What Brené Brown Teaches Us About Effective Leadership Training

After recently finishing Brené Brown’s newest book, Dare to Lead, I already think it’s my favorite book of the year – and it’s not even summer yet! I resonated so much with this book personally, and as someone who professionally helps organizations grow their teams, it was hard to ignore what Brown’s message means for how we develop effective leadership training.

Brown defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”

Throughout the book, she answers the question leaders in organizations ranging from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 50 companies are asking: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?

What struck me was that I’ve always thought of courage as an inherent trait; however, thankfully for Brené Brown, I now understand it differently. In Brown’s words, “it is less about who people are, and more about how they behave and show up in difficult situations.”

And fortunately, courage is a collection of four skill sets that we can learn. Yes. Learn!

The four courage skill sets are:

  • Rumbling with Vulnerability
  • Living into Our Values
  • Braving Trust
  • Learning to Rise

Most effective leadership training today contain these four components. Let’s look more closely at how we can teach and develop these skills in our content.

 

Four Effective Leadership Training Components

1. Rumbling with Vulnerability

If we want to develop daring leaders that push our organizations forward, we must create environments where our leaders and teams can be vulnerable. Brown defines vulnerability as, “the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” And I think we can all agree that in our work, we encounter at least two of these on a regular basis. After all, some of the most life changing inventions of all time – the lightbulb, air travel, and the iPhone – definitely didn’t come in the world without a little uncertainty and risk.  

Creating Psychologically Safe Environments  

Brown writes, “If we want to people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts – so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people – we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

Google’s five-year study on highly productive teams found that psychological safety – team members feeling safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other – was “far and away the most important of the five dynamics that set successful teams apart.”

So, how do we train our leaders to create these kinds of environments? We need to train leaders on listening, honesty, and keeping confidence with a heavy emphasis on emotional intelligence.

We also need to teach that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. You can feel brave and afraid at the same time. This is vulnerability and it’s okay. When our leaders are beating this drum and encouraging their teams to embrace these feelings, we’ll get innovation and creative-problem solving as a result.

We Need to Rumble

According to Brown, 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 problem solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.” 

And in order for our teams to rumble with vulnerability, we need to empower our leaders against rewarding armoring behaviors like blaming, shaming, cynicism, perfectionism, and emotional stoicism. It’s time to take the armor off, and when it’s laid to the side, we’ll get teams that can fully thrive and create ground breaking work.

 

2. Living into Our Values

Organizations and Leaders Need to Define their Values  

In the organizational development world, we hear about values a lot. Many of our organizations have them (if yours doesn’t, advocate to make them a priority), but how many of us have taken the time to define our own values? The foundation of effective leadership training should be helping your leaders intentionally define their values. Brown recommends having just two values. Why? Because according to her research, “The participants who demonstrated the most willingness to rumble with vulnerability and practice courage tethered their behavior to one or two values, not ten. At some point, if everything on the list is important, then nothing is truly a driver for you. It’s just a gauzy list of feel-good words.”

Translate Values from Ideals to Behaviors

It’s not enough for organizations and leaders to just identify values, we have to teach people the skills they need to demonstrate them. I think Brown explains it best when she says, “The reason why we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one.”

And the proof is in the pudding, according to Brown, “Only about 10 percent of organizations have operationalized their values into teachable and observable behaviors that are used to train their employees and hold them accountable.” Yikes!

This means that our leadership training needs to clearly outline how the organization’s and leader’s values translate into specific behaviors. Here’s an example of what this looks like from Brown’s organization. “Be Brave” is the organizational value and below that are the three behaviors to support it.

Be Brave

  • I set clear boundaries with others.
  • I lean into difficult conversations, meetings, and decisions.
  • I talk to people, not about them.

3. Braving Trust

Without trust, we have no connection, and if we can’t connect, vulnerability has no place. Trust is so vital to our teamwork that in Fortune’s research done for the annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, they found that, “Trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces.”

Brown takes our understanding of trust even further by defining the seven elements of trust (she calls this The BRAVING Inventory), so leaders have the language they need to give constructive feedback to their teams. She says, “Rather than rumbling generally about trustworthiness and using the word trust, we need to point to specific behaviors. We need to be able to identify exactly where the breach lies and then speak to it.” Your leadership training should be speaking to these seven elements too. 

