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On this episode of Dare to Lead

In this episode, Barrett Guillen, chief of staff at Brené Brown Education and Research Group, is joining me to talk about trust, what trust means, and how we approach it at our company. We call it BRAVING trust — BRAVING is the acronym we use for the seven attributes of trust. We have shared this with organizations all over the world, and today, we’re going to dig into what we’ve learned about practicing BRAVING trust, what we’ve learned from teaching it, and what we’ve learned from the barriers that we often see in our training and in our practice.

About the guest

Barrett Guillen headshot

Barrett Guillen

Barrett Guillen is Chief of Staff for Brené Brown Education and Research Group. With her team, Barrett supports both Brené and the organization by helping to prioritize competing demands, managing relationships, and building connective tissue and strategy across all business initiatives. Barrett holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Kinesiology from the University of Houston. After more than a decade in education in the Texas Panhandle, Barrett and her family made the move back to the Houston area to join the BBEARG team in making the world a braver place.  Having the opportunity to work with her sisters everyday has been one of the great joys of her life. Outside the office, you can find Barrett spending time with her family (immediate and extended), enjoying her daughter’s games, eating her husband’s famous burgers, floating in the water (any water!), or on the pickle ball court.

Show notes

Dare to Lead _ Brené Brown MSW

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

The ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures. Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. It’s learning and practice that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts.

Author Louise Penny


Brené Brown: Hi, everyone, I’m Brené Brown, and this is Dare to Lead. So, a couple of episodes back, we talked to Charles Feltman about his incredible book The Thin Book of Trust, and we talked about what it means to build trust between people in teams in organizations. And so, Barrett, welcome.

Barrett Guillen: Hi. So happy to be back.

BB: I thought you and I could really dig in to how we talk about trust here at Brené Brown Education and Research Group.

BG: I’d love to.

BB: Yeah. We’ll talk about the marble jar.  We’ll talk about BRAVING trust, the acronym we have for the seven attributes of trust, how we use that. We’ll just jump into the whole thing, and maybe we can also talk about some of the barriers that we see when we teach this, when we train it.

BG: Sounds great. I’m excited.

BB: Yeah. What do you think is the most important thing about trust?

BG: That’s a really good question. For me it feels very much like a cycle, the more I have trust in my team, the more productive we are, the more I feel like I can rely on them and count on them and feel really in the trenches with them. And so for me it’s just, especially at work, it’s such a cycle of these small moments that build trust, more productivity, more leaning on each other, and more asking for what we need, it’s just a complete cycle.

BB: And what does it feel like when it breaks?

BG: Like a shit show, nobody knows who’s juggling the balls, and at any minute we know there’s going to be a ball dropping. It doesn’t feel cohesive.

BB: That’s true. That’s a really good way to put it.

BG: Yeah.

BB: It’s kind of everything, isn’t it?

BG: It does. It does feel like everything.

BB: Yeah. All right. We’ll dig in to what we’ve learned about practicing it, what we’ve learned from teaching probably tens of thousands of people.

BG: Yeah.


BB: Hi, Barrett.

BG: Hi, Brené.


BB: Welcome to Dare to Lead.

BG: We’re in better moods today. [chuckle]

BB: We are in better moods today. In case you caught that sister podcast over on Unlocking Us, when we were like dead-ass tired, and also grappling with kids in crisis and parents, and literally… It’s so funny because they called it the sandwich generation when I was growing up. I remember hearing about it maybe on TV or in Time magazine, and I remember watching Mom take care of Me-Ma, and thinking, “Oh, they’re the sandwich generation… ” Well, I’m rename it to the shit sandwich generation.


BB: It’s so hard. So we’re in a better place today. Are we in a better place?

BG: Oh, I thought so, until you explained the sandwich generation.


BB: That does not go away. But this is an interesting topic to talk about, not only in relation to work, but also our lives, right?

BG: Yes.

