Marie: Hey. It’s Marie Forleo, and you’re listening to the Marie Forleo Podcast. You know, today’s culture is one that’s filled with fear, scarcity, and uncertainty. What we need most in times like these are people who are willing to step up, people who are willing to be brave, to be courageous, and to lead with heart. My guest today is here to show us how to do just that.
Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation Brené Brown Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, and is the author of four number one New York Times bestsellers: Braving the Wilderness, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection. Her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most viewed TED Talks in the world––yes, in the world––with more than 35 million views. Brené lives in Houston, Texas with her husband Steve and their children Ellen and Charlie. Her latest book which we’re going to talk about today, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts, is available now.
Brené, it is so great to have you on the Marie Forleo Podcast. You’re one of my favorite humans in the whole world. I texted you this, but I need to say it right now: Dare to Lead, another one that you knocked out of the park. My book is filled with underlines and highlights and dog-eared pages and all of the good things, but I need to ask you. You’re so prolific. I am curious. Why this topic and why right now?
Brené: First, I just… Anywhere, anytime, doing anything, I’m yours. I’m in. Thank you for having me back. Let me tell you. The last time we did something together, you have amazing… You have an amazing crew. Not only the people who work with you, but your community is incredible. So thank you for inviting me in again.
Brené: So why this book? Oh, my god. It’s a really good question. A couple years ago, we got super clear. Like the name of our company is Brené Brown Education Research Group. So we have this mission of making the world a greater place by sharing our research and our work in a really accessible, relevant way with impact, looking for impact and scale. I realized and I had already been studying leadership, but I didn’t think I would do a leadership book per se. I thought I would just weave it in like I kind of did with Daring Greatly and Rising Strong and weave it into other books.
I had this huge epiphany actually in New York. I was working with an organization that has 25,000 employees and was really just struggling. The leadership was not showing. They weren’t showing up like they wanted to show up. People were just really in a dark place. I thought “You know what? You can’t change the world. You can’t make the world a greater place if you don’t change how we work because, as adults, we spend more than half of our lives at work.” I think everyone listening will attest to the fact that if work is toxic, if work is shaming, if work makes you question your value, everything in your life just goes to shit.
Marie: Yes. That gets an amen on a Wednesday or Thursday from me.
Brené: Yeah. So I just thought “You know what? I’m going to do this.” I think it’s a book for everyone. We define… I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential. So this is not a book for people in the C-Suite or people with corner offices and big titles. This is a book for every one of us that wants to show up, contribute, and lean into our purpose.
Marie: So in the book, you talk a lot about armored leadership versus daring leadership. Let’s talk about what is underneath these different approaches. I just want to underscore what you just said about this is for everyone because I feel like, especially in my community for the folks listening right now from what I’ve read in emails and just keeping in touch with our folks, one of the things that can plague us is not thinking that our voice matters, not thinking that we have anything important to say or that, as you said, if we’re not in that corner office, we’re not at that C-Suite level, that we’re not a leader. But I do think, as you well know, now more than ever we need brave people to stand up in every corner of every organization, of their families, of their friend groups, everything. Let’s think about this from that perspective. Armored leadership versus daring leadership, what’s that about?
Brené: So here’s what was really… I have to be honest with you. This was the most… This kind of blew my hypothesis out of the water. I went in thinking that the biggest barrier to daring leadership is fear. We’re afraid. There’s a lot of new research in here including interviews with 150 leaders and a three-year process of building and instrument to measure your daring leadership capacity. I started looking at the data, and I was like “Oh, my god. I don’t think fear… I don’t think the greatest barrier to daring leadership is fear. I’m wrong.”
So I went back and started interviewing some of the bravest people I know, I mean bravest leaders I know again from social justice movements to oil and gas companies, and they’re like “Fear? No, I’m afraid all the time.” I was like “What do you mean?” They’re like “No, I’m afraid everyday.” I was like “It’s not fear.” Then as we started digging, what we realized is the greatest barrier is not our fear. It’s our armor, how we show up when we’re in fear. Some of us, in fear, recognize the fear. We’re very aware of what kind of armor we depend on, how we self-protect, but most of us, myself included, still to this day when we feel vulnerable or uncertain or at risk or criticized, we armor up. That armor, those different behaviors we use to self-protect, they corrode trust, they move us into fear, they keep us away from courageous decision-making, and they really are toxic to whatever our mission and purpose is.
So what it really came down to, the heart of the book, is the difference between. If everyone’s afraid, daring leadership is having the skills to lean into the fear and figure out what the hell’s going on and stay brave. Armored leadership is those terrible behaviors that we lean into to protect.
Marie: What do some of those look like for you? So I know for me, even mostly in a personal realm, right?
Marie: For me to armor up, I know it’s like I shut down. In the book, you were writing… I actually have some friends that I joke with about this. It’s almost like I do turn into a Transformer. All of the metal, right? Everything just comes up and it’s like boom. It all gets sucked inside and it’s like you cannot penetrate. My vision, my heart, everything closes down. I’m curious what are some of the ways that it shows up for you.
Brené: Well 16 of them emerged from the research. It was 16 different types of armor. Our armories are very full, and 16 kind of daring leadership approaches to counter that armor. But I think some of the big ones that we face: driving perfectionism and fostering fear of failure.
