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Mind The Gap : Cultivating Change and Closing the Disengagement Divide

Posted by: Ronda Devereaux | January 31, 2013 | 10:29 am

In the chapter Mind the Gap – Brene’ Brown says that Minding the gap is a daring strategy. We have to pay attention to the space between where we’re actually standing and where we want to be. We need to hold on to our cultural values and know what we are going to be called upon to show up in ways that may not be comfortable for us. It’s not about being perfect, but engaged and committed to aligning values with action.


Brene’ discusses the strategy versus culture debate. Strategy is the game plan of our lives while culture tends to define who we are. Culture is the way we do things around here. How many times do the goals we set misalign with who we are. When we put together the strategies of our lives we have to be aware of our culture as well. The word culture can pertain to any group or organization. Schools, families, communities, businesses all fall under this tuleage.


Brene’ says that the following ten questions can tell a lot about the culture and values or a group, family, or organization.


1. What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?

2. Where and how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)

3. What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?

4. Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?

5. What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up?

6. What stories are legend and what values do they convey?

7. What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?

8. How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived?

9. How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?

10. What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?


As you look at these questions apply them to your family, workplace or community. The power of these questions is their ability to shed light on the darkest areas of our lives: disconnection, disengagement, and our struggle for worthiness. They can show the difference between “what we say” and “what we do”. We may have the best of intentions, but if that does not show up in our actions, there is a gap. Do we really walk our talk???


Disengagement is the issue underlying the majority of problems in families, schools, communities and organizations. Politicians make laws that they are not required to follow. They do things that most of us would get fired, divorced or arrested for. Many religious leaders don’t live up the to the values that they are preaching.  Our leaders – boss, teachers, principal, clergy and parents – aren’t living up to their end of the social contract. So how does this happen?


The space between our practiced values (what we’re actually doing, thinking and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think and feel) is the value gap, or disengagement divide. If this gap gets too big, at some point we can’t jump across it. Let’s look at this in the context of family relationship.


As a parent, when we teach honesty and integrity, but don’t model it to our children, this creates a gap. A Mom ends up getting too much change from a cashier and pockets it rather than returning it. Demanding respect and accountability but being too busy to mediate a sibling quarrel and just letting it slide. Parents who fight and call each other names yet punish the children when they do the same. Setting limits for your children (ie no smoking, drinking or drugs), but then telling them stories when you were a teen about how you got away with it (making it cool).


All of this seems to go back to “practice what you preach”. Modeling what we want to see in our children instead of telling them what we want. Being accountable for your behaviors and being vulnerable and telling your children “I did this” and using it as a teaching tool instead of a way to look cool in front of your kids. It’s not about being perfect, but engaged and committed to aligning values with action.


I remember a conversation with my oldest daughter. She was 13 or 14 at the time and we were driving home from a parent/teen conference we had attended. Many of the kids at this conference were from the tough areas around LA. She was talking about some of the stories she had heard and things that they had done. I made a comment about not being the model teen myself and she asked me “How bad”? I said “That depends on your reference. Do you want to know?”  She said “I don’t know”. I told her “If you want to know something I will tell you. I won’t lie to you”. She then asked me “Mom, did you use drugs?” I was honest and said “Yes, I did”. We went on to have a discussion about it. This required me to be really vulnerable with my daughter. My daughter has a pretty high moral compass. This put me in the position of falling off of that parent pedestal. It was much more important for me to be honest with her and be able to give her the wisdom of my experiences than to look good to her all the time.


Going forward Brene’ will use these concepts to discuss what she thinks we need to do to cultivate engagement and transform the way we parent, educate and lead. These three questions will guide the following chapters that I am blogging about.


  1. How does the culture of “never enough” affect our schools, organizations, and families?
  2. How do we recognize and combat shame at work, school, and home?
  3. What does minding the gap and daring greatly look like in schools, organizations, and families?

Article by: Ronda Devereaux

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