BB: Okay. We’re talking about BRAVING trust, and what trust means, and we’re going to go through the acronym that we use, the BRAVING acronym that we use, to talk about trust here in our organization. We shared this with organizations all over the world, and many times what we hear back is, this is one of the biggest, stickiest things that the acronym ends up going in people’s offices and cubicles and added to their performance evaluations or just their check-ins. So we’re going to walk through it with you today. I think I’ll go back, like way back, and put trust into context, and start with the story of the marble jar. What do you think?

BG: I love that.

BB: Yeah. This was many years ago, because Ellen’s in her first year of graduate school, and I think she was in late elementary school. She’s 22 now, and she was probably 10 then, so it was maybe 12 years ago. One day Ellen comes home from school, and just walked to the local elementary school… Oh, I know, she hadn’t been in fourth or fifth grade because she wasn’t allowed to walk back with her… Just her friends without a parent, until fourth or fifth grade.

BG: That makes sense.

BB: Fifth grade it didn’t happen because as the oldest child of two eldest children, she was the captain of the safety patrol.


BG: Of course she was.

BB: So, she had to stay late as she was catching… I remember one time, this is a funny story, just an aside. In fourth grade, before she became the captain of the safety patrol, the fifth-graders all went camping for the day or for two days, and so they temporarily promoted some of the fourth-graders. [laughter] Such a great story. And so, she and her friend, Lorna, became kind of acting captains, fourth grade captains of the entire safety patrol. And after the second day when she got home, I was like, “How was school? How was running the safety patrol?” She said, “Hmm. Mr. Lowry gave us a really hard talk.” And I said, “About what?” And she’s like… [laughter] She was in fourth grade. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”


BB: I was like, “Wow. Lord Acton in fourth grade.” She’s like, “Yeah,” she said that, “The power had gone to our heads.” [laughter] That we were issuing demerits without thinking through the consequences for the kids getting demerits. [laughter]

BG: Oh my God. As a former PE teacher who used to have to lead the safety patrol, [laughter] this is bringing back some crazy thoughts and memories.

BB: You led the safety patrol?


BG: Can you believe it?


BG: The youngest and a six on the enneagram, yes, they let me do that. I don’t know how they let me do that.

BB: Were you scared all the time?


BG: Yes.

BB: A six on the enneagram for those of you who don’t know. [laughter] They really can think through some worst-case scenarios. [laughter] Wow, so you led the safety patrol.

BG: Hey, there were no injuries on my watch. [laughter] I have to report. [chuckle]

BB: Okay. So I know Ellen was in fourth or fifth grade during this, because she walked in by herself, she kind of came in the front door. I closed the door, and she literally turned her back to the door, started sobbing, just wailing, sobbing and slid down the door until she was just sitting on her bottom with her back against the door. And I said, “Oh, my God. Ellen, what happened? What’s wrong? What’s going on?” I was so scared. I was alarmed. And she told the story. She said, “I told someone a secret, something really private, at recess, something that had happened. It was really awful and embarrassing. And by the time I got back into my classroom, this friend had told everybody.” And you know that heartbreak when you see your kid in that situation. And she looked at me and she said, “I’ll never trust anyone again.”

BB: And really, honestly, my first inclination was like, “Damn straight, you trust me, your mama, and that’s it. Trust nobody.” But that’s a terrible way to live. [chuckle] So I said, “I totally get that. I totally get what it’s like to put your confidence in someone, and give someone something that’s really fragile and tender to you, and then have them just throw it out to other people. And it hurts so bad. And then on top of the embarrassment, or shame, or whatever you’re feeling, there’s the hurt of being betrayed.” And so we talked about that and I said, “We do have to trust people, and we have to learn how to trust people, but we need to trust the right people.” And I couldn’t think of a way to talk about that until I thought about her teacher, Mrs. Baucum. And I said, “You remember how Ms. Baucum had the marble jar in the classroom and that… ” Did you have a marble jar when you were a teacher?

BG: I did.

BB: You did?

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: Is that a thing?

BG: Yeah, it’s a thing for us. I had to use it with the fifth graders, because they do get that sense of power in fifth grade. And so for me, it was like they got to earn free time, or they got to earn things. And so I had a lot of teacher friends that had marble jars.