Brené: Perfectionism is armor. I mean perfectionism is the 20-ton shield.
Brené: It’s really… All perfectionism… I mean it’s not striving for excellence or healthy striving. That’s completely different. That’s completely internally motivated.
Brené: Perfectionism is “Oh, god. What will people think?”
Brené: So the daring leadership response to perfectionism is modeling and encouraging healthy striving, empathy, and self-compassion. So if you’ve got a team and I’m thinking about all the people I know who follow you in a cult-like but great way and most of them are young entrepreneurs, they are people… I mean they lean into your work so heavily as they’re trying to build their own businesses.
Brené: I can tell you… And most of them are women. Not all, but most. I can tell you, from interviewing a lot of young entrepreneurs for this work, how many times… I mean I get teary-eyed every time I think about it. I sat across from someone who sunk all their savings or borrowed money from their family and really started this thing that they believed in and let their perfectionism completely corrode it.
Marie: Yes. Yes. It breaks my heart. I try to share as often as possible, Brené, A) how long it’s taken me to get where I am and how long––seven years––I had all these different side jobs because I didn’t know what I was doing. And I still am the farthest thing from perfect. We make mistakes all the time. I love that we’re talking about this. I really, really do. I think it’s especially important in the time that we’re in right now where Instagram is obviously most of our favorite social media platforms and it’s the place where everything can look the shiniest and the prettiest and the most perfect which that’s a whole other conversation.
But I was having a talk with a girlfriend the other day and I said “Hey. How are you?” Because she’s been experiencing a really tough, difficult time. I said “I’ve been watching you on Instagram and I’ve been wanting to give you your space.” We were laughing because she’s like “Instagram’s mostly a lie.”
Marie: I howled out loud, but to your point about daring leadership and perfectionism and that’s one of the ways that we armor up, I just really want to appreciate you for calling all of this out because it’s so, so important. Another thing I highlighted in the book which I love this phrase, “Embrace the suck.” I really want to drive home this point that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. We do not have to stop feeling afraid to do brave, courageous things. Thank you.
Brené: Y’all, I mean people make up… I could just spend the rest of my life reading a book of stories people make up about me and what my life is like. I’ll be honest with you. I texted my chief of staff like five minutes ago––who is my sister––and was like “Oh, my god. Is this shit with Marie audio or video?” She goes “Audio. I’ve already told you I’ll give you a head up if it’s video.” Right now, I’m sitting here. My hair is wet and I’ve got like masks under my eye bags because I’m just getting over being sick. I threw my tennis shoes on. I just came downstairs. I’ve got one Adidas tennis shoe on and one Converse tennis shoe on. I didn’t realize I grabbed two different tennis shoes.
Marie: Yes. Okay. You want to trade stories?
Marie: So I came into my studio. Right now, same thing. It’s like a little bit. Today’s one of those hot fall days in New York City.
Marie: My uniform when I’m not doing my show which I like to say “It’s the Marie Forleo… It’s MarieTV. It’s a show.” But I run into people all the time on the street with no makeup. My uniform is a really comfy v-neck tee-shirt and some form of jeans and flip flops. That is my happy place. So I come into my studio about to record this, right? So I have a thing where if I have a lot of visual clutter around, I find it hard to concentrate. That’s just one of the things that helps me just stay focused.
So I think it was like a week or two ago. We were here in the studio filming some stuff, and I just had a moment where there were so many… You know when you just look around, you’re like “How did all this clutter get here?” Like it just accumulates. So my team helped me clear things out because they know how important it is to me, and I’m getting ready for this podcast and guess what, Brené? My podcast mike that we’re on right now, the little plug, the USB that helps it plug in is not fucking there. So it’s literally… So I’m like “Oh, shit. I got to talk to Brené in like 10 minutes.”
So here’s where grace comes in. I knew I chose this particular location where I’m in in New York City for a reason. First of all, it’s around the corner from my favorite karaoke place ever, and it happens to be down the street from a place called Adorama, which is a place that is all tech, like cameras, audio equipment. I am running down the street, Brené. Everything is jingling. This is like literally 10 minutes before you and I just hopped on to record this, and I’m sweating bullets to get this USB port, begging these guys in the store. I’m like “Hey, I’m about to record a podcast with one of my really dear friends. I really need this USB port. Can you help me?” They ran, got the USB port. I’m running back down in Manhattan on the street and get back in the studio. For anyone thinking that we have our shit all together––
Brené: Yeah. That’s a lie. Don’t tell yourself that in order so you can snuggle up with your own self-doubt. You don’t… Don’t use me.
Brené: Don’t use me as your “I suck” snuggle toy.
Marie: Oh, my god. I love you.
Brené: Yeah, because that’s not going to work.
Marie: Okay. So moving on, let’s talk about shame and empathy. I want to dive into shame first. On page 126 of Dare to Lead, you write “Shame is the fear of disconnection.” You also write that the fear of being irrelevant––and my goodness, girl, I highlighted this so many times. “The fear of being irrelevant is a huge shame trigger that we are not addressing at work.” I threw my hands up when I read that. I think this is so true for employees in this time right now. I think it’s true for CEOs. I think it’s true for startups, for anyone who is looking to make a difference and make a positive impact in this world. This is one of the things in the room that we’re not talking about, this fear and the same of being irrelevant because things are moving so fast. So I’m curious to hear more of your take on this.
