What Does Workplace Courage Look Like?

What does Workplace Courage Look Like?

Two weeks ago I gave a talk on the San Jose Ebay/Paypal campus on why your fear of failure might be slowing your success. (Spoiler alert ahead if you want to see this talk…) During my talk I present one slide which I call my highlight reel — you know what I mean, the glossy facebook version of people’s lives that you see online? (I mean realistically how many photos of depressed people snarfing down Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough have you seen when perusing your newsfeed?) Later I showed the same slide but called out the hard realities I faced along the way (the embarrassments I felt, promotions I didn’t get, etc).

I’ve given this talk a few times and each time, more people comment, and compliment me, on this one slide than on any other. I know why. As a culture, we equate vulnerability in ourselves with weakness. However when others are vulnerable, yet not insecure, we see that as strength.

To this end we’ve created workplaces that value superhuman invulnerability: the Bay Area is lined with burned-out start-up entrepreneurs and employees who work longer and longer days, would rather be seen yelling than crying at work, and attend boot-camp workouts to push their bodies “to the max.” Yet all the managers I work with want a very human leader to look up to and follow, one that acknowledges mistakes and works to repair them.

I’m concerned that in our airbrushed, facebook’ed world, that you’re forgetting that we connect to each other through imperfections, and you grow by facing them and working to improve.

In Brene Brown’s bestselling, and inspiring book, The Gifts Of Imperfection, she tells her own story of how she went from always persevering and putting on a brave front no matter what, to recognizing her feelings of insecurity and allowing herself to feel deeply flawed. What’s important, she found, is to find the courage to keep persisting anyways.

Courage is key here.

It takes courage to be vulnerable because there is the chance you will be rejected, that you will be hurt, and that you will feel miserable. What you’ll find though is that it’s courage that will keep you persevering, and ultimately that lead you to your own meaningful career and personal success. Being superhuman or perfect already doesn’t move you forward and get you “there”.

How do you cultivate courageousness? By practicing moments of courage daily.

Ready to increase your courageousness?

Each day at the end of the day answer the following questions:

  1. What did I do today that felt challenging (or even courageous)?
  2. How vulnerable did I feel doing it (on a scale of 1-10)?
  3. How courageous did I feel doing it (on a scale of 1-10)?
  4. What did I avoid doing today? Why?
  5. What action(s) will I take from what I have learned in this exercise?

My challenge to you is to complete the following questions (it should only take a few minutes daily) for the next month. I guarantee you that you will not only feel more courageous at the end of the month, you will have cultivated a more courageousness way of being in your life as a whole.

And please comment below and let me know how your courageousness journey goes and where it takes you. . .

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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