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On this episode of Dare to Lead

Three weeks ago, our whole company gathered together in our offices for the first time since early March 2020. In this episode, Barrett and I reflect on how it felt to be together, what surprised us, what shifted for us, and what we’ve learned so far as our team has begun to work in the same space again for the first time in more than two years.

About the guests

Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She also holds the position of visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.

Brené has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is the author of six #1 New York Times bestsellers and is the host of two award-winning podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead.

Brené’s books have been translated into more than 30 languages, and her titles include Atlas of the HeartDare to Lead, Braving the Wilderness, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection. With Tarana Burke, she co-edited the bestselling anthology You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience.

Brené’s TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world, with over 60 million views. Brené is the first researcher to have a filmed lecture on Netflix, and in March 2022, she launched a new show on HBO Max that focuses on her latest book, Atlas of the Heart.

Brené spends most of her time working in organizations around the world, helping develop braver leaders and more courageous cultures.

She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Steve. They have two children, Ellen and Charlie, and a weird Bichon named Lucy.

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 every day 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

“Accessing Joy and Finding Connection in the Midst of Struggle” Unlocking Us podcast episode with Karen Walrond

“Leading With Purpose in the Digital Age” Dare to Lead podcast episode with Dr. Linda Hill

“Creating Space to Reflect Our Stories” Unlocking Us podcast episode with Justina Blakeney

“While We’ll Never Be the Same Again (and Why It’s Time to Talk About It)” Dare to Lead podcast episode with Scott Sonenshein

“How We Return and Why It Matters, Part 1 of 2” Dare to Lead podcast episode with Priya Parker

“FFTs” Unlocking Us podcast episode



Brené Brown: Hi everyone, I’m Brené Brown, and this is Dare to Lead. In this episode, Barrett and I share our experiences of what it was like to gather in-person for the first time since March 2020. We had an all-hands meeting a couple of weeks ago, I guess three weeks ago now, everyone came in to the Houston office, we got to meet new people, we got to introduce our new selves to people, we’re all new, in some weird way, and this is a very honest conversation about how it felt to be back, how we underestimated the anxiety, why we are calling our two days a week hybrid a absolute pilot program, so we can serve our team in maybe a couple of months, and then again after six months to see what’s working, what’s not working. It’s a real conversation about what it was like. It was wonderful and amazing and connecting, and scary and hard, and shit went wrong and stuff went unbelievably right. And just, it’s a conversation. I’m glad you’re here.


BB: So, before we launch into this conversation, I want to share some news with you. I am for the first time in my, I guess, life career, I am going on a very serious sabbatical this summer. I am leaving work for 14 weeks. I have one event that we’ve had scheduled for over a year, so I’m doing one event in the summer that, again, has been on the calendar for a long time, but I am… I wouldn’t say I’m shutting down, I’m opening up, and I am also asking everyone here at our organization to do the same. So, we are closing the office for a couple of weeks, just paid time off. We’re closing the office every Friday, paid off Fridays and we’re asking everyone, in addition to the two weeks the office is closed, to take two more weeks off… Paid obviously… Maybe not obviously. We need to create here in our organization and possibly the world, a critical mass of restoration. It’s not enough for me to go off. Everyone needs to take some time. And so we’re going away for a few months and we have decided to pause the podcast, a hiatus for the podcast over the summer, and we are also going dark on social media for those four months. And it feels scary and weird. The first response from a friend of mine was, “You have 12 million followers across social media. You can’t leave for four months.”

BB: And my immediate response to that was, “Oh shit, you’re right.” But that’s exactly why I am going off because it’s okay to rest, it’s okay to create space, it’s okay not to be in the public all the time, every day. I don’t think we’re neurobiologically hard-wired for that. I think it’s living outside of human scale, and so that’s what we’re doing. I want to let you know we have decided to pause the podcast over the summer, and then we’ll be back in September. I think for leaders out there, if you acknowledge that you’re not okay and we acknowledge no one’s really okay right now, everyone’s been affected by what’s happening in the world, from the pandemic to racial reckonings to war and violence, to what seems like a creeping authoritarian rule across the globe, if everyone is saying that we’re not okay, and then doing nothing different to make sure we’re okay, that seems problematic. So, this is our attempt to do that. If you listened to the podcast between me and Karen Walrond on Unlocking Us, she talked about that there are seasons, there are seasons for renewal and restorations.

