Is Courage In Your Tool Box?

“Do at least one thing every day that scares you.” Have you heard that advice? Our clients are often being asked to find solutions to tremendous challenges by being more creative, more innovative, and by taking more risks. Essentially, they’re being asked to be more courageous and tackle their fears – and lead their teams to do the same.

A few months ago I had the privilege of hearing motivational speaker Cindy Solomon talk to a group of emerging leaders in Palo Alto about building a culture of courage. The talk was followed by a mailing of her compact and compelling workbook called “The Courage Challenge”, which prompted me to reflect on my own experiences with courage:

  • Courage is personal. No matter how hard you try, you can’t persuade anyone to be courageous. And, what may feel incredibly easy and routine to a colleague might seem daring to you, and vice versa.
  • Courage is not a super power. Rarely does the act of courage involve a public display of heroics. In fact, most courageous acts are hiding in ordinary and sometimes unexceptional daily decisions.
  • Courage can be learned. This is my favorite part: Courage is another tool for the toolbox. A muscle that, when exercised, can be flexed and stretched. Conversely, it will atrophy if it’s not used.
  • Courage feels incredible. The exhilaration that comes from enacting courage can even be addicting. Now there’s something worth being addicted to!

In “The Courage Challenge” workbook, Cindy recognizes four different types of courage that we can consciously employ to move ourselves and our teams forward:

  • Blind courage is what we are using when we jump off the edge and into the unknown; it’s helpful when we are compelled to act quickly.
  • Crisis courage is that instinctual, adrenaline-filled rush that calls you to action when you or your teams’ survival is in question. It’s not a very conscious thought process, and though you may be going at peak performance levels initially, it isn’t sustainable.
  • Role courage happens when you’ve developed such expertise in a single area that your confidence in that role is undeniable; it’s beneficial when you need to take advantage of a big opportunity in that area of expertise, but can work against you when taking on a new challenge “untrained”.
  • Core courage materializes when you’ve taken the time to wholly understand where you are, and have a vivid vision of where you are going to go. It’s valuable when you’re facing the inevitable challenges that occur on the road to fulfilling a long-term goal.

To move forward with courage, it helps to know what type of courage to apply in a variety of situations. You can start with the end in mind: How is the outcome of your decision, action, next step, etc., impacted when you apply blind courage? Crisis courage? Role courage? Core courage?

Instead of trying to visualize success through a fog of fear, courage comes by simply making a move. Inspiring yourself, or your team, to take action – no matter the outcome – will result in growth. Even actions that result in a breakdown oftentimes ultimately land you a few feet closer to that breakthrough.

So where will you begin?