BB: And this is decades ago, right?

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: So I said, “The marble jar Ms. Baucum keeps, if collectively as a group, you’ll make great behavior, she puts marbles in. When collectively as a group, you don’t make great behavior, she takes marbles out. And when the marble jar is full, you get to have a celebration of your class’ choosing.” And I said, “Trust is like the marble jar. We share our most tender, fragile things with people who have a really filled up jar. They’ve done so many things over time where you can trust them.”

BB: And she was like, “Oh… ” The first thing she said is, “I shared this with someone who is not a marble jar friend. This is not a marble jar. This person did not have any marbles in my jar. I didn’t even really think about that. This is a person who loves to have the biggest news, who loves to tell what’s going on, who likes who, who broke up with who, who’s in trouble. And I didn’t know about the marble jar.” And I said, “Okay. It’s okay. This is how we learn how not only to confide in good friends, but how to be a good friend.”

BB: So from that point forward, we talked about trust as a marble jar. And it was really interesting because the more I started pulling out all the data and looking through the concept of trust, the more I realized that trust is like a marble jar. It’s not built in big sweeping moments. It’s built in tiny moments over every day. What is your experience of that?

BG: I totally agree because I don’t think I obviously had the language for it, but I think it is the small moments. It’s like… Tell the story really quick here, I think, about… Who was it that walks past his wife?

BB: Oh, John Gottman, our friends from the… One of our biggest episodes on Unlocking Us are the Gottmans, Doctors John and Julie Gottman. And he studied trust and betrayal, and relationships for four decades. His research is so compelling, the author of a million articles, books. So when I was looking into the research around trust, and is there data that demonstrate this, or is it just… Is this more relational and not in terms of the world of leadership and other worlds? He tells a story about being in bed at night, and being on the last two pages of his mystery book. And you and I can relate to that, right?

BG: Yeah. [chuckle]

BB: We are obsessive, Louise Penny mystery readers. I’m obsessive, I just got…

BG: I just started book one.

BB: Yeah, and I’m on book like… I’ve read 12 of them in the last, I don’t know, six months. [chuckle] So he was getting ready to figure out… You know how when you read mystery books, the clip, the pacing at the end is… Every page is, “Oh, shit. This is the connective tissue. Oh my God, this is what that little thing meant.” So he was like, “You know what? I’m going to put this down. I’m going to go up, go into the bathroom. Go to the bathroom, I’m going to brush my teeth, and then so I can just get in here, and read, and be undisturbed.”

BB: So he gets up, and he’s walking in the bathroom, and he passes his wife, who’s in there brushing her hair and looks really sad. And his thought was “Just keep walking, don’t stop.” [chuckle] Because this is an emergency situation…

BG: In the story.

BB: In the end of the mystery book. But he stops because he said that trust is our Sliding Door moments. And he’s referring to a movie. I loved it, but it was tough with Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a movie where she is running to get on the Tube in London, and she makes it, and she jumps on the last minute before the door closes. But then the film goes into two different paths, one where she makes the train and one where she doesn’t, with dramatically different endings. So those are “sliding door” moments. We have them all the time in our lives.

BG: All the time.

BB: And we’re not even aware of them, right?

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: And so he said that… This was so striking to me when I read this. He said that, trust is in those “sliding door” moments, and he actually stopped and took the brush out of his wife’s hand and then started brushing her hair and said, “You look sad. Tell me what’s going on.” And he said, not only is that a trust-building moment, but to walk past her because, he’s busy, and he’s worried about something else, or he’s excited about something else, or he’s got his own timeline, is an act of betrayal. And so all of the research… The existing research that we could find in the literature, supported this idea about trust being built in small moments, and then we started researching it to find out when you feel trusted or when you build trust with someone. Tell us about it. And it was so crazy because someone would say, “Oh yeah, I really trust my manager, she always asks me things like, How’s your dad’s chemo going, or how was the soccer tournament for your kid this weekend, or did y’all end up going to the concert last night? How was it?” These really small moments, of seeing each other as humans, does that make sense?