BB: There was real anxiety with my team when we announced this kind of like, “Well, what are we going to do this summer and we have big projects to work on while you’re gone,” and the answer is, “No.” I thought I could maybe come up with some big projects, but then I thought when you’re going out because of exhaustion and a deep physical need for rest, not a good time to come up with strategic ideas and make decisions, that feels like busy work, and it’s okay for there to be a lighter load and it’s okay for people to take four or five weeks off, we got you and… Yeah, hard and weird, but here’s what we’re doing. Let’s jump into the conversation with me and Barrett, and just holding to mind that I think… Here in our organization, we have accomplished some audacious goals over these past two years, in addition to going through a lot personally. And I think resting is probably the boldest thing we’ll do yet. We’ll miss you, but we’ll be back in September, and it’ll be really awkward and really brave and really kind when we’re back. Let’s jump into the conversation.


BB: All right, coming to you live from the great awkward. We came back… When did we come back, Barrett? Two weeks ago?

Barrett Guillen: Yeah, we came back on April 11th.

BB: Yeah, and we thought we would just report in and let you know how it’s going, and I think what we got right…

BG: What we didn’t know.

BB: What we didn’t know, where we’ve stumbled and kind of what we’re learning about gathering again. So the setup was that… We have probably 30 people, maybe 18 that are Houston-based, 12 dispersed across the country and we all came back and we…

BG: I just want to pause right here because it was really interesting. We were very careful about not saying, coming back.

BB: Oh yeah, we did, we were… We’re gathering.

BG: We’re gathering, and it was really great too…

BB: That’s true.

BG: Because I think when we sent out our final reminder to prepare for our week together, we said even those who have been here before aren’t the same as when they left two years ago.

BB: Yeah, that’s true. It was an all-hands, for three days in the office?

BG: Three days. Yep.

BB: And it was overwhelming in many ways. Would you agree?

BG: Yeah, I think there was so much excitement about it, but I don’t think we realized the amount of different energy that we were going to have to be using just physically being with a bunch of people.

BB: Yeah. And I mean, I have to tell you for the setup, it was a long… It was a hard setup, where everyone’s going to test, where are they going to test, what are we going to do if someone tests positive, what’s the protocol? Is there an area where we test? And then people go upstairs… It was complicated.

BG: It was complicated and…

BB: And complex.

BG: And I’m proud that… Not only with this, but we’re always so thoughtful about those things. And so I think just by the number of people we have from a percentage perspective, we’re bound to have people test positive here and there. And I think it was just…

BB: We had someone test positive, we had someone that wasn’t able to make it to the all-hands for outside reasons, life happening. And so it was imperfect to start with. We got upstairs, and the first thing we did was a big kind of all-hands meet… Oh, one thing we did is we incorporated a lot of white space into day one. We had an open breakfast and got individually wrapped food, and…

BG: Even to the individually wrapped food, is… Because it’s not how we’ve ever done it before, it was really interesting.

BB: We’re big family style, we put big dishes of things up on the bar in our kitchen. But this was individually wrapped, and we were thoughtful. We had masks available. Some people did choose to mask the whole time, they… And they still mask now. I would say the majority don’t.

BG: Yep.

BB: It was hard when someone tested positive, that person had to go home for the day and go take care of themselves. And then we just started with a welcome and a two-word check in because that’s on-brand for us.

BG: Yes.

BB: And it was a lot of scared, anxious, confused, unclear.

BG: Yep. And I’m so glad because we had an hour when we were eating breakfast where we had no agenda. And then it was just people coming in and seeing each other and the awkward fist bump, hug, “What do you do?” But it was really great, I think, because we talked about it for three weeks leading up to us being back in-person, we talked about how awkward it was going to be. And we talked…

BB: And we normalized it.

BG: Yeah, we normalized it. And FFT, who’s written a COVID protocol for their company before?

BB: Yeah.

