Published May 11, 2020

Vulnerability: 3 Personal and Professional Takeaways from Brené Brown

Balancing being a wife, mother, and leading a company is difficult – even more so in times of crisis. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the initial weeks were full of shock and sadness for all the small business owners and the threat to their survival (side note: I also own a brewery and tasting room with my husband), I decided to focus on things I COULD control. Working from home, I was finally able to knock out lots of those administrative and “nice to get done if I only had some extra time in my day” projects off the list. I also had a chance to focus on my very long reading list. 

I had seen Brené Brown’s Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, last year and connected with her struggle to be vulnerable in her personal and professional life. I try to practice it, but it’s hard and a bit uncomfortable for me. So during this quarantine I finally made time to pick up her book, “Daring Greatly.” There is so much good stuff in here to help me work on my shortcomings, but what stood out even more was how applicable her lessons are to franchising as well. Here’s what I see as the most important takeaways for both my personal and professional activities and aspirations:

1. “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.” Brown talks about work she did with one of her professors who lived by this mantra: essentially, “You can’t move what you don’t measure.” We live and breathe that here at FBR. It’s great to hear franchisors say, “Our franchisees love us, they tell us all the time,” but it’s critical to quantify what they love and find the areas to focus on. Great franchisors always look for those areas to continually improve. 

At home, I try to track behaviors and good choices/habits- the amount of water consumed each day, physical activity, and NOT snacking. All things that lead to my greater goal of being healthy, and finding where I have room for improvement.

2. The importance of empathy. Brown outlines her steps for trying to effectively understand someone’s feelings, noting you don’t have to have experienced the same thing: 1. Listening, 2. Holding space, 3. Withholding judgement, 4. Emotionally connecting, and 5. Communicating “you are not alone.” 

We can think we are being empathetic with family/friends/peers, but truly understanding someone’s experience, and withholding judgement takes practice for most. Our current state of politics, and debates about what should be open, and when, is all-consuming. We will become more unified as a nation, as families, and as companies if we stop criticizing others that don’t follow the same path and choices that we choose. 

I find in most cases there isn’t just ONE WAY to do something, and we don’t know everyone’s history or experience that impacts the way they move through this world. So if we don’t understand where someone is coming from, let’s ask them! Let’s agree to have a conversation to listen and connect. And if it’s just not something we can align on, at least commit to stop judging others for their choices. 

3. Behavior, and delivery of the words, are more important than the actual words. I stress about being a “good mom” and not messing up my awesome kid. Parenting can lead to lots of judgment from (and of) others. Our children are always watching and listening. They learn so much from how we interact with our partners, and people in our communities, to start. Modeling openness and kindness can be a great way to guarantee our children will live their lives that way as adults.

The “Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto” (available for download here) resonates with me. It’s how I hope my daughter feels from our time spent together. Brown talks about the importance of “lighting up, not criticizing” your child when they walk into a room. When a child first comes into the room, some parents make a face and utter something like, “Brush your hair!” or “Go change your clothes!” or “Stop slouching!” Instead, offer a smile and even an “I love you!” to start their day. Everyone wants to be praised. And if the first thing you hear when seeing someone is constant criticism or negativity, it doesn’t fire you up to spend time with them. 

We have heard similar counsel in the workplace – when giving feedback, start with something positive. Or focus on being constructive, rather than pointing out flaws. Franchisors – corporate team members and field reps – are in the position to give a lot of feedback to their franchisees. Try using the Engaged Feedback Checklist before you offer feedback next. I’m guessing you will get better results from the conversations. 

Brown declares, “Connection is why we are all here.” Our number of connections, and how we connect, is changing. As we connect with ourselves and others, consider that everybody is worthy of love. We have to have compassion and courage in ourselves before we can share it with others. So remember to be kind to yourself, and others, as we all navigate through this crisis. I would love to hear what you are working on in your business, or yourself, while isolated.

P.S. If you aren’t a reader, skip the book and check out Brené Brown’s Netflix special. It does a great job of recapping her Ted Talk, the book, and her continual journey to be the best version of herself and to continue strengthening the relationships in her life. 

About the Author: Michelle Rowan

Michelle is the president of FBR, the former Chair of the International Franchise Association’s Women’s Franchise Committee. and a Certified Franchise Executive. She is the recipient of the 2022 Crystal Compass Award, has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.
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