BG: Yeah, and that’s when you asked me about the marble jar moments, for me, they are those really small moments, it’s like, “Hey”… Even circling back with someone in that meeting on Zoom, “I could tell that you were distracted or that something else was going on, so I just wanted to follow up and see, do you need support what’s going on?” Those are the things to me, it’s like… It almost feels 50/50, those moments versus questions about deliverables. It’s like, they’re both so important, and so those are the small moments when I think about work, and when I think about leading and being led, those are the moments that mean the most, I think, is to just see each other and acknowledge that we have a lot going on outside of work. And when I circle back with someone, and I know they’re okay. Then I’m like, “Great, let’s hit it.” But when they’re not, okay. “Great, well, what do you need? And what does support look like? Do you want the rest of the day? Do you need me to jump in and help?” Those are, to me, really crucial moments in every single day.

BB: I want to pause and kind of hover on this for a second, because when we take people through Dare to Lead, and when I do it, you’re always with me and we do it together. It’s so interesting because one of the things that stops people from checking in and having those marble jar moments is, they don’t know what to do if it’s hard.

BG: Yeah, if someone says, “Actually, yes, I am falling apart.”

BB: Or, yeah, “Chemotherapy is not going well. I have a meeting with my mom’s doctor, my mom, today about hospice,” they engage in micro-betrayals out of the fear that if they do an honest check-in, they might step into something that they don’t know how to handle. Would you agree?

BG: Totally.

BB: It’s the biggest fear… It’s even, it’s even y’all, the fear when we teach people how to do the two-word check-ins, so we love this check-in with meetings because it’s a great way to be seen as a human, and to check in with your people, So y’all have… I’m sure if you listen to Dare to Lead, you’ve heard these… Let’s do a two-word check-in right now as an example.

BG: Okay, so I’m going to borrow Murdoch’s from this morning, because I thought it was so great.

BB: Oh, did y’all have a two-word check in this morning?

BG: Yeah, it was failure to launch. [laughter]

BB: Oh, holy shit, that’s not good.

BG: But it was like, he’s just like, “I need some more caffeine, I just need something to get going today.”

BB: I’m teaching an MBA course right now at the University of Texas at Austin in the McCombs Business School, and the MBA students are so freaking awesome, aren’t they?

BG: Oh my god, yes.

BB: They’re just so kick-ass, but we start everything with a two-word check-in and there’s like 90 students in this course. And so we have them check in on chat, and so they check in on… Because we have some in-person courses, classes, and then we have some virtual classes, and so we check in on chat, and I just… I said, “everybody put your two-word check in on chat and let’s all spend a couple of minutes… ” And it’s just amazing to see what happens, this is 90 people. People are hungry and angry, and then somebody will say, “Oh God, that’s, actually… I’m hangry and curious.” Or, I don’t know, but these poor MBA students are always so hungry.


BG: They are so hungry. But it’s like, the second you normalize and you’re like, “God, a lot of you guys are hungry tonight, I hope you’re taking care of yourselves and eating,” then it’s like they can put that aside and really jump in.

BB: And it’s so deep because somebody will say, “Overwhelmed and trying to focus,” and then 15 people will heart it. And it’s just incredible, but how many times have you heard leaders tell us, I’m scared to start my meeting with a two-word check-in, because what if someone says, “scared and lonely?” So, there’s a couple of things I want to say about this. One is, whether they tell you they’re scared and lonely or not, doesn’t change the fact that they’re scared and lonely.

BG: Yeah. [chuckle]

BB: Whether you know it or not, doesn’t change that, that’s where they are, and if you don’t know it, God, there’s so much damage you can do, and there’s so many opportunities for support that you’re missing and trust-building. And the second thing is, if I had 20 people in a team, checking in and let’s say you say “sad and lonely.”

BG: Okay. Sad and lonely.

