Explore how to increase self-awareness and create sustainable change.

Do you know anyone who is confused about how to address inequality on their team, in their organization and in their personal life? Who feels defensive when asked to check their privilege? Who doesn’t understand the cry that silence is violence? These people are likely reacting to shame.

Shame vs. Accountability

As Brené Brown explained in a recent Shame and Accountability podcast, shame is not a tool for social justice; it is a tool of suppression. Rather than motivating us to change, shame triggers a fear of disconnection from our tribe that we inherited from our ancestors. Our brains react to that fear and we fight, flee or freeze.
Accountability is a more effective tool for motivating change. To explain the difference between being shamed and being held accountable, Brené shared this example: when you tell a child he is a liar, he feels ashamed and alone. If you tell a child that he is a good person who told a lie and that’s not OK in your family, you’re holding him accountable for his behavior. That helps him accept responsibility and change his behavior so he can stay in the tribe.

Empathy and Action

When we feel shamed for saying the wrong thing or not speaking up to challenge the status quo, relying on empathy enables us to be curious about the other person’s perspective. Then we must manage our own reactions by recognizing our triggers, breathing deeply and pausing before we respond. Listening first, then considering what to think, say or do differently is a way to avoid getting defensive, rationalizing our behavior or demanding absolution from the person holding us accountable. I recommend Brene’s mantra – I’m here to get it right, not to be right.

Change requires courage, curiosity and commitment. I invite you to check out The Role of Senior Leaders in Building a Race Equity Culture and So, You Want to Talk About Race and consider joining a Brave Conversation about racial inequality. Contact cheryl@csbryan.com today to find out more about small discussion group opportunities or inquire about a custom-designed corporate program.

How Can We Change Our Fear DNA?

Everyone I talked to last week agreed that it has been really tough to think strategically.  Worrying about the potential long-term challenges of working from home and making decisions about how to re-enter public spaces is keeping our brains occupied with the basic need for safety.

Looking Back to Look Forward

In the middle of feeling stuck trying to edit content for a website refresh, I attended a webinar that reminded me how I got there.  I recalled from my training in systems theory that we tend to repeat patterns passed down like DNA through generations.  Judy Wilkins-Smith suggested I look back at which of my ancestors might have been afraid of losing income, consider their circumstances, accept their decision, and then make a conscious decision to respond in a different way.

Fear as a Gift

Judy offered a new perspective on fear – consider it an opportunity to grow instead of something to avoid.  Thinking about a time when I overcame fear took me back to jumping off the high dive at the neighborhood pool for the first time.  Very scary before I did it and a little less scary each time afterward.  That jump gave me the gift of courage, which is what I need now to keep moving forward and trying new things.

I invite you to consider which of your ancestors experienced something similar to whatever it is you fear right now and then decide how to use that fear in a constructive way.

 

Let it out!

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling.  Cry because you can’t see your mom in the nursing home.  Admit that things are really scary and you’re afraid of months with no income.  Vent your frustration with being stuck at home.  I’ve done all of those things in just the past few hours.  Sometimes we just need to wallow in our feelings for a little while without being told not to worry and everything will be fine.

Sometimes we also need help moving beyond our misery.  Taking a deep breath and reassuring myself that it is perfectly normal to feel this way is a start.  I know my brain is wired to avoid uncertainty and keep me safe.  That statement comes from the rational part of my brain and calms me down.

Now I’m equipped to choose how to respond to the uncertainty.  Instead of checking the news every 15 minutes and revisiting my worst case scenario plan, I can find ways to be grateful and stay connected.  Reaching out by email or text helps me feel less alone; phone or zoom calls and greeting a neighbor from six feet away are even better.

I want to be like the people who are singing from balconies.  Will you join me?

Why is it that every time my laptop acts up, the IT expert says, “have you tried rebooting it?” Because it works! It cleans up the junk and gives me fresh start. That sounds like a great way to start off a new year.

Here is some junk that a reboot might clear out of our minds:
• Old grievances – imagine how energizing it would feel to let go and forgive
• Self-doubt – envision what could be possible if you move forward with confidence
• Ruminating thoughts – consider what inspiration could occur if you get off the gerbil wheel

A good way to get things out of your mind is to write them down, preferably on paper. Research tells us that handwriting increases neural activity in the brain, similar to meditation, but use your keyboard if that’s the best option to get you moving forward.

I invite you to take a deep breath and visualize rebooting your mind, then commit to taking action today.

Do you think of your phone as a connector or a disconnector?  The answer may be both, although research warns that having our phones where we can see them, even if they are turned off, means our brains don’t work as well.  Interestingly, the process of not thinking about something depletes our limited cognitive resources.  If all our neurons aren’t firing we might miss important non-verbal cues that help us connect with people.

That concept might not have registered if you’re reading this on your phone — trying to ignore your phone actually makes it harder for you to connect.  Experiments on this phenomenon proved that our brains work best when our phones aren’t even in the room with us because we are so addicted to the adrenalin jolts we get every time we pick them up.

Although your palms might be sweaty just thinking about disconnecting from your phone for a while, I invite you to take a deep breath and envision the benefits of better connections.  Bottom line:  leaving your phone out of sight could improve your EQ and your IQ.

Think Big Start Small Learn Fast

What do Netflix and snails have in common?  Check out this Forbes article and go see this documentary The Biggest Little Farm to find out.  The article highlights a formula for successful innovation:  “Think Big, Start Small and Learn Fast” and the documentary provides a great illustration of that formula. It tells the story of a couple who left their white collar jobs to become biodynamic farmers in California.

Since they had no experience, Molly and John Chester found a wise mentor who encouraged them to think big and plan for the future.  He also taught them to start small by bringing the soil back to life with worms.  As you might imagine, the Chesters and their team had to learn fast, often by making mistakes.  After seven years of hard work, Apricot Lane Farms is now 200 acres of organic and biodynamic certified avocado and lemon orchards, a vegetable garden, more than 75 varieties of stone fruit trees and a lot of very photogenic animals.

As you consider opportunities for innovation in your sphere of influence, how might you apply the success formula of “Think Big, Start Small and Learn Fast?”