The BRAVING Inventory – The Seven Elements of Trust

  • Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask.
  • Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do.
  • Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
  • Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share.
  • Integrity: You choose courage over comfort.
  • Nonjudgement: We can talk about how we feel and ask for help without judgment.
  • Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

4. Learning to Rise

Daring leaders also need resilience skills. Brown says, “We can’t expect people to be brave and risk failure if they’re not prepped for hard landings.” Effective leadership training wouldn’t be complete without content on these skills. Brown has created a process called Learning to Rise that outlines how to be resilient.

The Learning to Rise Process

  • The Reckoning: Knowing that we’re emotionally hooked and then getting curious about it.
  • The Rumble: Acknowledging the stories (often untrue and based on our fears and insecurities) we tell ourselves to make meaning of hard situations.
  • The Revolution: Taking off the armor and rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust with open hearts, and learning to rise so we re-claim authorship of our own stories and lives is the revolution.

In the spirit of Brené Brown, I’ll be vulnerable with you. Writing this post was challenging! Dare to Lead is chock-full of wisdom that should not only impact how we create meaningful and effective leadership training for our organizations, but also how we personally lead ourselves and our teams. Brown gives us so much valuable information that can be applied to leadership training (definitely read the book for yourself), and the four components you just read about are what I think is missing from leadership training today. 

I’m so grateful for Brené Brown and the work she’s doing to help us step into daring leadership. When these tactics are incorporated into our leadership training, we’ll get the results we’re looking for and arm our leaders with the meaningful information and skills they need to be successful.   

Why Your Best Individual Contributor Isn’t Ready to be a People Manager

People Manager Leadership 2


If you’re a leader in your organization, chances are you’re able to pinpoint your top performer. It’s only natural to want to reward that team member with a promotion and give them a platform to make more waves within your organization. But have you stopped to consider that, according to ATD, 60% of people managers underperform or fail within their first two years?

Where does this 60% rate come from? By promoting your best individual contributor, you’re asking them to work with a new set of skills. They’re filling a role they may not be prepared for and your remaining team is scrambling to fill the gap.

So,  before you jump to handing out that promotion, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions.

 

Are They Prepared to be a People Manager?

 

People Manager Leadership 1

Much like Liam Neeson in Taken, your top contributor has “a very particular set of skills.” But how many of these skills transfer to the role of a people manager?

It goes back to the concept of Maker versus Manager. Your best individual contributor is a Maker—they focus on creating a specific product or owning a specific service. Managers on the other hand focus on the organization as a whole, company and team goals, and the professional development of their direct reports.

That means your team member will go from day-to-day tasks that focus on creating or making, to a role that’s focused on owning the professional development and performance of other employees — and with that comes a complete shift in their schedules, too. They’ll go from large blocks of brainstorming and heads down time to a calendar full of performance reviews, 1:1s with their direct reports, and ongoing strategy meetings.

This change can be jarring. The stress that comes with being promoted outside of their skill set could mean they begin to feel (for the first time) they aren’t excelling in their role. That sense of personal disappointment leads to a lack of fulfillment and, ultimately, the end of that top performer’s journey with your organization.

A Grovo survey of 500 managers found that 87 percent of managers wish they’d had more training before their promotion.

To help set the employee up for success, offer them a leadership training program to build key people management skills. The training should be multi-faceted and should include self-paced courses, coaching via 1:1 meetings, videos or simulations. Across these modalities, you’ll want to teach your team member the best ways to give feedback, build up their coaching skills, and remind them the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication styles and emotional intelligence.

Are You Prepared to Fill the Void?

Pulling your best individual contributor away from the day-to-day tasks they’ve come to be so good at means you should have a plan in place for how you’ll fill that gap. If you don’t, you may see an impact on your business in terms of quality and service speed, and your customers may even take notice.

You also don’t want your other team members to feel overburdened once you’ve promoted your top performer. If they do, there’s a trickle-down effect that could mean an increase in stress level and decrease in morale.

In order to get ahead of those concerns, make sure you have training in place to help the other team members level up to match the top performer’s current skills.

Their training should be targeted to the specific role and level you’re trying to fill. To kick off the training, use a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (or BARS Chart) to define what not acceptable, good, and great looks like in that vacant role. Then, use it to gauge where your current team members fall and create targeted improvement plans based on their areas of opportunity.

