Don’t let Ikea Instructions or A 15 ft Wall get in your way!

Taking one of Brene Brown’s course’s means looking at how I am with putting myself out there / taking chances and failure when it doesn’t work out ( in her words, when I’m Daring Greatly and Rising Strong).


Through her research as a Shame and Vulnerability expert, she discovered there are ten elements to the Physics of Vulnerability; The first being:

“If I am brave enough, often enough, I will fall;

this is the physics of vulnerability.”


In her course, I was reflecting on how I got up after a fall/failure and wrote the following words:

“I haven’t experienced many (I’ve had some) failures. They happened early on in my working career, and I got smart in how to avoid them.”


Ha! Literally within 60 minutes of writing this, I was on a call with my work group doing a check in sharing how I had not finished with a project I’d been given.


Typically when this happens I would come to the call, with an enormous protective shield around me and a bunch of reasons (that are not my responsibility) for how my dog ate my homework….you get the picture, right?


Well, this time, was different I was a messy puddle of tears trying to express myself about what was going on. I had realized that a ton of my stuff was the reason for why the project was incomplete. Unfortunately, I just didn’t realize it until after it was already late.


During the time I was working on the project, I keep a nice little cheering section of na sayers shouting the “I’m not good enough conversations.” In Brene Brown’s words, these are the people in the arena who are in the Critics Section:


“these seats include the messages of comparison, scarcity, and shame. These can represent internal messages as well as messages we get from other people in our lives. Comparison is when we look at how we measure up to our perceptions of others. Scarcity is the message or feeling that we are never _____ enough. Shame is the painful feeling of being less than, and, therefore, unworthy of love and belonging.”

I was having conversations with myself about “how I wasn’t good enough, it was too hard, it shouldn’t be this way, I’m not the right person for the work”…all of those typical young shaming conversations that paralyze me to being my best self.


Being my best self-includes knowing what I need and have the courage to ask for it. Up until this point, I was totally paralyzed and wasn’t even present to what I needed.


During our workgroup conversation, I discovered that some of my basic tenants were missed in how I was doing the work this time:


1) I didn’t ask for what I needed regarding support. I didn’t let anyone know what I needed to work on a new project. I was not honoring my value of partnership. Rather, I was trying to look good, like I had it all together.


2) I wasn’t allowing myself the time, space and compassion for how I was feeling, I was keeping all of this to myself, and I was “shoulding” all over myself for multiple things:

I kept letting my lack of “knowing how to complete the assignment” get in my way. I had this conversation that sounded like this: “Leslie, this is just like all of the other word documents you have put together in the past, you have examples, what’s the problem? “I was letting myself get very frustrated by my inability to work effectively on the document, and I was making myself wrong. I was comparing myself to others (including myself) which, we know is not a helpful conversation with anyone.

3) Finally, I promised I would have the document completed by a particular time and didn’t follow through on it. I made the promise without inspecting how it was going for me, what I needed and if it was even possible. Another reason for the negative self-talk.


The good news is our workgroup is made up of amazing people, and all have an enormous capacity for empathy. And the leadership qualities to provide the space for these kinds of conversations. Luckily for me, it’s part of our company strategy –   to ensure each team member is taken care of.  Learning from what didn’t work within a team is a powerful place to stand.  Those teams who value growth and development are the ones who outperform their competitors.


As a leader, getting to know yourself and

how you work best is just as important as getting to know

your team and what they need.


One way to do this is by asking the following questions of both yourself and your team:


  1. How does each person do their best work? (What environment works best and what do they need to thrive?)
  2. What is required when taking on a project that is new and never done before?
  3. What skills, capabilities, and strengths do they have to complete the project?
  4. How does the individual like to work? (usually, the individual knows what works best for them)


The four questions above will be a starting place for a conversation. It will open up space for everyone to look at what they need to thrive.


The skill of listening, asking the right questions, reflection, and assuming you don’t know what people need is a critical aspect of leading effectively. 


I like a collaborative effort, especially on new projects where structure, process and template are available to follow. I thrive best when I’m working with someone and ideas are ping-ponging back and forth. In the beginning, I may need a lot of hands-on ensuring I have what I need, and I’m clear how to move forward.

I tend not to do my best when I’m given the Ikea instructions, told the pile of tools are over there in the shed and asked to climb a 15-foot wall. Of course, this isn’t what happened even I didn’t see or know I was going to end up in a puddle of tears Thursday morning. It is easy to reflect now on what happened and then exaggerate it for effect. Metaphors help remind me of what doesn’t work to ensure I do it differently next time.


Debriefing what happened, how it happened and what we need to do it differently is extremely helpful and beneficial. It’s all part of the relationship building process. Leaders who are worth their weight will do this those that don’t are creating a breeding ground for psychological injury.


My experience has taught me that leaders who are effective in the office and their relationships understand that leadership is all about building trust, confidence and finding the sweet spot in how to operate with each other to produce the results they want. There are going to fall along the way. And we know if the time and space for reflection are built in, the effort is worth it. The beauty is if the effort is put into the relationship, no matter how challenging the project is you’ll be able to get through it.


What do you notice about your relationships when working on a team? What do you do to build your relationships? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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