If you haven’t read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, you may want to pick up a copy. Brown talks about the power of vulnerability within businesses, leadership, and personal relationships. She explains how sadly common it is to find business leaders who lead through shaming others (the opposite of encouraging).
One example she gave was an executive who regularly rated his employees on one of two big white boards outside his office. The list separated his company’s workforce in two categories: the losers and the winners. Such outright shaming crippled the growth and success of the company and only pushed employees to leave and work for the competition.
There are numerous accounts of employers who leverage their power and position through public ridicule, stealing the credit for achievements, purposeless criticism, and marring the reputations of those under their leadership.
Stories like this are a sad and horribly true picture of how often leadership is abused. Thankfully, shame leadership has not infiltrated every business.
What baffles me is how individuals who work in businesses where shame is not an obstacle still operate under the corrupt standards, like freed prisoners still clinging to chains. We claim we lead cultures based on creativity and courage. But does your administrative assistant know she can offer her own ideas in meetings? Does the new guy realize he has the opportunity to learn new skills even if it means making mistakes? Do your veteran employees know they have the freedom to offer suggestions to better processes?
Do you have employees who do good work but only engage at the minimal level? Brown writes,
“Shame can only rise so far in any system before people disengage to protect themselves. When we’re disengaged, we don’t show up, we don’t contribute, and we stop caring.”
There are lots of steps business leaders can take to shift from shame to encouragement. But the most important is to begin talking about it with those you work with. Because the topic is so personal, it takes a delicate and genuine approach to initiate a real discussion. The first step is often making it a practice to ask, and encouraging others to ask, for honest feedback.
Inspiring a culture that shares opinions, perspectives, and strengths goes a long way in eradicating shame and moving toward encouragement. Lets build up and NOT tear down!
Image Quote | Brene Brown