For added sustainment, use a 30, 60, 90-day action plan to help set milestones and measure achievements as they work to improve their skills according to that BARS Chart. Then, meet with these employees at the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day benchmarks to see if they’re tracking on their current goals.

To be sure you’re ready to make that staffing change, you have to do everything you can to prepare and get ahead of that 60% statistic. This means investing in developing your top performer’s leadership skills and training their replacement. This two-pronged training approach is essential to making sure the transition for your best individual contributor and your team as a whole is as smooth as possible.

Need a hand? We have over a decade of training experience and can help find the perfect blend of training for your unique situation. Want to hear more about self-paced course options, videos or simulations, BARS Charts, or 30, 60, 90-day action plans?  Give us a call.

Infographic: Is Your Sales Training Program Good, or Great?

Your organization has a sales training program, and it’s working, right? Your sales reps are learning to position your products and services and close enough deals to at least keep the lights on for another month.

And maybe, you schedule training two or three times per year, probably in conjunction with a regional sales meeting when everyone is together to compare notes.

While your sales training program might not be brand new, you’re patching holes with updated content to keep it as fresh as you can.

So it’s good, right? Or at least adequate?

Well, maybe. If your organization has a good sales training program and you’re stuck in chronic mediocrity, imagine the results of a great sales training program that empowers your sales team to knock it out of the park with every customer interaction.

How can you tell whether your sales training program is good or great? Let’s take a quiz.

Is your sales training program good or great?

1. What is your sales methodology?

At the heart of every good sales training program is a good sales methodology. And there are plenty to choose from: Challenger, SPIN, SNAP, Customer Centric, Sandler Selling, and Conceptual … the list goes on.

It’s good to have a sales methodology because it helps your organization identify certain key needs. It probably provides insight into how your organization qualifies buyers, positions products, and helps reps overcome objections.

But, while it’s good to adopt a sales methodology, they all have one thing in common: lots of other organizations ―including your direct competitors―are using the exact same methodology.

To differentiate your organization in a crowded marketplace, you have to customize, personalize, and make your sales methodology your own so you can woo customers with a uniquely compelling customer experience – resulting in more deals closed.

A great sales training program is built off a sales methodology that’s contextual and customized for your specific products and services. One that enables reps to ideally position the solutions you offer, helps develop the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that empower your reps to shine more brightly than competitors, and matches your culture.

We’re often asked, “Hey Unboxed, what’s your sales methodology?”

Well, we have frameworks to create custom sales methodologies for our clients, but whether we create one or start with your existing one, the answer is simple: our methodology is to take your methodology and contextualize it to transform your training from hu-hum to BAM!

sales training program - sales methodology

2. What does your sales training program teach your reps?

Reps require knowledge and skills to sell successfully. They need specific, detailed information to explain how your products solve a customer’s issues and add value. Reps must also know how to qualify customers, build relationships, upsell, gain referrals and repeat sales. If your training achieves all of that, then you have a good program.

In addition to teaching knowledge and skills, a great sales training program also focuses on developing consistent behaviors that reps must master to position your products and services at the top of the market, making them irresistible to customers.

So, how do you take a knowledge- and skills-based training program to the next level?

At Unboxed, we start by partnering with our clients to identify the behaviors that drive success, then build training around those behaviors. PowerPoints won’t do here. Reps need to experience what these behaviors look like in action. We use simulations, choose-your-own adventure, and adaptive learning models so reps make a choice and then get to see the impact of their decisions, even if they’re incorrect.

By changing behaviors, you change overall results. Great sales training materials improve selling behaviors for your entire bench, driving increased sales and higher customer satisfaction.

sales training program - training for reps

3. What does your sales training program offer sales leaders?

Great sales managers aren’t born―they’re trained. They’re the pillars reps look to for guidance on closing critical deals. And, contrary to popular belief, when a top rep is promoted to sales manager, savvy management skills don’t magically materialize.

A coaching model supports the knowledge, skills, and behaviors your sales management and leadership team require to guide reps to the next level. They’ll learn to build their bench, set goals, develop strategy, understand drivers and drainers, evaluate ROI―and coach their team in developing these skills. Teaching managers how to foster increased sales productivity and efficiency improves the overall vitality of your sales organization.

sales training program - training for leaders

4. How do you deliver your sales training program?

Modality of learning is key to making knowledge stick. In years past, that meant in-person training and stacks of binders. Today’s reps are more visually oriented, so videos and interactive technologies are a smarter way to engage them to maximize retention.