BB: I’d say, Okay, thanks, Barrett, Murdoch, Chaz, I would keep going. Then afterwards, I would just call you, or hey can we jump on a Zoom or can I… I’d probably just call you and say, “Hey, do you have a second?” or I’ll text you, “Do you have a second? Can we jump on a call?” “I just want to circle back to this morning at the meeting, you checked in and you said sad and lonely.”

BB: I want to just kind of check in with you and see what’s going on and what does support look like for me today? That’s the sentence. Right?

BG: Yeah, that’s it.

BB: That’s the question. What does support from me look like? Because what that question says is, “I want to support you, but I don’t know how, and I’d like for you to tell me what you need.” You don’t ask it if you don’t mean it. That’s just awful. And if you don’t mean it, you probably shouldn’t be leading actually.

BG: I agree and I even do it to people I don’t lead. I have an interesting position because I actually have relationships with everyone, but sometimes it’s even like I just Slack someone and said, “Hey, this was your two-word check-in today, and I just wanted to see, everything okay? You want to jump on a call, do you need anything? And sometimes it’s that and sometimes they’re just like, “Just a shit morning, I’m fine. Thank you for checking.” Yeah, that’s it. Depending on what the two-word check-in is, I’ll call or Slack, but it literally takes less than five minutes of my day.

BB: It’s a marble.

BG: It’s a marble and I need to know if someone’s really struggling and how…

BB: Hell yes, we do. Yeah, yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: So we’ve gone on 15 asides, but I think it’s good to break it down into really micro things, because I think people are scared to check in with the daily stuff. I think people are scared to say, “How’s your dad’s surgery? How’s your mom’s chemotherapy?”

BG: And you don’t have to be in person to do that, I’m just…

BB: Oh no, we’ve been virtual since February of last year, March of 2020. Yeah, and I’m telling you, it actually matters so much.

BG: It does.

BB: I want to read this. This is from Melinda Gates. So we did a lot of work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Melinda shared something. It’s in Dare to Lead, but I’m going to read it to you from the book. This is Melinda Gates writing, “After you taught me your metaphor about marbles in a jar, I adopted it as my entire framework for thinking about trust. Every small gesture I make in support of a colleague puts one marble in the jar, but any time I undercut a colleague, anytime I betray trust, a huge handful of marbles goes out of the jar. Thinking in this way makes me more aware of the seemingly small things that lead to building trust and also the small things that might break trust.” It’s such a helpful visual, I think, to talk about this huge gauzy construct. All right, let’s get into BRAVING.

BG: Before you get into braving… Share, you know, our friend Charles Feltman was on. Share his definition of trust and distrust with everyone.

BB: Oh my God, how much do you love Charles Feltman?

BG: I love him. I was actually just flipping through my notebook because I had so many pages of notes when he was on the podcast. I loved what he had to say about trust.

BB: Oh yeah, if y’all haven’t listened to the Dare to Lead with Charles Feltman on trust, and his book is called The Thin Book of Trust. And The Thin Book is like a series or brand of books, and then his is on trust. It’s the second edition, just came out recently, and so I really recommend it. It’s literally the kind of book that you can read, not on the red eye from LA to New York, but from Houston to Chicago, an hour and a half. It’s a very quick book, but just meaty as heck. So Charles Feltman describes trust as choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. And then distrust is deciding that what’s important to me is not safe with this person in this situation or in any situation.

BG: So good.

BB: Yeah. I think the first thing we think about when we think about distrust or betrayal is lying, cheating, undermining, these very Machiavellian, malicious behaviors. But running late for a meeting and passing someone that you can see is distressed and not stopping is also betrayal. And we don’t think about those.

BG: I know, and for me it brings up… We did this massive engagement with an organization last year and into this year. And one of the things that we talked about is whoever is running the meeting, if they don’t allow something to come into the meeting, it’s also like a form of distrust. And so I’m going to say this, and I’m going to let you elaborate on it, but it’s like the two-word check-in also allows people to bring something in that they really need for their leader to understand what’s happening.