BG: [chuckle] And it was like the third time we were going to try to be in-person again. And so I think we did a great job setting expectations about how weird it was going to be and not knowing what it was going to be like. And it was going to be exhausting just putting out that much energy to be in front of people. And what we haven’t told anybody is what we were going to do for two of those three days.

BB: Oh yeah, we jumped right into very serious Dare to Lead facilitation and training.

BG: Yes.

BB: And so part of this was intense work. We’re coming back, and we’re reconnecting and connecting for the first time. I underestimated, for sure, the level of anxiety.

BG: I think I did too.

BB: The anxiety was really high. Some people were even shaky. I’ve worked remotely there’s somebody that it doesn’t matter what I’m posting on Instagram, this woman really cracks me up, every time she leaves her comments, “Brené doesn’t like remote work.” But it’s like, here I am with Richard Rohr talking about the infinite God, “Brené doesn’t like remote work.” I don’t know who she is or where she gets her data, but I’ve worked remotely for how many years? 20…

BG: I mean, since I’ve worked with you.

BB: Yeah, I’ve worked remotely my entire life, never even having an office outside of my home for most of my career. The university would always try to give me one, I’m like, “It’s a really terrible use of space,” like, “If you’re calculating some kind of usage per square foot, I’m not ever going in there.” I come to teach class, but I work from home. So even for me, I was more anxious than I thought. Excited to see people, but anxious.

BG: Yeah, me too. I think I was excited to see people, and I think I was anxious, and a lot had happened to a lot of us over the last two years.

BB: Hard stuff, a ton of grief in the room, a ton of grief in the room.

BG: Yeah.

BB: And new babies.

BG: Yes.

BB: And a ton of joy. I will tell you; the check-ins were anxious and scared, curious and nervous. And then the check-outs were… Almost 50% of them were weepy.

BG: Oh yeah, for sure.

BB: Connected and joyful. Everyone said grateful.

BG: I think at the end of day one… So, it’s a three-day all-hands, and half of day one and all of day two, we did Dare to Lead. And I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe we’re doing Dare to Lead right now!” like, “How are we going to take this on?” And then by the end of the second day, I was like, “This was the absolute best thing we could have done.”

BB: For those of you, Dare to Lead is the courage-building program that we do. And we do it in organizations, but we had two outside… Inside-outside facilitators, so Susan Mann and Aiko Bethea facilitate it. I guess, I can talk about my role. I did not facilitate it, and I did not participate in it because I’ve stepped out of my role. Have we talked about this before?

BG: We have not.

BB: Yeah, I’ve stepped out of my role as CEO, which is kind of big news. And congratulations to you, Barrett and to Murdoch, who have stepped up as co-CEOs of Brené Brown Education and Research Group. And I’m stepping into somewhat like… We haven’t exactly decided yet, like a Chief Purpose Officer, Chief Vision Officer. I’m stepping out of the daily running of the business, which is weird.

BG: Yeah, and so amazing. As right now, the sole creator of content for BBEARG, what we have to do, so you don’t have three full-time jobs.

BB: Yeah, and it’s a big shift. And so part of this all-hands gathering was a, I guess, a formalizing the end of a chapter, and the beginning of a… The beginning of something that we don’t know what it is yet.

BG: Yeah, and… Oh, we’ll just delete this if we can’t say it on the air, but your honesty in kicking off our meeting and just saying how hard things have been and that we usually bring everyone together and do all-hands and we really dig into strategy and what we’re looking at for the upcoming year, and this time you said, “It’s important for you guys to know that we don’t have a lot of answers about what’s next, but we have a lot of big questions and you need to understand what those questions are.”

BB: Yeah.

BG: And I think for the first time, I think since we have been apart, there was a level of connection and understanding that you couldn’t get remote.

BB: No, I think that’s true, and it’s not because I’m not a fan of remote work, Jesus. The bullshit in the comments.

BG: Oh yeah, we should say we’re totally testing out a hybrid model where we’re only in the office two days a week, and we’re working remotely three days a week.

BB: And within those two days, you have flexibility with your direct team leader about what hours those days.

BG: Yeah.

BB: So that people can make it work. We’re trying to see… We don’t even know if that’s going to work. We’re really testing because one of the things that we’ve been paying a lot of attention to is the difference between hybrid and flexibility, and what people really need is flexibility around hours.