If you currently mix up the delivery of your training using PowerPoints, self-paced workbooks, and the occasional video, you have a good training delivery system.

But why not make it great?

Reps are busy. Lengthy training sessions lower their overall selling time. And don’t forget about the forgetting curve. But by using modern, on-demand modalities, reps can train anywhere, anytime. Delivering training in short, bite-sized chunks also makes it more digestible and easier to retain. (It’s called microlearning, and it’s great for sales training.)

Modern sales reps respond to modern training methods. They increase engagement and knowledge retention. So, while it’s good to have 25-minute videos and training every six months, it’s great to use more modern sales training techniques including eLearning (simulations, interactive learning guides, and high-fidelity training videos), social learning, and gamification that keep reps engaged.

sales training program - training delivery

Are you good, great, or in the middle?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, your organization likely has a good sales training program.

But what if parts of your program are good while other aspects are already great? In that case does your entire sales program need a complete overhaul, or does it just need a facelift to make it more modern and engaging?

Here’s the thing: transforming from good to great has tangible benefits for your sales team and sales leaders, but the overarching reason to revamp your sales training is to provide your customers with an extraordinary experience.

This begs one last question:

5. Does your sales training elevate the customer experience?

In our modern, crowded sales landscape, companies compete on the playing field of customer experience.

And while it’s good to deliver training that benefits your reps, it’s great if that training also elevates the customer experience.

When customers experience the wow-factor of customized, contextual product positioning from sales reps whose consistent behaviors focus on solving their individual challenges, it tips the balance in your organization’s favor.

sales training program - results

By transforming your sales training program from good to great, you increase rep engagement, enhance management and leadership skills, and amp-up your customer experience to previously unimagined heights. Who wouldn’t choose great?

Here’s the complete infographic.

sales training program - Infographic

Want to Move from Good to Great?

At Unboxed, we specialize in creating custom sales training programs that help organizations transform from good to great, from mediocre to phenomenal, from off the shelf or “boxed” to, well … Unboxed.

Ready to kick it up a notch? Reach out. We’d love to talk sales training with you.

Webinar: 3 Challenges That Limit Your Training Engagement (And What to Do About Them)

At ATD 2017, we asked people who visited our booth to share their top training challenges. When we compared notes, one thing was clear: everyone wants their training to be more engaging.

So, we returned from the conference and hosted a free webinar, 3 Challenges That Limit Your Training Engagement (And What to Do About Them). Good news: if you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording below. It’s conversational, informative, and full of actionable tips to help you engage leaders, learners, and SMEs like a rockstar.

trainng-engagement-challenges-Unboxed

VIEW THE WEBINAR RECORDING

Follow along with facilitators David Williamson and Rick Lloyd as they share expert insights that will help you:

  • get leadership invested to create a culture of learning
  • engage tough SMEs to generate content that scales
  • follow up effectively to defeat the forgetting curve

After all, for a training program to stick, it needs the support of engaged leaders and subject matter experts. Watch the webinar, and find out how to align stakeholders across your organization more effectively to boost retention and create meaningful change.

These Time Management Hacks Will Help Your Team #Win

Every team I’ve ever worked with struggles with time management. While we attend meetings, answer emails, and respond to unexpected challenges, we yearn for professional development—the first to go in times of frenzied task-switching.

My team at Unboxed is no different. We want to produce high-quality results, deliver on-time and on-budget, and acquire new skills—so we have to find smart ways to manage our time and focus rather than multi-task. Here are five time management hacks that will help you and your team members meet deadlines and achieve your professional goals.

5-time-management-hacks

Hack #1: Plan your week

Time box: 30 minutes

My weekly planning process, inspired by Getting Things Done by David Allen, begins first-thing Monday when I get to my desk. It goes like this:

  • Review email using the 4D method: delete, do, delegate, defer. More about this in Hack #2.
  • Refresh Friday’s to-do list. Add any email items that need to be addressed today.
  • Prioritize professional development. Schedule time for continued learning. (And if that time is late Friday afternoon, it might not happen. Earlier in the week is often better.)
  • Update this week’s calendar. Add any personal appointments such as the doctor, dentist, kids’ functions, etc. Create space for focused work. Make sure there are no overlapping meetings, and if that can’t be done, start declining meetings based on priorities.
  • Email any out-of-office reminders. Communicate schedule changes with affected team members.

