Three lessons from Brené Brown at Leadership Summit

One of the highlights of last week’s Global Leadership Summit was hearing Brené Brown speak. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and a TED Talk sensation since her 2010 talk went viral (more than 8 million views). That talk is embedded at the bottom of the page. Her research has focused on the interplay between vulnerability and empathy, encouraging people to experience “whole-hearted” living.

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Here are three lessons I learned from Brené Brown:

  1. When you judge yourself for requesting help, you invariably judge others when they ask.How many of you feel shame when you ask for help? Just yesterday I tried to figure out to run a report on a database at work. I had a call scheduled with my boss and part of our agenda was to create and discuss this report. I wanted to know how to do it before I got on the call–to save time. I’ll be honest, I tried for about 15 minutes and never did figure it out.

    Once on the phone I admitted that I hadn’t been able to figure out how to run the report. As I did, I noticed within myself a twinge of shame. Not much, just a little shame. After all, I use a computer all day long. I blog, use social media, etc. I should–I reasoned–have been able to figure this out.

  2. We lose people in the gap between profession and practice.Professing love (in all its forms) is fairly easy. What is not easy, not simply, what is incontrovertibly complex is practicing love.

    How many of us make vows at our wedding–a profession–only to find it require intention, effort, humility, and sacrifice to remain true to the words that so easily dripped from our lips?

    How many of us take vows when we join our church and in fairly short order recoil from a significant decision made and once more experience the difficulty of keeping vows?

    When the gap between what we say and what we do becomes too immense, we loose people. Marriages collapse. Church fellowships rupture. Friendships end.

  3. Courage and comfort are mutually exclusive.By its very definition courage requires that we confront something that is difficult or that causes us to experience fear. When comfort becomes our objective in life, we cannot be courageous for we will always turn away from anything that causes us to be uncomfortable–it could be making a phone call, following a dream, initiating a difficult conversation, restoring a broken relationship. Interestingly, we may claim that we’re not satisfied with our life, but as long as comfort is our chief value our life will never change and we’ll settle into a begrudging comfort.

I’ll be reflecting on these lessons for a while. What stands out to you from Brené’s talk?

How to train key leaders as disciples and leaders

Last week I joined staff and area directors from sixteen campuses, along with our executive coaches, for training in ministry building. It was the best training of my ministry career. One of the things that made it powerful was the synergy that emerged from sharing the experience with one of my direct reports and our coach. All told, we spent more than 40 hours together face to face, which is more than we’d normally get in an academic year.

Key to the training is a tool—we received more than thirty tools over the week—called the “discipleship cycle.” It’s illustrated below. The discipleship cycle is the most effective way to both guide Christians in maturing as followers of Christ, but at the same to move them along a continuum of leadership development as well.

CP_Cycle_Diagram_450

 

“Hear the Word” – Through prayer, scripture, and in shared discernment, we come to agreement on what God is asking us to do. It may be agreeing to reach out to three people whom God has brought to mind. It may be taking the risk to approach another graduate student and encourage him in his faith. It could be any number of things.

“Respond actively” – When God leads us to do something—regardless of what it is—we respond actively. Hopefully out active response is also a full response rather than a marginal effort.

“Debrief and interpret” – This is critical to growth both as a leader and as a disciple. In community with another, we consider what God asked us to do and how we responded to his invitation. How did we feel? What was the outcome? What did we like about the experience? What was uncomfortable? What held us back from full obedience? You get the idea.

 

Asking questions is an incredibly fruitful way of coming to understand another. Answering questions is also an incredibly rich way to come to understand ourselves. Put these together with a trusted guide or coach who can, in reliance on God, attempt to bring some degree of interpretation to the experience and the combination is dynamite.

What’s so beautiful about this approach is that it can be deployed quite easily and naturally throughout the day and even a brief five minute encounter can become a micro-seminar with a very concrete, very particular lesson.

During the week, we used this tool and I found that it forced me to stop, consider the action or goal I had undertaken, evaluate my response to it, and then connect the two in the company of a coach who could help by clarifying, observing, and interpreting.

What tools do you use to help train followers of Christ as leaders?

 

 

 

Don’t let this be you

I was walking in our backyard over the weekend and came across a curious sight. Several years ago a sapling must tree must have grown in such a way that its leading branch grew through our chain link fence–specifically between the chain links and the metal frame that holds it erect. The tree didn’t stop growing. Instead as it grew the metal cut into the trunk producing a tree with a metal strand embedded in it.

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This is a powerful image of what happens to many Christians as they face key transitions in life. In my work as a campus minister I often observe the difficulty some students face in making the jump from undergraduate life to graduate study and from graduate school to professional practice.

The fresh opportunities and, more often, the fresh challenges can cut into a Christian world and life view (borrowing that term from Abraham Kuyper) that is not sufficiently developed to handle them.

 

Failing to attend to this often leads to significant challenges for Christians:

  • Leaving the church because the connection between Sunday and Monday is too tenuous
  • Leaving law school because the practice of law only ever seems to reach a proximate justice rather than full justice
  • Experiencing life in the absence of any sense that God cares about or values your work
  • Feeling the unrelenting pressure to perform and carrying that view into your relationship with God and gradually losing sight of the hope of the Gospel
  • Growing to resent God because of the great suffering seen in the lives of clients, patients, parishioners, or students

How are you preparing for the next stage of your personal or professional journey?

Are you making sure that you’re world and life view is growing, changing, deepening, and developing so that it is sufficient to aid you in faithfully following Christ?