BB: Oh my God, this is such a great point. I’m so glad you brought it up. I think it lets them bring their humanity in. And this is something that Aiko Bethea and I talked about. We had another podcast on Dare to Lead. It’s a two-part podcast, and Aiko and I talk about this a lot.  What a leader brings into the room is allowed in the room. What a leader does not bring in the room is not allowed into the room. And so when you start something with a two-word check-in and you say, “How you’re feeling today matters.” Then what you’re bringing into the room is, “We’ve set a table for your humanity, not just your fricking deliverables.” Not just your performance, not just what you’re producing. But if you don’t bring that in, if there’s no check-in.  If you’re like, “All right. Thanks everybody for being here. Let’s check in right now. So Barrett, you were supposed to have a two-page brief today for us on… ” How many people would respond to that by saying, “Yeah, I have the brief. I just want to start by saying, today I’m feeling… ” [laughter]

BG: Nobody would say that. [laughter]

BB: Nobody would say that. Nobody would say that. And if you’re thinking… I don’t know, I think… What am I trying to say? I’m trying to not to be shitty about it, so I’m reframing from shitty to productive. Hold on.

BG: Well, you know they like to call this the pause cast. So here we are.

BB: [laughter] It’s been my experience. Being measured in what I’m saying right now because I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but it’s been my experience, that the people who say that checking in with people’s feelings, checking on people’s humanity, inviting into the room is soft, is unimportant, is weak leadership. It’s been my experience that those are the most fearful people, not the toughest, not the most daring leaders, not the bravest, not the most effective, not the most high performing. And we can use data to reality-check, the sentiment that conversations about trust and vulnerability, have nothing to do with performance by just looking at Project Aristotle. Years and years and years of studying the highest performing groups at Google, and what do they have in common? Number one, psychological safety, trust and vulnerability. So there are no data to support it. And this is true whether we’re working with Special Forces, or we’re working with creatives, we’re working oil and gas in Hong Kong, or we’re working with NGOs in Africa. It doesn’t matter. We’re people, and we are emotional beings, and so when you sever that. I think you’re in trouble.

BG: Yeah, and I will say one of the things I love about being in your MBA class while you’re working with these students is they have such an appetite, they’re almost demanding to be able to bring their whole selves to work and not have to compartmentalize and not talk about themselves or how they feel at work, and it’s just like… I was in an interview with somebody and I said, “I was really excited about your MBA class because I would love any one of those students to be leading my 11-year-old in 15 years, because they just want something different.”

BB: Yeah, and I think that’s what makes the millennials and the Gen,  I mean, I don’t like to talk about in broad swaths of people, but just if you want to look at aggregate ways of showing up. I think that’s what makes Millennials and Gen Z-ers so vulnerable to this bullshit criticism about trophies and entitlement, is because they want something different, and they’re not afraid to ask for it, and they are not quite willing to settle for something that makes them sever their humanity, and what I say to them is “F-ing right on”

BG: Yeah!

BB: Yeah, I mean as a mother of a Gen, I always have to think about it, Gen Z-er. I’m so hopeful about that generation and the Millennials, I’m hopeful that they want something different, because I think what they’ve witnessed is the absolute failure of the contract that we pretended was in place, where we produce, we produce, our self-worth is tied to our productivity and our performance and… And they grew up in those households with us as parents and those divorces and those struggles, and they’re not even setting a higher bar, they’ve just walked away from the bar all together.

BG: Thank God. [chuckle]

BB: And just said, “Nah. We’re going to do… ”

BG: They give me so much hope, your MBA students.

BB: And because it’s a combination of drive and ambition, but drive and ambition that doesn’t artificially sever the personal and the professional.

BG: Yeah, yeah.