BG: Yeah. Do you want to share with people the quote that you use to kick off our all-hands?

BB: Oh yeah, so this is a quote that’s really important to me, it’s a quote… The attribution of the quote is really unknown, a lot of people attribute it to Stephen Covey and some to Viktor Frankl. Stephen Covey reportedly said he read it in a book while on vacation in Hawaii, some B. F. Skinner, but you’ll probably know the quote, it’s… I would venture to say the most important quote in my life, and I think the source code for all important things, including my work, Dare to Lead, Atlas of the Heart, everything I’ve ever done kind of comes down to this idea that between stimulus and response, there is a space and in that space is choice, and with that choice comes freedom and growth. And so, I think the way we start our all-hands really was, “I’m not okay, I’m going to assume that you’re not okay, I’m going to assume that we as a collective are not okay, and that we need some space, and this summer is going to be partly that space.” We were able to give people paid Fridays off through the summer, able to give them a two-week block of time over the summer paid and off…

BG: That our whole company is closing.

BB: Our whole company is closing for a couple of weeks during the summer. And you know, not everyone can do that. I mean, we, during COVID, launched two podcasts, launched two books, You Are Your Best Thing, the anthology that I did with Tarana Burke and the incredible contributors to that, and then Atlas of the Heart.

BG: And we moved an events-based business from in-person to virtual, which was no small task.

BB: Oh God, no, you should see the setup we have for virtual events. It’s like really complex. And a couple of pretty significant dust ups, like real big fights that both took me off guard and took me down, to be honest with you. So I think if there’s a space between stimulus and response, we’re going to lean into that space this summer.

BG: I was going to say if there’s a space, it’s June, July and August.

BB: Yeah, yeah, for us, we’re going to take some space, and I think Linda Hill, the podcast, ooh, that really jacked me up a little bit. The whole idea between the difference between vision and purpose, and I wish I would have had that language and that understanding when we had the all-hands because I would have said… I wish I would have helped them understand, maybe it would make people feel less tethered… Do you think people feel untethered right now? Little bit?

BG: I do, but I think coming out of the Dare to Lead work, there was this feeling of connection. I don’t think we were connected to a bigger vision or purpose of where we’re going next as an organization, but just to each other.

BB: Yeah, and I think purpose-wise, I do think… I would say there is a connection to purpose. I think everyone’s here for a singular reason, which is to make the world a braver place.

BG: Yeah, yes, that’s true.

BB: I think that we… I think the purpose doesn’t… But we’ve never been working against no vision.

BG: Yes, yes.

BB: You know what I mean? For what’s next. We don’t know what’s next. I can’t make any decisions right now, which… This is the first time in my life where I’ve literally had to say to people, “I understand that I’m getting ready to go off the grid for a little bit. That you want a lot of answers from me, but when I am desperately getting off the grid because I’m exhausted is not the time for me to be answering questions and making decisions.” So I think it’s not the first time where I shouldn’t be making decisions. It’s the first time I stop myself from making them and say, “This is not the right time for me to be making any kind of decisions,” because I would vacillate from, “Let’s go, let’s do this and this,” to “Let’s shut this shit down. I’ve got to take a nap.” Every time I see those little nappy things on TikTok, I’m like, “I think I want to take a nappy right here.” I’m always like, “Me too.”

BG: Oh, my gosh.

BB: Yeah, so I think it was an interesting exercise in offering people grounding, and I love the way you said that Barrett, grounding in connection with each other, connecting with a purpose, connecting with their skills, which is the Dare to Lead courage building skills, four skill sets, observable, teachable, measurable. Me not being in the center of it.

BG: The constant loving reminder from our facilitators that we should not be taking notes on how we could change the curriculum or what we can do different as we are going through the Dare to Lead, but actually being participants. And it’s hard being on that side of things.

BB: It’s so hard. I got all these texts from Barrett, they’d be like, “It’s really hard being on this side of Dare to Lead.” Because we… When I go into an organization to facilitate Dare to Lead, Barrett’s always with me. And then on the flight home, we’re always debriefing, and we should change this, and what about this and break out times need to be longer here, and I need new scenarios for this, and what do you think about this? And she’s like, “Oh, I don’t like being on this side of it.”