Brené: I think it’s one of the biggest shame triggers at work that we face. I’ve got to tell you that comparison is the devil here.
Marie: Yes. Yes.
Brené: Whether you’ve got your own side hustle and you’re trying to do something or you’ve got… You’re in a really steady job that you’re trying to climb up the ladder, whatever it is. We just spend so much time and energy checking the other lanes.
Brené: There’s nothing that kills you in a race like looking over and checking lanes. I think it’s interesting because going back to the armored leadership versus daring leadership, one of the comparisons of the two and how they show up is one is hustling for your worth.
Brené: And the other is knowing… daring leadership is knowing your value. When I say knowing your value, I don’t mean like looking in the mirror and saying “I value you and I love you and you’re awesome, Brené. Let’s go kick some ass.” I mean if you do that, that’s rock on. That’s great. What I’m talking about is a sit-down with the people, with your supervisor, with whoever you work with, with the people, the family members that lent you $10000 to start your Etsy business, whoever that you trust. Sit down and say “Help me explore and name the value I bring. Help me know what it is that I do uniquely well. Tell me what it is that you think the strengths that I bring.”
We have to understand our value because for one thing, it’s really hard for shame. Shame will pick somebody else. They’ll pick on someone else. They don’t choose the people who are very clear with their value because it’s harder to stick to us sometimes. So I think… I know my value. I know what it is and I know what it isn’t. I know that the budget work and doing proformas and projecting things is not my strength so I have a CFO that’s amazing at doing that. What I know is my strength is… It’s really weird and it’s tied to my purpose. I’m really good at seeing connections between things that most people don’t see and then wrapping language around it in a way that makes it accessible and makes people feel less alone. I know that’s my thing.
Brené: So yeah, when I come out of a week where I’ve done none of that work and I’ll I’ve done is stared at spreadsheets, which I’m not good at things like that, I’m just not, unless someone… My CFO is really good with me because he wraps a narrative and he tells me a story about the numbers. I’m like, I tell him, “That makes sense to me.” But when we don’t know our value and there are changes at work or there’s turmoil or whatever, we’re the first to go. Then we start hustling. Then we start “I don’t know my value. I don’t know if I’m relevant. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me over here. I’ve got the answers to everything. I’m the best.” Then we go into comparison. Then it’s just a shit show from that point forward.
Marie: Totally. I think you hit on something that I really want to go back to because I think it’s huge. I felt it in my heart when you said it. I recognized it in myself. Sometimes… We have a program named B-School, right?
Brené: Yeah. Of course.
Marie: I work with people every year and I have so much fun. One of the things that I often do is I just go live. In that particular case, it’s been in our Facebook group where I just pop up, I throw on… That’s actually really fun for me because I just do it in my kitchen or wherever the hell I am. I’m just like “Yeah. All right. Let’s do this, guys. Let’s throw down. Let’s talk. What are your questions? What’s happening?” I am so alive when I get to work with people, when I’m dealing with them one-on-one. I have started to recognize in myself if I don’t have enough of that, when I am not flexing my strengths… When you were saying, right, if I haven’t done this, kind of seeing the patterns and wrapping language around, and making it accessible for people and helping them feel like they’re not alone.
If you haven’t flexed those muscles enough, that’s almost when we pull out of our strengths and then all of a sudden, we start looking around to the left and to the right. Comparison hits in and I call it compareschlager. I feel like it’s––
Marie: Do you remember… You may not remember this, but maybe for me, it was like Goldschlager, it was like that terrible liquor way, way back in the day.
Brené: Oh, yeah.
Marie: Oh, with the gold flakes. It’s like once you do a few shots of that, you’re down for days if not weeks. It’s really hard. So I do want to underscore for anyone listening, if you’re thinking like “Oh, god. Yes, comparison is one of my habits,” Brené gave you a huge, huge hint. The more that you understand and know your strengths, what value you bring, and you make sure you’re practicing that, exercising that, flexing that, serving through that, the less space and time we kind of pull back and go into that comparison zone. I love it.
Brené: One of the things that made me really proud as a leader because it’s something I work on a lot was getting some 360 feedback about my own leadership which was hard because not everything was great. It was a pretty mixed bag, but one thing that I was proud of is that everyone reported to me could almost recite verbatim what they thought their value was in a conversation that we had about their value.
Marie: That’s awesome.
Brené: Yeah. It’s… I think one of the most dangerous things I’ve seen even in my own leadership and then working with other leaders is when we’re leading a team… Let’s just stick with value for a second because there’s two types. There’s value, like what value do you bring and what are your values. So this is, to me, one of the biggest hacks in the book, that is the most tremendous game changer. And we’ve done this work everywhere from the Gates Foundation to Shell Oil, across the board, and it has changed teams. It’s this. One, make sure the people who work with you, and especially if they report to you, make sure they understand their value. Have an explicit conversation about it. Then, I don’t think you can really know people unless you understand their values. Not the value they bring, but the ideas and beliefs they hold most precious. One of the exercises we do, and it’s so great, is we just get a large post it poster and we hang it up. And everyone writes down their two values. Mine are faith and courage. And then we spend, we leave them up for a week, and then over the course of the week, everyone on our team puts a sticky note up for that person, anonymously, about how their behaviors really show those values and what they appreciate about those values in that person.