BB: And I think that’s good, because I think the biggest fight in my career, really has been, I am as personally ambitious, as I am professionally, and by personal ambition, I mean, I’m going to be the parent with the Fathead, if y’all don’t know what those are, those are like the heads of players at sports games. Their senior year, it’s a big tradition here where their heads are like four feet tall, and every parent’s got a big head on a stick during their senior games, but I’m going to be that parent with the Fatheads, and I’m going to be the timer at the swim meets, and I’m going to be at things. And so that’s been the biggest struggle of my career, is working in organizations where… Even in academia, maybe, especially when I had my first, when I had Ellen, the message was, “Oh, that’s so neat that you’re a mom now, but don’t look like a mom, smell like a mom, and God forbid you have any kids in tow”. Literally, I think… Barrett this is true when I got pregnant in my PhD program, talk about trust, one of the heads of the program, when I told him that I was pregnant, said, “Jesus, you were a star here, we thought you were going to really do something.”

BG: Like your career was over because you had a child?

BB: Yeah.

BG: God, jeez.

BB: But that was definitely the sentiment and not from everybody, but certainly from a couple of people that really mattered.

BG: That’s terrible.

BB: Yeah, but I think that’s changing, and I think that’s good.

BG: Mm-mm.  We had our first BBEARG baby last year.

BB: Oh, we did have our first BBEARG baby… Was it last year? No. Lila is going to be two.

BG: Oh my gosh. Really already?

BB: Yeah.

BG: I love it.

BB: Yeah, and we’ve got another BBEARG baby.

BG: I know.

BB: I know. I love it.

BG: And they make Zoom appearances sometimes, and we love it.

BB: It’s the best. And just to be honest with you, not flexing here, but we’re successful. It’s not like… There’s no false choice here, there’s not like, “Hey, we need to get really excellent shit done, or we need to be caring”, it’s we get really excellent shit done because we’re caring. All right, let’s jump into BRAVING. Do you want to?

BG: Yes.

BB: Okay, this is the acronym that we use for trust, and I think the reason we use this is because when I started researching trust and really digging in, what I learned… The fastest thing I learned was, man, if I call you into my office and say, “Hey, Barrett, I want to touch base with you, I think… My sense is, we’ve got some trust issues.”

BB: Yeah, I’m not going to hear anything else you have to say.

BG: Yeah, no, we really go into Charlie Brown mode. We really go into that kind of out of the prefrontal cortex where we’re thinking and organizing, analyzing our executive functioning and into that reptilian fight, flight or freeze mode. And all we really hear is kind of “Wah, wah, wah, wah, Trust. Wah, wah, wah I’m going to fire you, wah, wah, wah.” Whether I’m saying that or not. We’ve set this weird thing up that we can barely talk about trust, because daring leaders don’t only build trust. They talk explicitly about it. They’re not afraid to name it. But we have, I think, become afraid to talk about it, because it’s so big and heavy and gauzy. And my definition of trust is different than your definition of trust. So because of the gauzy big nature of trust, and the fact that when we hear it in any kind of, even something we perceive as an assault on our trustworthiness feels like a character assassination.

BG: It does.

BB: Who am I? What would your feelings be if I say we have big trust problems?

BG: It’s so hard for me to answer that, because we don’t talk about it like that. But I can think back to when I was working elsewhere, and it’s like it is a personal attack because I consider myself a person of character. And so when you come at me talking about that you can’t trust me, I’m all… I’m just making up stories in my head, I’m not hearing anything else that you’ve said.

BB: Yeah, I would be the same way.

BG: Yeah.

BB: I would get so immediately, fight, flight or freeze. You know which one I’m picking.

BG: [chuckle] I don’t actually. Today, I think you’d pick fight.


BB: I would pick fight today and yesterday, and most of 2020 and 2021. I’m actually going to… I’m always going to pick fight. That’s going to be my default. Yeah. And so I…

BG: I can be a flyer occasionally. Not this year. Actually, probably not in the last three or four years, but I used to be a flyer…

BB: Yeah, I don’t experience you as a flyer, but…

BG: I used to be like, “I’m out.”

BB: I can still freeze, with certain people.

BG: Yes, I can too. Especially when I’m taken off guard.

BB: Me too.

BG: I think the beauty of how we work is that it’s usually never a surprise, because we talk about feedback and we talk about trust so much.