BG: It was even from picking the groups, do we stay in tag teams or do we not? I was like, “This side sucks.” And actually, it didn’t.

BB: But it was anxiety-producing.

BG: It was anxiety-producing. And the great thing about working with Susan and Aiko is that so many of us work with them independently, that they know us, and so it was like… I think I said to them when we were closing like, “Thank you so much for creating such a safe space for us to do Dare to Lead at the home of Dare to Lead,” because it’s like… It is.

BB: Yeah. No, it is, and it’s interesting too, because when we did an assessment… Before we go into an organization, we always do an assessment and collect data around what are your opportunities for growth? If you look at these four skill sets, rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust and getting back up again, rising after a fall, after setbacks, disappointments and failures. We didn’t score 100%.

BG: I couldn’t believe it. First of all, I was like, “We better have 100% participation in this assessment.”

BB: Oh yeah, because we give people so much shit in organizations when their participation is low.

BG: And you don’t know who’s done it and who hasn’t because we don’t have anything to identify, so I was like,”100%.” But then yeah, we did have 100%, but then I was like… A lot of times in organizations, you’re like, “Yeah, this is what I see across different organizations,” and when I saw us with the same numbers, I was like, “What’s wrong here?” We’re just the same… We’re just a company too.

BB: Yeah, Yeah, and our hardest part was vulnerability. So, I think it was an interesting way to come back, small group work. Why are you laughing?

BG: No, I just… Dude, a lot of things surprising when you’re on the other side, it’s like the dark side.

BB: It is not.

BG: I’m kidding.

BB: It is the vulnerable side.

BG:   Oh, that’s why I thought that way.


BB: It’s the vulnerable side, it’s that you’re in transition. You’re in transformation. You’re in change. You’re in assessment. It was such a good reminder for us, that…

BG: It was, and man, you know, Dare to Lead, everyone has to read Dare to Lead when they’re onboarding with us because we don’t just teach this, we live it and we usually… We use these words and people laugh all the time like, “Oh my God, y’all really say ‘rumble’,” yes, but it was a really great reminder… And we’ve had so many people start over the pandemic, who we’ve not met in-person. That was such a great reminder of how we are all connected and how we can work with each other across teams, and that when we’re having hard conversations, it’s okay to show up and be a little shaky, you just have to have it. And I think feeling in it with everybody was such a real gift to do that as our first few days back.

BB: Yeah, and I think it’s been… We’re now on the hybrid schedule. We’ve had to navigate positive COVID tests. I lost my ever-loving mind.

BG: Me too.

BB: You and I kind of went at each other a little bit.

BG: Mm-hm. Yeah, today.


BB: Yeah, because I was like, “Well, is that our policy? Well, who made up that policy?”

BG: I was like, “Who makes the policies?”

BB: Yeah, and I was like, “Who are you looking at? Don’t stare at me.”

BG: Oh, my gosh.

BB: Yeah, it was really stressful. It was anxiety-producing. We were getting ready to get on a big podcast, and then I don’t know, all the freaking questions about… Oh, I’m sorry, when I came, I forgot my neuro-biology degree, I don’t know how this shit works.

BG: Oh, my gosh. And I think I was just… Kept leaning into that we’re kind and considerate and caring and treat people with such respect that… I’m just grateful that before it was an emergency, we’d already built so much trust.

BB: Yeah, yeah, I mean…

BG: … I won’t have to circle back with the whole BBEARG team.

BB: I had to apologize to you. Today…

BG: Yeah, I mean, true and I apologized too. But it’s the first time, and I think we’re just trying to do right by people, and I think the great thing is, I think people believe that that’s true.

BB: Yeah, this is my enneagram number one, “Be a good person, do everything right.”

BG: And this is my enneagram number six, “Oh my God, aaah, .. so nervous about all of it. ”

BB: Yeah, I know it is, it is. It’s like that, I don’t want to make a mistake. What are we supposed to do? Who do we let know? Awooga, Awooga.

BG: I know and it’s like, “Where are the people that are going to make these decisions?” And then we’re just like, “Oh fuck, that’s us.” I forgot my HR training and my neurobiological whatever.