I used to plan for the upcoming week on Fridays. However, I found things often came up over the weekend that forced me to re-do the plan. Planning on Fridays also caused me unnecessary stress because I was thinking about next week’s work over the weekend, when I needed to be present for my family. Planning on Monday fixed those issues.

Hack #2: Review email with the 4D method

Time box: 10 minutes

I typically look at email three times a day—in the morning, after lunch, and close of business. The 4D method works like this:

  1. Delete when possible.
  2. Do what’s asked if it takes less than two minutes.
  3. Delegate if someone else should, or could, handle it.
  4. Defer the task to a better time if it takes longer than two minutes.

I disable email notifications so I can stay focused. My team knows if they really need me, they can call, text, or come get me.

time management hacks

Hack #3: Complete a daily debriefing

Time box: 15 minutes

Hack #3, a retrospective of the day, is important because it allows my brain to shut off on the evening. Here is the daily debriefing framework I use:

  • Log today’s accomplishments.
  • Identify any impediments, who can resolve them, and specifics that will help resolve them.
  • List things that need to be done tomorrow.
  • Review email.
  • Look for ways to improve. Ask:

What didn’t go as smoothly as it should have?
What can I do better tomorrow?

When we slow down and ask questions like, “Is there anything I can do that will improve mine and my team’s productivity going forward?” there’s a side-benefit: we foster company-wide process improvements.

For example, I was in a meeting last Friday, and I noticed another team member’s scheduling system was pretty time-intensive and cumbersome. I wanted to help, so I made a note of it during my daily debriefing. When I plan my next week (Hack #1), I’ll look for a free block of time we can use to collaborate on a better method—which will result in increased productivity for the company. Time management for the win!

After the daily debriefing, it’s time to turn off the work brain. Everything necessary for tomorrow has been written down, so there’s no need for it to consume any more brain space and energy today.

Hack #4: Unplug

Time box: Daily

It’s extremely important to come into work with a fresh set of eyes and a fresh brain. If you’ve had a chance to step away from your tasks, you’re less likely to get spun out, and you’re more likely to be free and creative.

Need more convincing? Read the article Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too. After an overview of Charles Darwin’s daily—and surprisingly pleasant—routine, it argues Darwin and his amateur scientist/author/social reformer/lawmaker contemporary John Lubbock weren’t accomplished despite their leisure; they were accomplished because of it. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang explains:

“…despite their differences in personality and the different quality of their achievements, both Darwin and Lubbock managed something that seems increasingly alien today. Their lives were full and memorable, their work was prodigious, and yet their days are also filled with downtime.”

Ernest Hemingway wrote from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz “worked as a civil servant,” and “mainly wrote fiction in the late afternoon, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.” Writer Alice Munro: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.; and Gabriel García Márquez: five hours a day.

It’s better to come to work rested, refreshed, and ready to be in peak productivity mode. In a recent FastCompany article, Lydia Dishman explores Project: Time Off’s new report, The State of American Vacation. The report found that:

“…planning a vacation in advance led to better follow-through and using more of the time available to take off. Further, planning was responsible for a mood boost. Workers who planned their vacations resulted in increased happiness across nine factors, including professional success, financial situation, and their company.”

We should follow the example of accomplished men and women before us—and be willing to step away from our desks, go for a walk, and plan (and take!) vacations.

Hack #5: Gut-check meeting agendas

Time box: As needed

As a team, we plan most of our meetings (both internally and with our clients) at least two weeks in advance, generally during sprint planning. So, when I receive an ad hoc meeting invite, I immediately evaluate it. I ask:

  • Does it have an agenda?
  • Does it have clear goals or desired outcomes?
  • Is it as short as it could be?
  • Do I need to be there?

If the answers aren’t clear, I’ll ask the organizer, “Hey—what’s the agenda for this meeting?” Typically when someone sits down to write an agenda, they realize the meeting actually can be shorter, or the tasks can be accomplished in another way.

Continue learning

I love to read, and there are some great resources out there that can help you learn more about time management best practices. My personal favorites are Slack by Tom DeMarco, Getting Things Done by David Allen, and SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland.

Share Your Time Management Hacks

At Unboxed, we love to find ways to help people be more productive in their jobs. So, if there are any time management hacks that have really helped you achieve your goals, please share ‘em in the comments below!