Stick with it. The first several chapters are building the groundwork.  I would pick it up here and there, but it wasn’t a page turner in the beginning.  Fortunately, one of my wise co-workers had recommended it.  And, she brings breakfast in a lot…to the office.  I couldn’t be a loser and not read the book recommended by one of my favorite co-workers and the source of endless taquitos, bagels, and London Fogs.

So, I kept reading.  A few pages at a time over the course of about a year.  Then, all of a sudden, it got amazing!  Like, can’t put it down…how have I waited this long to dive in…life changing book.

Personally, it forced me to deal with one of my least favorite things: feelings.  Yuck.  This book is all about letting your messy human self show and being vulnerable.  It’s a struggle for me.  I spent a good portion of my 20s in therapy learning how to be vulnerable.  And, this book reminded me in my mid to late 30s that it is still super important…and something you have to be intentional about.  So, what does this have to do with work (because clearly this isn’t a blog about breakfast and feelings)?

Leadership and the ability to be part of a team.  If Maslow had a pyramid about leadership, vulnerability would be near the top.  Your best leaders are strong, but show that they are human.  They have to in order for their teams to connect with them.  No one wants to follow a robot.  A robot can manage, but not lead. This plays heavily into the culture of your organization.

Brown quotes Peter Drucker in saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Who knew leadership and breakfast do go together?!  No, really, you can have the most fantastic strategic plan.  But, if you have a culture where your team won’t follow you, good luck.  Here’s how Brown deciphers the culture in an organization…with 10 questions:
1. What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?
2. Where and how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)?
3. What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?
4. Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
5. What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up?
6. What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
7. What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?
8. How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived?
9. How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?
10. What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?

How does your organization stack up to those questions?  Do you feel good about the answers?  If so, congrats.  If not, you should consider grabbing a taquito and spending your morning reading Daring Greatly.

Brown goes on to explain that shame and blame are no way to run successful organizations. She pushes to teach employees how to give and receive feedback in a way that fosters growth and engagement both personally and in the organization.  She uses an engaged feedback checklist as a tool to teach these skills.  My favorite on the list is, “I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.”

The key here is that this isn’t just for staff.  It starts with leaders.  Are you ready to be vulnerable to strengthen your team?  Whether you are ready or need some work, I strongly recommend this book as a great read for all leaders and all humans.