BB: Yeah me too. And my legal training, and my HIPAA clause and… Fuck.

BG: And I just want to give you a hug and be like… I’m so sorry you don’t feel well.

BB: Yeah, I’m the same. It’s been…

BG: But you know what? It’s because we see their humanity.

BB: Yeah, it is. You know, this is the whole thing. What is the biggest barrier…? Even when I try to teach people the two-word check-in, what is the biggest barrier that people say, “I’m not going to check in, I’m not going to ask people how they’re doing.”

BG: I think it’s because they get scared they’re not going to know how to answer if someone says something hard.

BB: Yeah, dude, you’re not going to know how to answer. All you can say is, “God, that’s hard. I’m sorry.” And then when you’re not in a group setting, circle back and say, “I really appreciate your brave and difficult check-in today, what does support from me look like?” It’s not like anyone… Just be like, “I’m saying something hard right now.” You say that to me.

BG: I’m saying something hard right now.

BB: Oh, Barrett…nah, nah, [vocalization of “light bulb” moment] Like, “Oh, you know.”


BG: I just want to side note, that shit doesn’t even happen in therapy, there’s no… [vocalization of “light bulb” moment]

BB: No, it does not happen in therapy, it’s like all you can do is hold the space for someone to be in something hard and ask them what support looks like. And so they have the time and space to think about what they need and then to ask for it, and sometimes people ask me for what they need when I say that, and I say, “I can’t do that. You know what? I can’t do that. But it sounds like underneath that ask, is some flexibility and time. I think we can create flexibility and time, that specific thing I can’t do. Can we sit down and work on how we can get you some more flexibility and time?”

BG: Yeah, and sometimes they don’t need anything, sometimes they’re just grateful that you circled back to say, “Hey, I know you’re anxious in your check-in today, everything okay?” I mean, for me, oftentimes it’s, people just want to be seen, and I think it’s a great way to do that. I love the two-word check-in.

BB: Oh, God, me too.

BG: You want to share with everybody what we’re doing now at BBEARG at the bar? Okay, so we call it BBEARG at the bar because we have a big bar at our kitchen in the office, and we used to stand around it, and we’ve just kept the name even when we were remote.

BB: Yeah. So we are… It’s a weekly check-in, right? And it’s your success for the week, and your key learning for the week?

BG: Yes.

BB: And it’s so fun because people’s successes are micro like, “Oh wow, I figured out this glitch on WordPress to… ”

BG: “I’ve completed the strategy for the launch of…”

BB: Yeah.

BG: “X, Y, Z,” because it’s all over the place.

BB: What did you think about the first experience of doing that?

BG: I thought it was really great. We’ve only done it twice. I think it’s been really great because I think it’s helpful for everyone to see that a success can be something really small or something…

BB: And tactical.

BG: Yeah. Or something that impacts the whole company, and I love that some people are like, “Well, this week it’s personal.” And so it’s like, “I think it’s great.” And this week, I can’t remember what was said, but I stopped, and I just asked everybody, “Just raise your hand if anybody in here struggles with competing priorities and how to manage those some days.” And everybody’s hand went up. So it’s kind of like, “You’re not alone.”

BB: Normalizing, normalizing, normalizing.

BG: Normalizing, normalizing. People are people.

BB: People are people are people. [music] Okay, so we’re three weeks out from our all-hands, first time in the office in a couple of years. If you look back, one success, one key learning.

BG: Oh, man! Well, just that we successfully were able to gather in-person, that’s my success. And we made it through Dare to Lead without any notes on any of the videos or the curriculum or how we’d want to change things. At least I did, but it also was my permission slip every day, “I’m a participant. I give myself permission to be a participant and not a BBEARG employee.”

BB: Key learning?

BG: I think I would have given us some more unstructured time, I think that’s really the only thing I can think about, because I think one thing that happened when we were remote is, you really kind of just worked with your own teams, and so it was really fun to see people and to meet people for the first time.

BB: Yeah.

BG: Not on a screen, so maybe some more unstructured time, but I wouldn’t change Dare to Lead, as much as that first day I was sweating, I was like, “Damn, what were we thinking?” But now I look back and I think it was a really beautiful way for us to do it.