BB: Yeah, and I think that’s the whole getting to BRAVING. So the intention of the BRAVING inventory, it’s a tool for creating the time, space and intention to really talk about trust in a way that’s productive and actionable. It’s a rumble tool, a guide, a touchstone. And so, if I called you in to talk about trust… Unless I was giving you immediate feedback about something, I might say something like, this is, you’ve heard this on every Dare to Lead podcast that you and I have done together, especially. “If something happens, I’m going to try to give you feedback about it within half an hour.” And I’m going to say, “Hey, do you have five minutes? I want to circle back about something that happened in the meeting. This is my perception of what happened. I’m curious about what your perception was. Can you walk me through what’s going on? Can we talk about it?” But I think with this, we are so used to saying, “Hey, let’s go through BRAVING together next week. What’s a good time for you?” And the expectation in our office would be, you’re coming with some ideas about where you think we are on each of the seven elements. I’m coming with some ideas, and we’re comparing.

BB: So instead of saying, “Hey, I need to talk to you about a trustworthiness issue,” it would be, “Let’s check in around BRAVING.” And I would probably, as your… Because of the reporting relationship, I’d probably be curious and ask you to go first. And I would use it to say, “Where do you think we are on these seven elements? What do you think you’re doing well, what do you think I’m doing well, and where do you think we have some work to do together?” Does that make sense? And so, always explicit, always tactical, always tangible.

BG: And what I love too, as a new leader, you really can lean into this to do the heavy lifting. It’s not going to be comfortable all the time, but you have something to really lean into and walk you through the conversation. It gets really helpful.

BB: Yeah, and we’re not hiding it in our pocket and saying, “Let’s talk, let’s see, maybe we start with boundaries.”

BG: Yeah, we talk about it in onboarding.

BB: Yeah. We onboard with this, this is what we’re looking at, this is how we define trust. These are the skill sets, these are the behaviors we’re looking for. These are the behaviors we want you to expect from us. We want to hear from you when we’re not engaging in them. So BRAVING. Boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgment and generosity. You know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking we’re at 40 minutes, and maybe we should divide this into two parts.

BG: Okay. Do you want to lay this out and then the next one can be like how we use it?

BB: Yeah, let’s do this. We’re just talking like y’all aren’t here with us, but let’s do this. I have an idea for y’all. Why don’t you go to the website, to and go to the Dare to Lead hub. And download the one-pager we have on the BRAVING Inventory. And then go through it and maybe have it with you or read it before you listen to the next one, and then you can follow along with us. And that way we can just really do some real learning and leaning in together.

BG: Yeah, I love that.

BB: What do you think?

BG: I love it.

BB: Okay, so this is episode one of two. So we talked about the marble jar.  We talked about what BRAVING is and how we use it. In the next episode, we’ll go through the BRAVING inventory, each one of the seven attributes. And we’ll dig in to how we talk about it. Where the flags are. And what gets hard?

BG: I love it.

BB: Does that work for you?

BG: Yep. I love it.

BB: Okay, y’all heard it here. She’s committed to the second episode.



BB: Okay, so one of the things you can do, you can go to the podcast page on, so every episode of the Dare to Lead podcast and Unlocking Us, every episode has an episode page on the website. You can download the inventory there, you can download the inventory at the Dare to Lead hub. Either way. And we will go through it together next time. And if you want to, and this is something that a lot of teams are doing that we love hearing about. People are bringing their teams together and listening to the podcast over lunch, which is why I’m trying to keep them less than an hour. So that we can listen together. We’re here on Spotify for both podcasts, you can listen for free. And stay awkward, brave and kind, until next week. And Barrett and I will jump into the BRAVING acronym and what it means to brave trust. Thanks for being here, Barrett.

BG: Bye. Thank you for having me.


BB: The Dare to Lead podcast is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown, produced by Max Cutler. Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil. And by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil, and the music is by The Suffers.


© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, October 25). Brené and Barrett on BRAVING Trust, Part 1 of 2. [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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