And when you’re sitting with a team during a hard-as-shit rumble, because there’s been a failure, or we made a consumer facing mistake, or something’s happening, and you’re sitting across from someone and you’re pissed and you feel blaming, but you know that their values are connection and learning. You know how to lean into the conversation with them. You know it’s going to hurt, you know what they can hear and what’s really hard to hear when things are tough. We’re just not having enough of these conversations about the value we bring, and the value we stand for.
Marie: I’m so excited about this, because you just gave me a perfect idea. I was just thinking, as I’m listening to you, and I loved that part in the book, it’s going to be fun for us to do because we have a virtual company. Our entire team is distributed.
Marie: There’s about 30 of us, and we do very, very well. We get together, periodically. We went on vacation together in Mexico, I think it was a year and a half or two years ago, but this is going to be fun for us to do, because we love it. And we love each other. Thank you for highlighting that because we’re not talking about those things enough. In my personal life, Love Languages, one of the simple tools that has made a huge difference in my relationship with Josh, and even frankly on our team, we use Love Languages on our team so that we understand each other, and we can therefore offer appreciation, and love, to one another in a way that’s going to be well-received. This value conversation is top-notch.
I also want to talk about empathy. Again, this was another section in the book, highlighted a ton. You write, “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 not connecting to an experience, it’s connecting to the emotions that underpin an experience. Empathy isn’t about fixing, it’s the brave choice to be with someone in their darkness.” Let’s talk about this distinction, because I think it’s really important to get the nuance here between empathy and sympathy.
Brené: Yeah. I think one of the issues, every now and then, we’re in the middle of this right now. Every now and then, social scientists will find a word that we’ve all come to understand, accept, feel encouraged by, and they’ll go under attack about it. A couple of years ago, people took on authenticity. Now there’s a couple people taking on empathy and saying, “No, empathy is not the answer. It’s too exhausting. It’s too hard. We just need to be compassionate.” Well, I call bullshit, to be honest with. Because as someone whose studied empathy for 20 years, and has studied compassion, they’re different things. The deal with empathy is this, if you call me and say––I’m gonna make up something. “Hey, it’s me. Josh and I just had a really big argument, and…” I don’t know, I can’t use this example because I would relate to that personally.
Here’s the thing. As a social worker, I’ve heard stories about––and as a research, I’ve heard about your sexual assault, the death of a child. I’ve heard everything you can imagine from people. I have a great capacity for empathy in those things. Not because I’ve had those experiences. That has nothing to do with having those experiences. It’s the fact that I understand some of the emotion underneath those experiences, and can connect with it. I always give people, we’ll give people a test, Marie, right now, who are listening. We’re going to give you an empathy capacity test. Number one, have you ever felt grief?
Brené: Loneliness? Anger?
Brené: Joy? Resentment? Contempt? Okay, you pass. Because I can say to someone, “No, I don’t. I’ve never had that experience. But I can hear you and hold space for you, and be with you, because I do know rage. And I do know grief. And I do know sorrow. I do know longing for something that doesn’t exist anymore. I do know those things.” The danger… Let me just say this because this is where people get… This is tricky.
Brené: Empathic failure is more likely to happen sometimes with people who’ve had the exact experience, because even if I’ve had the exact experience, even if I’ve been fired in front of my colleagues, that doesn’t mean it was the same for me. Empathy is about connecting with an emotion that someone is experiencing. And conveying back, or understanding of that emotion. “I feel that with you. I understand.” It’s not that I went through it, but I understand what this feels like and I can hold space for it. Sympathy is, “You know what, that never really happened to me, I feel sorry for you. I’m sad for you.” It’s feeling for someone, not with them.
Marie: I can even, you know it’s funny. You’re… Obviously we’re having a discussion right now, and your role playing, you’re demonstrating for us just a few words, but even listening to you, even though this is all made up, I can feel the difference. I can feel the difference just with those two statements. I also want to share something that you wrote in the book, which I think will be incredibly helpful for our listeners, because sometimes when hard things happen, folks are afraid to say the wrong thing to a friend or colleague. They just don’t know, should they call, should they email, should they text? And one of the things I underlined, that you wrote, was a quote. You say, “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.” Something so simple. Something so easy to communicate.
I just wanted to thank you for even giving language to that, because we’ve heard from people, I know I’ve experienced this in my own life, when something horrendous happens, you can freeze up because you don’t want to make a mistake or say the wrong thing. Perfectionism rising its head again. I just wanted to share that because people need to know. Dare to Lead is filled with all of these incredible tools and starters, and sentence stems that all of us can use. I do want to ask you this, and I want to acknowledge this right now, because I read this in the book, Brené. That you still, after 20 years of doing this incredible work, when you are learning new tools, that you take notes. You have notes about the things that you’d like to say or communicate, and the way that you want to do it. It’s something I do, too, especially when I’m having hard conversations. If I have to let someone go, or it’s just a really tough thing that we need to get into, that’s not going to be comfortable. You still do that, too?