BB: Both you and Murdoch were a little nervous about it, I think.

BG: Yeah.

BB: I was sure… I have to say, I was confident. I thought it would be good. Because you know why I thought it would be good? I thought it would be good because of change theory.

BG: That is not what I thought you were going to say.

BB: What did you think I was going to say?

BG: I thought that you were going to say that it gave us some guard rails to come back to.

BB: That’s change theory. So in change theory, sometimes task-specific group work is helpful. It’s the organizational equivalent of swaddling, do you know what I mean? Instead of flailing all around and we’re back and we don’t know what we’re doing, and it’s awkward, we’re working on something together as a small group. And so it does put up guard rails and it puts up some structure that people can lean into because I think too much free time… I will say for my key learning, I think we were prepared intellectually and strategically, I was emotionally not prepared for the level of anxiety.

BG: Mm-hmmYeah.

BB: I knew to start with like I know we’re not okay, and it’s okay not to be okay and we’ll be not okay together. I knew to start with that intellectually, but the amount of anxiety in the room…

BG: Yeah.

BB: Mine included, was off the charts.

BG: Yeah.

BB: And people were in tears.

BG: Yes.

BB: About being back. It was just weird, a weird thing.

BG: Success?

BB: I think trusting, trusting you and Murdoch, trusting Susan and Aiko, trusting every member of the team. And trusting the process, I think just trusting.

BG: All of it.

BB: That if you center people and you center connection, it’s going to be okay. Maybe you won’t get done what you need to get done in the time frame that you want to get it done in.

BG: Oh, gosh, you remember my first draft agenda for that week?

BB: Oh yeah, yeah.

BG: We were busy every minute.

BB: That was like from swaddle to stranglehold. [laughter]

BG: Well, I’ll just say it’s helpful to have a place to start.

BB: No. I wouldn’t even write down the agenda, mine was like… I was in total magical thinking. “We’ll play it by ear. We’ll play it by ear.”

BG: No, I loved it, and it’s so fun to walk into someone’s office or to go upstairs and see people… Our podcast studio’s downstairs, and so when we keep saying upstairs, our offices are upstairs.

BB: And we surprise them.

BG: Oh, yes.

BB: So I don’t know if you’ve heard my interview with the designer, Justina Blakeney on Unlocking Us, she has a design firm, an aesthetic called Jungalow. And so, with the help of a couple of just ferocious employees of ours who get shit done in incredible timelines, we re-did the entire office, and so… It’s gorgeous, it’s alive. I think there’s like a 130 plants, there are plant walls.

BG: It’s so beautiful. Oh, my God, just to tell you that it was so funny because the last couple of weeks, right before we came back, before we were in the office, I would be slacking those employees and I’d be like, “Oh shit, the wall behind you is green, move. People are going to ask why you are in green.”

BB: The surprise, yeah.

BG: Because we were having to hide all the decorations behind on the Zoom screen.

BB: I think people really loved it.

BG: Oh, it’s so beautiful.

BB: Yeah, and people just kept taking pictures and they were like, “This is so fun.” And I think we did it for them, not for us, which makes a difference. We wanted it to look like… Alive.

BG: And I’ll tell you one really amazing thing that you did for everybody is you bought everybody bracelets that said ABK, Awkward, Brave and Kind. And I can’t tell you through the Dare to Lead training how people were playing with it, looking at it, so it was like really neat to have that too. It was neat. It was very thoughtful.

BB: Well, we have an amazing team. We’re back. It’s messy.

BG: It’s messy, and I think we should really be proud of ourselves for not just pretending like we are going to come back and pick up right where we left off.

BB: I think Scott Sonenshein, if you haven’t listened to that, he just laid that shit right on the line.

BG: He did.

BB: And I knew that just because I’ve been in enough organizations over the last couple of months where people have been like, “All right, and we’re back. Let’s go.” And the grief is, for everything we’ve lost in the last two years, the grief is for the reckoning that continues, and the changes seem small, even when they’re significant, it just doesn’t seem like enough because people are being hurt and people are in grief because it’s not back to normal. For so many people work is the touchstone like, “Oh, when we go back to the office… When we gather again… ” And so I think as long as you make space for people to be people and have all the big feels, we can do it.

