable discussion about the armor that other people might be wearing or the vulnerabilities we can't show. Can you talk to us a little bit about how to initiate those conversations? If I'm a frontline worker, for example, and I have to tell a manager that they're actually making it acceptable for people to challenge each other, for example, or if I'm a frontline manager, having to tell my co manager that they're silencing people and shutting down their voices how do you recommend initiating those conversations?
Brené Brown [00:40:30]:
Carefully and with curiosity. So I might say, if you and I work together, I might say, you know what, Adam? We're hearing from the same couple of people every time in this meeting, and they seem to be people that really agree with us. I'm wondering if it would be helpful if we tried to work really hard to create some space for other people. We don't want to call on them and put them on the spot, but I wonder if it'd be helpful if we even asked, like, do you feel comfortable talking in the meeting or what could I do to make this a better place for you to speak up if you disagree with something? For us, a rumble is prepare for a difficult conversation, bring a point of view, and discomfort is okay. Like normalizing discomfort. Discomfort is okay. But I think when we look at the rumble starters, people are like, oh, I thought you were going to give me a decision tree about what to say. Not just sentence stems like, help me understand, walk me through this is not my experience of that. The heart of difficult conversation is curiosity.
Adam Grant [00:41:39]:
This goes to another one of those stems that I use all the time that Renee, you introduced me to. The story I'm making up is I may not know what I'm talking about here. I'd love to heart your story. It's such an invitation to curiosity and such a natural way to show humility.
Brené Brown [00:41:57]:
Yeah. And I think it goes back to a coveism. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It's a good way to live. Very big challenge for me because I just mostly am interested in being understood, to be honest with you. But I do think it is just a hallmark of curiosity. It's a curiosity hack.
Rachel Romer [00:42:16]:
Well, I feel so grateful the way it comes through and dare to lead. And I don't want to overstate, but I just in wrapping up. Bren, I want to thank you for creating a system for leadership that for those of us, I mean, in particular female founders, I've spoken to so many other women in leadership that has felt authentic. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. As I look back on mine, adam conversation with Brene, there's so much that I will take forward. But the most impactful moment for me as a leader myself and as I think about supporting the frontline leaders of the American workforce, is that idea of applying her very cool tattoo. That same concept that Adam had researched around the idea that between stimulus and response, there is pause. That concept being not just an intrapersonal concept and one that could be applied to our meditative lives or our inner workings, but actually a management concept. The idea that that can take forward into how we lead is pretty powerful. We rely on them, but can they rely on us? I'm Rachel Romer, we'd love if you'd join us to continue these important conversations. To do so, click the link in the show notes next time.
Adam Grant [00:43:44]:
We have to get past this idea that motivation is something that one person does to another, when in fact, it's something that people do for themselves.
Rachel Romer [00:43:53]:
Daniel Pink joined us for a fascinating conversation. We need to stop acting as though the frontline workforce just isn't motivated enough.
Adam Grant [00:44:00]:
I'll be your Hallelujah Chorus on that one and just sing out in the louder voice as I can. Amen.