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Editorial
What Brene Brown’s Rising Strong Can Teach You About Business
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Allie Hofer
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So, you want to be a professional badass? Some might suggest you ask for a raise. Others might say you ask for a promotion, seat at the table, or spot in the board room. But Brene Brown suggests something different: be vulnerable.

As the mother to a two-year-old, I picked up Brene Brown’s Rising Strong with one purpose in mind: learning how to lean into the vulnerability that is motherhood (toddler moms, are you with me?)

What I didn’t expect (apart from learning to love on tantrums) was all of the professional insights I would gain. Fellow HR professionals, pour yourself a glass, because most of the advice will challenge the status quo. As for me, I can’t wait to implement! Here goes:

1. Don’t be afraid of failure. In a brilliant introduction, a spokesperson from Engineers without Borders began her speaking engagement by asking the audience for words they associated with the term failure. The audience members shouted out the following: sadness, fear, making a fool of myself, desperation, panic, shame, and heartbreak. 

She then held up EWB’s failure report and explained that the 30 glossy pages included 14 stories of the company’s various failures. She then proceeded to ask the audience what words they would use to describe the report and the people who so willingly submitted their stories.

This time the words shouted out included: helping, generous, open, knowledgeable, brave, and courageous. The writer made the powerful point that there’s a vast difference between how we think about the term failure and how we think about the people and organizations brave enough to share their failures for the purpose of learning and growing. The key to bravery, then? Vulnerability.

2. Be intentional about the feedback you choose to take to heart. Raise your hand if you “don’t care what other people think”. Thought so. I’d argue, though, that there are more of us who claim that we don’t care than there are those of us who actually don’t care.

Brown suggests that when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable.

Her advice then is to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. And for Brown, if you’re not “in the arena getting your ass kicked,” she’s not interested in your feedback. In other words, it’s time to make amends with your office mate, determine if her feedback really could be valuable to you, and if it is, lean into it. Grab some coffee; you can do this.

3. Give yourself and others permissions at the onset of tough meetings or conversations. Fellow HR professionals and managers, this one’s for you. Brene and her team often start difficult team meetings by writing permission slips and sharing them with one another before the meeting begins. She wants all participants in the meeting to have freedom on both ends of the spectrum: freedom to speak without fear of being offensive, and freedom to feel vulnerable without choosing to take offense. You’ll likely get push-back on this one, but the results are incredible.

4. Creating boundaries establishes your credibility; it doesn’t diminish it. When you value your work enough to put a fair and appropriate price on it, you create a boundary. Instead of doing someone a favor by offering your services for free, when you require proper payment for services rendered, you send the message that you’re confident in the work you do - so much so, you want to honor the time and energy you’ve invested in getting the product to its current, very-valuable state.

5. Be generous in your assumptions. Fellow HR professionals and managers, another for you. Every time someone addresses a conflict with a colleague, Brown asks, “What is the hypothesis of generosity?” In other words, she asks the person who approached her what the most generous assumption is that you can make about what this person said or about this person’s intentions.

She suggests maintaining the following mantra: “What boundaries do I need to put in place so I can work from a place of integrity and extend the most generous interpretations of the intentions, words, and actions of others?” Wow. That’s good. So good.

So yes, if you deserve a raise you should ask for it. If you want a seat at the table, spot at the board room, go puppy-guard your spot. But if you want to be successful in your work and work relationships, establish your credibility, and set appropriate boundaries, be vulnerable. Care about what the right people think, and don’t look back.

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