DEI + Culture
Get Ready to Rumble
Let’s get ready to rrrummmbllle.
This, in many ways, was how I approached meetings three years ago. In the words of Brené Brown, I was armored up and ready. When you enter discussions armored up, not much gets accomplished except some bulldozing, and while you might walk away with a decision, it typically isn’t one everyone is rallying behind as you exit the meeting, fist in the air.
About a year ago, our leadership team read Brown’s “Dare to Lead” and truly dug in through workshops to absorb, process and practice her transformational methodology. At the same time, I had the privilege of working directly with a leadership coach who supported this level of thinking and challenged me with even deeper work.
I recently was asked to write a post on Brown’s definition of professional “rumbling,” which is much different than the armored up rumbling I was used to. Team members who haven’t yet read the book started to hear the phrase being used by others who had. My reaction was a nervous laugh, followed by a lump in my throat. How does one write about rumbling? Brown is all but a household name in this space, and as I’ve learned over the years, if someone says it better, let them speak. Here’s her definition:
“A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard. More than anything else, when someone says, ‘Let’s rumble,’ it cues me to show up with an open heart and mind so we can serve the work and each other and not our egos.”
The way this is summed up is exactly the takeaway and spirit our team has been practicing. While we haven't "arrived," we are moving in the right direction and supporting each other to have brave conversations that push our work.
Some key lessons I’ve learned from rumbling with my teams:
1. Take a step back and breathe.
Leaning into a conversation has never been an issue for me. I’m a quick processor of information and I’m observant. Two things that help me take on challenging conversations and make decisions—fast. Pausing to listen doesn’t come as naturally. We aren’t all created equal for a reason. Instead, we’re meant to complement each other. While working remotely, the mute button has been my best friend. It helps me take a step back and truly listen to others—allowing everyone around the room to have a voice.
2. Address it within hours.
We’ve all had those meetings. The meetings where you walk away and something didn’t feel right. You hang up or leave the room and you just don’t feel connected with the team or yourself. If you haven’t, you’re one skilled meeting attendee and leader. Listening to Brown’s podcast on BRAVING was an excellent reminder of her team’s philosophy about not letting these feelings linger for too long. Address it and address it quick. I’ve incorporated this into my own practice of BRAVING and rumbling. If I can’t be in person or on a call with them, I chat them and let them know that I’d like to connect as soon as we can. Nine times out of 10, this feeling has nothing to do with something I’ve contributed to. But sometimes it is. And I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn and grow by hearing it directly and following up. Also, the quicker it’s addressed, the less time and energy is spent spinning in misalignment.
3. Use discovery to address challenges.
If there’s something I’m “on fire” about, there’s a good chance I’m not the only one. There’s also a good chance (like 99% of the time) that some level of misunderstanding or miscommunication has gotten us here. When I start working with clients, I like to enter the relationship like an explorer—asking questions and stepping into their shoes— learning from them and hearing their perspectives. This helps us reach shared outcomes and clears the path to true progress. When I started applying this same approach when I’m “on fire,” I found the same positive results. If something bothers you that much, it’s worth exploring why. Ask questions, learn, seek clarity and understanding.
4. Be authentic to your true self.
Through practicing rumbling and BRAVING, I’ve felt more connected to my authentic self than ever before. I feel more connected to my teams than ever before. I feel less compelled to triangulate conversations or the need to vent. I’m still human, so it’s not like it never happens. But it’s happening less, and because of that, I feel a part of something real, productive and positive. No baggage. No pretending to be someone I’m not. It just feels good.
5. Release the pressure, gain more freedom.
When you’re serving the work and not your ego, something in the atmosphere just lightens. That armor I wore three years ago is coming off piece by piece. Work can become fun again. It feels like there’s less pressure on me to perform or be perfect, and there’s so much more freedom and fun at work when this happens. I can make mistakes. I can lean in and learn from my coworkers. The work is better and that feels better. And you find that the people around you start to notice and even follow your lead.
My connection to Brown’s work started with her famous TED Talk, which lead me to “Daring Greatly,” to “Dare to Lead,” and with her continued success, I tune into her Dare to Lead podcast. Her research and insights are paving new pathways that are improving human connections at a time when we need it most. What I’ve also learned is that with practice, what Brown sparked within me and our leadership team, I’ve been able to make my own and work for me in ways I didn’t know were possible. I learn something more about myself and about my teammates every day. This kind of discovery makes work and building connections with people fun again.
Rosi Statt is DS+CO’s managing director of strategy.