Brené: I always take notes. I always take notes, I role play a lot, and sometimes I’ll ask, I’ll say, “Hey, Marie. I have to have a really hard conversation.” Let’s just say, I have to have a really hard conversation about a partner that we’re working with, whose deliverables are, over the last month, consistently not up to par. And would you be willing to play me in this role play, and I’m going to play the person I have to talk to, because I’m gonna come back… I’m going to come at you with everything I’m afraid they’re going to say.
Marie: So good. So good.
Brené: Marie will say, “Sure, what do you want me to say?” And then… Let’s just do it, Marie.
Brené: I want you to say, “Over the last month, there’s been a decline in the quality of the deliverables. And we need to rumble on what’s happening.”
Marie: Okay. Over the last month, there has been a decline in the quality of the deliverables, and we need to rumble on this.
Brené: Your team is so hard to work with. And you’re never around. What do you expect?
Marie: That is interesting information. I want to take that, we should talk about that because I’d like to hear the specifics. More about what you mean that they’re not around, so that we can really find some common ground here to get it to where you feel it’s a great working relationship, and also that we get the quality that we need.
Brené: Okay. Fucking nailed it.
Marie: Oh, did I? Shit.
Brené: You totally nailed it. No, you totally nailed it because I can give you the whole, the biggest hack in the book is, when you have to lean into vulnerability, and embrace the suck during a hard conversation, we have to take off the armor and that’s scary because then we’re just left standing there. What do we use if we don’t have the armor? And curiosity is the leaders tool. Stay curious. You just stayed curious. I want to hear more about that, give me some examples. What does that never around look like? What does… Tell me, you say my team is hard to work with, I want to understand. Tell me what that looks like specifically?
That is how you stay in the hard conversation. Get curious. If I, literally you and I work together and I did this role play with you, and you came back … I have goose bumps right now, literally, because… Okay. Got it. If they come at me about how shitty we are, don’t defend, don’t transform her up, stay open and get curious. Stay open, get curious. This is the way we work, every day in our organization, because we have a lot of hard conversations. It just works. I don’t know what to tell you. It just works.
Marie: Yeah, it does just work. When, for me, our team, again, even in my personal life, when I can remember these things, it’s miraculous what happens to our connections, to our intimacy, to our ability to trust one another. It really does all come back to vulnerability. Let’s go into that more, for a moment. You share in the book that vulnerability is not winning or losing, it’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcomes. And I happen to know this about my listeners, because sometimes folks who are inspired by our work, we tend to share some DNA. The desire to control outcomes, right?
Marie: That’s something that a lot of us can relate to. How can we… Tell us more about vulnerability. And I want to move on to, also, and take this however you want, wherever we want to go, making the distinction between vulnerability, and oversharing. Discerning what’s appropriate and healthy, and what’s not.
Brené: Okay. Great question. Let me tell you, here’s… One big idea coming from the book that surprised me was that it’s not our fear that gets in the way, it’s our armor. Another big idea that I think came from the book is courage is teachable. It’s a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable, measurable, and observable. We can learn to be braver. We can teach others to do it. We’ve done it in now 50 organizations, with over 10,000 people. You can learn to be brave, and braver. When we looked into what are these skill sets? What does courage look like? What is… How does it show up? What we realized is, out of the four skill sets, vulnerability is the foundational skill. The capacity to rumble with vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience when we feel uncertain, at risk, or emotionally exposed. When we put up that honest blog post, when we have to have a hard conversation like we just modeled. When we have to ask for feedback, when we get feedback, whether we ask for it or not. When we have to give feedback. When things are messy in the middle, and we just want a quick fix, because we don’t like staying in the uncertainty. Your capacity for courage, our capacity for courage, as leaders, will never be greater than our capacity and ability to rumble with vulnerability. Who are you when you’re awash in that emotion of uncertainty and risk, and emotional exposure? I’ll give y’all an indicator. It’s four skill sets, half the book is the first skillset, vulnerability. Vulnerability is… Let’s go back to the role play that you just fricking nailed. Again, I promise y’all we didn’t actually role play the role play, she just nailed it like a mother.
Do you, if you are working with a partner, a collaborator, and everything they’re giving you has just, you feel like has just gone to hell. And you have to have that hard conversation. A daring leader talks to those people directly. Armored leader, talks about those people to other people. That’s not brave. Vulnerability is that phone call. Having to pick up the phone, or get on Skype, or Zoom, or Slack, or whatever you’re using, and say, “Somethings not working.” That’s a moment of vulnerability. People always, I just did an interview for Ink magazine, and they said, “How much, if you want to be a daring leader, how much personal stuff should you share with people?” And I’m like, when I get asked that question, I know you don’t understand what I’m talking about. Because I have interview daring leaders who share very little and are incredibly vulnerable, but they disclose very little personally. And then I’ve worked with leaders who disclose everything and they’re not vulnerable at all.
Brené: It’s not about how much you share, it’s about can you stay in the discomfort? Can you embrace the suck? For me, you mentioned having to let somebody go.
Brené: How many of you listening have stayed in a working relationship, any kind of relationship, way too long because you’re afraid of the discomfort of having the brave or hard conversation?
Marie: It’s something, Brené, that we’ve learned in our company. When we discover that someone is not the right fit, we strive to move as quickly as possible, because we feel like it is the most loving thing to do.
Brené: For sure.
Marie: And it’s never easy. I know the last time that I did it, it was not long ago, and it was very, very difficult. There were tears, and it really took everything in me to stay open and to keep my heart open, and to hear and to listen, and to let this person know about their value and their gifts, and the truth was, for me, that I wanted them to keep going. It was, became clear that we weren’t the right environment to have them ultimately thrive to their fullest potential. There wasn’t that match. Even though it was difficult, it was like, “Now that person has an opportunity to take their gifts and to have them fly in an environment where it is the right fit.” I want to talk about rumble starters, and shitty first drafts, if we may, from the Learning to Rise section.
Marie: The one on page 172 that you said, “By far, is the most powerful rumble starter in the free world.” You said, “It’s changed every facet of your life.” What is it, and how can it help us stay on the path to braver leadership? By the way, before you answer that, I made a little note. I feel like, you know how my book is Everything is Figureoutable?
Marie: When you were talking about courage, I was like courage is figureoutable. I wrote it down on my little note pad, because it is. Anyone listening, courage is figureoutable. Brené has the steps. She has the skills. She has what you can practice, and it’s all in Dare to Lead. Okay, back to rumble starters.
Brené: It is so figureoutable. I have thought about you so many times. Sometimes my team will say to me, “You know? Your problem and your gift is you believe that everything can be figured out.” And I’m like, “I just, Marie Forleo’ed your ass right now. Yes.”
Marie: I think it is. I was just reading Neil Degrasse Tyson’s, a book about astrophysics. He has this great quote that I highlighted. I’m like, “Oh, that’s going in my book.” He’s like, “We are a part of the universe.” I’m going to mangle this quote, you guys, so please… Because I haven’t memorized it yet. It’s like, “We are a part of the universe, and inherent in it, that is our ability to figure it all out.” I was like, “Yes.” I’m with you, Brené.
Brené: That gave me goosebumps.
Marie: Yes. Even if people think, even if they do think it’s our Achilles heel, I’m fine with it. I will retain my position as an optimist, and I love the spirit of adventure that, again, like courage and bravery, that we can figure it out, that it is learnable. That we can dig in and do the work, and become who were meant to be. Okay, on to rumble starters.
Brené: Okay. The number one rumble starters… If you just came into our office as a fly on the wall, you would hear all of us say it, I bet, 10 times a day. And it’s, the story I’m making up. Because when hard things happen, neurobiologically, the brain wants a story, because the brain’s job is to protect us. It senses that we’re anxious or fearful, or feel vulnerable. The brain’s like, “Give me a story. Help me understand what’s going on so I can protect you. Who are the bad guys here? Who are the good guys?” Let me tell you, we make up this story. How many of you have ever gotten conflict at work? Or at home? Or with a parent or a partner? And walked out of the room with this entire story made up about what’s happening.
Here’s the thing. You make up a story with bad guys and good guys, you put yourself in a “they’re out to get you,” place, the brain loves a story with bad guys and dangerous things. In fact, if you give it a really good one, it’ll reward you chemically. The brain is not interested in an, “I’m not sure what happened in that meeting. Something felt off, I could have had a part.” The brain’s like, “That’s a bullshit story. Who’s the enemy?” And the more we give that, the brain what they want, the more the brain rewards us. Men and women with the highest levels of resilience, who we’ve interviewed over the past decades, use this sentence, “The story I’m telling myself.” I probably have done this, I bet… It’s 11 o’clock here, I bet I’ve already done it twice today with my team. We’re launching a new Dare to Lead hub, along with the book. This morning I was looking at something, and I was like, “You know? This is still not changed. And we’ve talked about it three or four times. I’m starting to make up either someone on the team disagrees, and so is not changing it, we need to have a conversation about it. Or, it’s just not the same priority for you as it is for me.
Brené: And we have these conversations all the time. So, Murdock, my manager, he’s “What’s going on?” “I just want to check in, I’m making up that you’re not concerned about these deliverables.” Or, “I’m making it that you’re pissed off about what happened in the meeting.” “No, I’m not pissed off at all. My foot fell asleep and I’m grumpy.” Just that story. Help me understand, the story I make up is we handled it this way, because we thought it was the fastest way to get out of it, not necessarily the best way to get out of it.
And then someone might come back and say, “That story’s not true. I sat this for two days trying to figure it out. This was my idea, because I thought it was the best way and here’s why.” It’s such an open-hearted, honest, vulnerable way to say, we got to rumble about something hard. And let me be brave and upfront about the stories I’m coming to the table with.
Marie: I love it. I’m so excited to use this. I’m going to use it, I can promise you. Our team is going to adopt this. It’s brilliant. Josh, and I actually do this quite a bit. And it really works magic. Again, I feel like so much of what we do in our personal lives can be translated frankly to the workplace.
I’m curious about the time that we’re in right now, right? Which is obviously challenging, externally very divisive politically. What about your experience being a brave leader? This is a question that we get a lot, Brené. I know this has happened for you, it’s actually just happened for me recently, where people want to kind of shout me down, tell me to sit down and be quiet. You’re only supposed to motivate me, you’re only supposed to talk to me about this narrow little array of topics, and should I express an opinion or a belief in anything, otherwise, all hell fucking breaks loose, right?
