“We Don’t Talk About Bruno (No No No)” – What Disney’s ‘Encanto’ Might Have to Offer Your Team

If you enjoy the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda (or you have children in your house who devour Disney movies) you may be familiar with Disney’s latest animated movie; their 60th, Encanto. Following the viewpoint character of Mirabel – the only member of the family Madrigal not to receive the gift of a magical talent – the story and the musicals’ lyrics have a surprising amount to offer teams and individuals, whether you’ve seen the movie or not. (And if you find yourself reacting along the lines of “how could a children’s movie have anything to say about my work world?”, remember it’s all in the debrief; it’s possible to learn something about yourself from anything, regardless of a creator’s intent.)

Encanto explores the benefits and challenges of having a unique gifting or skillset. When you are the member of the team who can do something well, it’s common for the team to expect you to be the one to do that thing; why would anyone else do it if you do it so much better? But that brings expectations and pressure (“like a drip drip drip that’ll never stop“) that are daunting and unreasonable. A unique skillset can also box someone in, with pressure to be perfect in one area when they have so much more to offer (“What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect? / It just needed to be? And they let me be?“). When contributions challenge the status quo, they can be seen as unwelcome, and can lead to a team member being routinely ignored or shunned, even when what they have to say may be prescient and necessary (“We don’t talk about Bruno“). And then there are some team members – maybe each of us at different times – who feel ‘ungifted,’ without much to contribute to the team at that point. As with Mirabel, that can come with a complex mix of emotions (“I’m fine, I am totally fine / I will stand on the side as you shine / I’m not fine, I’m not fine“).

So how might the lessons of Encanto be helpful for your team this week?

This week’s tip:

Acknowledge your team’s gifts, while holding them lightly. (“You’re more than just your gift.”):

  1. Reflect on how you have defined the people around you. When you think of your team members, what descriptions come to mind? Which descriptors suggest that you have a fixed mindset about them (i.e. this is how they are, and will never change)? How could you reframe those into a growth mindset, so you are open to seeing what else they are capable of?
  2. Encourage your team. Encanto‘s Mirabel acts as a primary supporter of those around her, encouraging them in the use of their gifts and in exploring beyond their gifts. How can you do the same for your team this week? And how can you do the same for yourself?
  3. Supporting new team members. Mirabel walks with a younger cousin on his way to receiving his gift, becoming a mentor and guide. New team members may feel nervous and uncertain about their contributions; take time to walk with them (literally or figuratively) to support them and honor their contributions to the team.
  4. Pay attention – and bring attention – to the cracks. In Encanto, Bruno is shunned from the family for his apparent prophecies, and the family attempts to move on, ignoring the cracks that erupt in their family and their home. It’s tempting to do so in a team also, but small issues can erupt into bigger ones. Consider implementing the Ouch / Oops Protocol if your team doesn’t already use it.

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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