BG: And just PSA, traffic is definitely showing that people are going back to the office.

BB: Oh, is it different?

BG: Oh, yeah.

BB: Barrett commutes in.

BG: Yeah, but I agree. Seeing people, acknowledging that we’re all in struggle, we’re not who we were when we left, we’re all different and changed in some way… In many ways.

BB: Yeah, and I think we’ve been really clear with folks too that we’re collecting data… We’re trying to see if this works. We also leaned into the Linda Hill podcast, the Scott Sonenshein podcast. We got really clear about what meetings need to be in-person and what meetings can happen remotely, and we should not be bringing people in if all we’re going to do is information drops on them, we should not be doing important company-wide meetings when 18 people are here and 12 are dispersed, we should be doing those when everyone’s dispersed, so it feels like equal footing for everyone. It just comes back to belonging too. Belonging, connection, respect.

BG: And talk about past guests, I thought about Priya so much, Priya Parker so much.

BB: Oh God, me too.

BG: We were so intentional and thoughtful in how we chose to gather, it was really important, and I think it’s… There’s an amount of energy to being back together too, I think that’s a…

BB: What is happening, what is that?

BG: Yeah, it was really fun.

BB: All right, well, this was our reporting live, re-gathering in-person.

BG: Not the same, but different.

BB: “Brené hates remote work.”


BG: That’s so funny.

BB: Brené has worked remotely for 25 years. She loves it. But when meetings require productive task conflict, and we have got to rumble over something creative when we need to have hard conversations, and we have the luxury of being together, we need to be together.

BG: Yep.

BB: It’s not one or the other.

BG: Nope.

BB: You’ve done an incredible job leading this.

BG: Thanks. It’s been fun.

BB: It’s been impressive. Has it been fun?

BG: No.


BB: What has it been? You can give it some honest…

BG: Yeah, yeah, I know. There’s so much uncertainty in it, and it’s very vulnerable. Those are two words that I struggle a lot with. So I think it’s… There’s so many FFTs that come with it, that it’s like…

BB: FFT for new listeners, fucking first times, that was our first podcast ever on Unlocking Us, you should listen to. It’s really good.

BG: But I think I would go back to the culture and relationships that we built before we were in crisis or before we were in a pandemic, and the way we show up with each other. I knew that we would all settle in and settle the ball, but I think it was trying to make it certain was not the right approach. Does that makes sense?

BB: Oh God, yes.

BG: It sucks because I like my word tables to be followed. Sometimes you have to throw this shit away, and I think we had to throw it away.

BB: Yeah, and that’s daring leadership. That’s daring leadership. Embrace the uncertainty, embrace the paradox, embrace the unknown, embrace the messy humanity, that’s daring leadership.

BG: Yeah, and we had a really good flight where we got to dig into a lot of it, and so I think it was just helpful. I think it’s helpful to have a good starting point and then helpful to really be able to rumble through and put our people first.

BB: We leave right there. All right, thank y’all for joining us. This is the Dare to Lead podcast. I’m Brené Brown.

BG: I’m Barrett Guillen.

BB: Just thought we’d give y’all an update.

BG: We should do more reporting lives.

BB: Yeah, more reporting lives. Y’all stay awkward, brave and kind. Take care.


BB: So how was that for truth-telling? Yeah, just… “Where are the grown-ups? I don’t know.” My mom used to tell me that the jolt of adulthood would always hit her when she opened her refrigerator door and she had all these condiments in the refrigerator door and she’s like, “Shit, it’s like a grown-up refrigerator.” To me, it’s always when we have to make big decisions, and I’m like, “I don’t know, let’s ask somebody like, who should we ask? Who’s in charge? Shit, it’s me,” that’s hard. Again, we’ll be back early September. We’ll miss you while we’re on hiatus. We’ll be reading and resting and getting ready for what’s next. Y’all stay awkward, brave and kind, and take really good care of yourselves and each other.


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 Andy Waits, and the music is by The Suffers.


© 2022 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2022, May 9). Brené and Barrett on Gathering Together for the First Time. [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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