I’m curious if you have anything to share, because some of my folks have gone like, “Oh, my goodness, Marie, thank you for saying something. You actually just gave me courage to say something. How does the fear of public shaming play in to someone who’s listening, right, who wants to be more brave and open-hearted as a leader?
Brené: I am still in recovery mode from… I posted a picture of Anita Hill and Professor Ford, and said, “I think courage is contagious and this is what vulnerability looks like.” And thousands of people unfollowed. It was my most circulated, shared and liked post in my history on social media. So, that just points to the absolute divisiveness. It’s a war zone.
Marie: Yeah. I want to keep talking about this. I want to say two things. One, is one of the other key things that I underlined in your book was the research that points to how painful this can be. You’ll have the science better than I will, but this might be of a trigger for you, is how getting emotionally attacked, and how that’s analogous to physical pain.
Brené: Oh, yeah. Our brain, literally, we feel social pain in the exact same way we feel physical pain. Same part of the brain, same part of everything. It is real. I have to say, before I usually go out with something like that, Steve and I will have a conversation, my husband. Because it affects me. It doesn’t affect me, to be honest with you, I don’t give a shit if you unfollow me. I have to be really honest. My job is to be myself. I don’t owe you anything. Follow me, don’t follow me, it doesn’t matter to me. Because if a condition of you following me is to stay quiet on things I believe in, you’re following the wrong person.
Marie: That’s right.
Brené: But, the shout outs, just the––not the shout outs, the shout downs. What hurt me, I think, the most with how many people said, one person said, “You’re a spiritual columnist. Your work has changed my life. Why are you weighing into politics?” I’m like, “Did you read my books? How did I change your life without you seeing me?”
Marie: Yes. I’m so happy we’re talking about this because I, as well, I had posted a just an image of Dr. Ford. Just saying, “I believe you.” Because that is the truth. That’s how I felt. And similarly, first of all, I think it’s interesting that you talk to Steve about it. I actually did not talk with Josh before I posted, and I did a lot of commenting, frankly, when I was buying shoes. I don’t shop very often. But Josh was working on a role, and I needed to give him some space. So, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to go shoe shopping, because I’m going to go see J.Lo.”
That’s when everything kind of went down. And I was like, “Wow.” Similarly, people were like, “That’s it. I’m unfollowing you.” I’m like, “How did you not know who I… How did you’ve been following me and not really get who I am?” It’s fascinating. I know that this conversation is going to be extremely valuable for our listeners. Because a lot of folks, frankly, they don’t get to hear someone like you talk about this side of it very often. So, I just want to thank you for being transparent, because it’s not easy. And I also––
Brené: It hurts, it’s real. The reason I have to talk to Steve about it is the bandwidth it takes for me sometimes to not go under is tremendous. I’ve been sick. I’m just now getting over being sick for like two weeks. They thought that I had mono, then strep throat, and now they realize I have a sinus infection. But I just felt like just terrible. And I’m not a good sick person. So, all this on top of it. It’s not that I go under. It’s like when I drive on the freeway. It’s like if I keep going straight on 59, and someone pulls off on 610 because they’re headed a different way, no one’s lean out of their fucking car screaming, “I’m not following you anymore.” They’re just turning off. Good. I don’t need the announcement that you’re unfollowing me. Unfollow me. That’s not what takes the bandwidth. Sometimes I think these posts are great filters.
What takes the bandwidth for me is my grief about the state that the world is in, and that people use my work to be brave and speak their truth, and then punish me for doing the same, and it’s almost all women. That’s what makes me sick. Because let me tell you, for sure. I think I actually don’t read comments anymore, but I did read a comment when I posted about the family separation stuff at the border.
Brené: And people saying, “They deserve it. They brought their kids. They knew the risks.” Finally, I just said, “Look, here’s the thing,”––this is how I feel about all the social justice work that I do, and that I have done for 30 years––”I hope to God, you’re never faced with a situation where you have to escape violence or persecution with your children. But if you do, and they’re taken away from you at the border, no matter how shitty you are me on my social media, I will be there screaming and fighting for your rights too. I’ll be pissed, but I will be there. So, don’t suck what you need out of my work, and leave some vague memory of who I am behind, and then be pissed off when I’m myself.”
Marie: Amen. Miss Brené Brown. I’m just going to clap. I’m by myself in my studio, but I am clapping. I know there are a lot of people listening right now who are clapping. I ran into some guy in Adorama. He’s like, “What’s your podcast?” And I told him. So, I hope hey, Mr. Dude from Adorama, you’re listening to this too.
Brené, I love you. Okay. Only two more questions before we wrap up. As a CEO and founder, how has this research impacted the way that you lead your team?
Brené: Every day. It’s changed everything. It’s changed… I think one of the two findings that I write about in the book, and I tried to write the book like a playbook. We even have a downloadable glossary and key terms, because we bolded key terms and words and hacks in the book. But two of the things that changed that I’m more mindful now of. One is that you must care for and be connected to the people you lead. That is an irreducible need. This idea from the old command and control type of leadership where I don’t have to like you, I don’t have to respect you, I don’t have to do anything like that, I just need to lead you and be fair, that’s bullshit. You have to care for and be connected with the people you lead, period.
