What’s Shame Got to Do With It?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Story: How effectively are you personally leading through all the massive change in your work environment? Everywhere I go these days leaders are asking for insight and guidance to help navigate through the massive disruption that’s impacting literally every industry. In most cases, the approach is examined from a collective, strategic or organization framework. That’s important. At the same time, I’m challenging leaders to consider addressing this more holistically by looking at things from a deeply personal perspective. And this is where SHAME, in all its nasty glory, lives. “Shame is watching things change so fast, and no longer knowing how and where I can contribute. The fear of being irrelevant is a huge shame trigger that we are not addressing at work.” This is a quote from from Brené Brown’s fabulous book, Dare to Lead. I think she’s right on the mark! So what can we do about it?

Key Point: Brown, who has studied the impact of shame through her illustrious career, defines it this way: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.” She also emphasizes that shame drives two parallel narratives: “Never good enough and who do you think you are?” It is important to appreciate how the idea that “I am bad” or “unworthy” crushes us into smallness, like the cars at an auto-wrecker. As Brown underlines, the fear of being irrelevant is a huge shame trigger.” My belief is that regardless how well crafted our strategic process to facilitate or navigate the massive change underway in organizations, we need to intentionally provide for what I call “a plan of one” that takes into consideration the fear of personal irrelevance?

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. The antidote to personal shame is empathy and compassion. And it has to begin with us at a deeply personal level. You probably think you “get this.” Do you really? I am going to bug you over and over again to become more self-aware. I strongly urge you to read Brown’s and others’ work on this.

Lead Others Move:

  1. As leaders, we need to have an open conversation with people at all levels about the relationship between shame and the transformation stuff going. People will welcome the understanding that they are not alone. Brown points out that sharing stories creates belonging, connection and builds trust! Do you know how to lead this conversation? You and I need to be sure there is a transformation plan of ONE for every human in our group.  
  2. Stop the shame bulls*** that management unwittingly perpetuates “These are all behavioral cues that shame has permeated a culture.” Brown asks: “Is there evidence of people in leadership roles bullying others, criticizing subordinates in front of colleagues, delivering public reprimands, or setting up reward systems that intentionally embarrass, shame, or humiliate people?” Recognize shame promoting behaviors, and crush them.

No Shame in Personal Leadership,

Note: Excerpts are From Dare to Lead Brené Brown

One Millennial View: Of course, nowadays when people hear “shame” they often think of shaming others (via social media, out of jobs, out of school, etc). It’s easy to forget that our inner monologues can shame ourselves into professional paralysis. Personally, I think shame is a pretty gross weapon. But, it’s certainly effective and powerful enough to have some foaming at the mouth like rabid dogs, eager to use it every chance they can get. Who would have thought it’s our own shame that can bite us worst of all?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis