“Rumble” With Your Readiness

At The Center for Leadership Studies (CLS), we recently adopted into our family a very celebrated researcher, author, professor, mother, speaker and now Netflix celebrity: Brené Brown. She just doesn’t know it yet.

One or two of us got hooked on her books and when her most recent “Dare to Lead” came out, the CLS family got it for Christmas. This fall, we will launch a series of “book chats” that will help us own and implement the powerful findings from her research on vulnerability. We will never be the same.

We wouldn’t adopt just any professor into the family, though. Her research marries beautifully and indisputably with the complete body of research that Dr. Paul Hersey synthesized in the Situational Leadership® Model, empowering both managers and individual contributors to communicate more effectively and authentically around performance for every task in every role.

One of Brené’s — can I call you Brené? — fundamental tools is “rumbling.” When two or more people need to get to the bottom of something, vulnerability and honesty are foundational to success. Thus, her best practice says to “rumble” (not quite as physically as the Sharks and the Jets in “Westside Story”) with the truth of how things are, what is and isn’t working and what a more successful outcome could look like.

The heart of Situational Leadership® is Step 2: Assess current Performance Readiness®. Our readiness for every task is a measurable amount of both ability (knowledge, experience and skill) and willingness (confidence, commitment and motivation). Whether you are a manager readying yourself to coach a direct report for increased performance or a direct report readying yourself to contract with your manager for the best leadership style for the task at hand, this step requires us to “rumble with readiness.”

It can be hard to look in the mirror and accept what you see.

As the follower, my Performance Readiness® for the task may not be where I want it to be. I may wince as the mirror is lifted to my gaze. The most effective leaders exercise their emotional intelligence when delivering my feedback, recognizing my desire to improve my performance to a “sustained, acceptable level,” and meet me there – at my current level – without judgement. My leader works with me to create a plan that provides the levels of direction and support I need to bring me to optimum performance for the task.

As the leader, the Performance Readiness® of my team for their myriad of tasks is constantly moving along the Performance Readiness® continuum. Have I identified the specific task to a level of clarity – not only the components of the task, but the desired standard or level of excellence (Brown says, “Paint done”) – that produces mindshare on that task between me and my follower?

It can also be hard for the leader to look in the mirror and accept what s/he sees.

The “best match” leadership style needed for this person for this task, is a perfect blend of task or directive behavior and relationship or supportive behavior. One or the other (or both?!) may be missing the level that the follower has needed to succeed to this point.

This is where rumbling comes in.

Marshall Goldsmith put his finger on it when he said only part of the engagement dilemma lies with leadership, often mislabeled as “HR.” The other, and quite sizeable share, lies with the employee. Each of us needs to “rumble with our readiness,” accepting what truly is in the mirror. If we are not at the performance level we want for our tasks, what do we need? If the bar has recently been raised, what do we need to do to rise to it? If we need more (or less) direction or more (or less) relationship behavior from our leader(s), how will we communicate that with kindness, respect and confidence to them to effect change?

The key to success and engagement lies not only with the manager but with me as employee or follower to accept responsibility and accountability for my current, sustained performance. And, then, contract with my manager for the leadership behaviors I need to deliver both success and engagement.

This is a real rumble, folks. And, in true family style, I’m saying, “Brené started it!”


  1. What one thing will you do, say, insist on, start (or stop) and be held accountable to do for your well-being and increased performance?
  2. Who will you tell so that you actually do, say, insist on, start (or stop) that thing within the next two weeks?