And so, one on one time with everyone. because the people I lead are all the senior leaders that run the business. I have to and I want to be connected heart to heart, human to human. The second thing that was really… God, if you don’t hear anything but this, hear this. We must invest a reasonable amount of time attending to people’s fears and their feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time dealing with problematic behaviors. People don’t want to talk about fear and feelings at work. But when there’s massive change and churn and things are hard, we have to stop and make time, even if we’re just busy as hell, to attend to people’s fears and feelings. Let me check in with you. And then one of my favorite lines, and you can use this anywhere in your life, is what does support look like right now?
Marie: What does support look like right now?
Brené: Yeah. Not, hey, can I help you? I’ve got a friend who’s got a very sick parent. That whole, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” No one is going to come back and say, “There are things you can do.” Very few of us are going to do that. But if you say, “Hey, what does support look like right now?” And I actually texted her that and she just texted back this morning. Just stay open for the rants and screams and cussing and yelling, because I’m in so much grief and pain right now. I’m like, “I’m here, text, in person, whatever you need.”
Brené: What does support look like right now? Even if we’re letting someone go, we will say. We try to do what, we write about in the book. We try to do it with dignity. Can we let them resign instead of being fired? What’s the maximum financial thing that we can do even if it’s a little uncomfortable for us to make sure they have some lead time to recover, get back out there? And then even ask, “What does support look like from us right now? Would you like to come back and say goodbye to everyone?” What does support look like? It also gives other people the responsibility of asking for what they need, instead of not asking and then being resentful because they don’t get it.
Marie: Yes, genius. I’m taking notes, mama. I’m taking notes. I got all my notes in the book, and I’m still taking notes on my notes right now. Tell us about the other incredible things about this book that you want to make sure people know.
Brené: Oh, yeah, I’m so excited about this part. We have built a Dare to Lead hub on brenebrown.com where you can take a free daring leadership assessment, you can email yourself or print the results. We’re starting a global read-along of the book on October 12th on LinkedIn. So, you can go to my LinkedIn page, and we’re going to take a chapter a week right before Thanksgiving, I think November 19th. We’re going to take your questions and I’m going to answer them on video. There’s also a way to learn about our daring leadership facilitator program. Just a bunch of different ways to engage with Dear to Lead. So, check it out at brenebrown.com and just click on where it says, Dare to Lead hub.
Marie: Yay. I can’t wait. I’m going to be there. I want to follow along with all of this. I love this book so much. It’s so great that you’re giving people other ways to engage. I think one of the challenges, and thank you, by the way, you’re actually giving me all these great ideas. Because you spend so much time writing a book, you don’t want folks to just read it and go, “Oh, well, that was a great idea.” We want them to build skills and really use this and embed it, so it becomes part of their life. So, thank you for creating these incredible resources and mentioning it. Everyone listening, make sure you go brenebrown.com, follow her. You’ll get all the information for the hub, the assessment, the global read-along. It’s going to be incredible. As we wrap, well, first of all, I want to say this. I said this in our last interview, and I will say it again. My friend, you truly are a national treasure. I feel that with every cell in my body. I adore you so much. I’m wondering, one of the things that––a gajillion things––that you do so brilliantly is your ending to your books. I always get goosebumps at the end to your book. So, I’m curious if you would be willing to read the last few lines of your book as we wrap up this conversation.
Brené: I would love to, and thank you so much. Thank you for being so brave with your life, Marie. It matters, and it matters to a lot of people who probably don’t know you. I know you up close, and it matters to me all the time. Because courage is contagious.
Marie: Yes, it is, mama. And it’s figureoutable.
Brené: And it’s figureoutable. Okay. Last paragraph of the book.
As you think about your own path to daring leadership, remember Joseph Campbell’s wisdom. The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you’re meant to serve and support, and for your culture. Choose courage over comfort, choose whole hearts over armor, and choose the great adventure being brave and afraid, at the exact same time.
Marie: Yes, I love it so much. I love you. Congratulations on this book. For everyone listening, go get multiple copies of Dare to Lead. You will not want to put it down. You will want to have everyone that you love, that you work with, that you live with read this book because it is filled with actionable tools and practices, and all of the different things that we need as humans to be our bravest and our most courageous. Brené Brown, you are a gem. Thank you so very much. And for everyone listening, thanks for being here on the Marie Forleo Podcast.
Brené: Thank you, Marie.
Marie: Now, Brené and I would love to hear from you. We talked about a lot of different things today. And I’m curious, what is the insight that really resonated with you the most, and how can you put that insight into action starting right now? Now the best conversations happen after––even podcasts––over at marieforleo.com so head on over there and leave a comment now. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for our email list and become an MF insider. You’ll get instant access to an audio I created called How to Get Anything You Want. Plus, you’ll get some exclusive content, special giveaways, and some insights from me that frankly, I don’t share anywhere else.
So, stay on your game and keep going for your dreams, because the world needs that very special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for listening today. I’ll catch you next time on the Marie Forleo Podcast.