The idea of Courage often conjures up the image of the impulsive heroic act, for instance, saving a person from a life threatening incident without thinking of personal safety. Courage in the workplace is rarely impulsive and is usually a thought out decision, a considered risk. Great leaders train themselves to make high-risk decisions over time, this kind of decision making takes courage. Kathleen K. Readorn (‘Courage as a Skill’ HBR Magazine January 2007) has defined six discrete processes that make up the courage calculation.
1. Setting Goals
Consider all the outcomes you want to achieve both for the organisation and personally. Are they obtainable? What is your chance of success?
2. Determining your Goals Importance
How important is it that you achieve your goals? If you don’t act what will happen? Will the organisation suffer? Will your career suffer? Will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror? What kind of action does the situation require? Be sure to take courageous stances on those issues that matter to you.
3. Tipping the Power Balance
Power is not only attached to a role in an organisation, it is also attached to relationships. Building a support network will provide you with a firmer foundation from which to make courageous stands.
4. Weighing Risks and Benefits
Consider the possible negative and positive results of potential action. Courage is not only seen in bold moves it can also be about showing a ‘willingness to replace conflict with cooperation’. Consider the best impact you can have towards your goals with the least negative costs to the organisation, your colleagues and yourself.
5. Selecting the Right Time
Situations that require courage always contain emotion, make sure that your action is considered and that you are fully prepared. It is difficult to select the right time for action and requires an awareness of the political and emotional climate of the organisation.
6. Developing Contingency Plans
When making high risk moves to pursue goals make sure you have contingency plans. Make plans for failure, whether they be to try again from a different angle or how you may handle the fallout from the worse case scenario.
How developed is your courage calculator?
Watch this space over the coming year as we explore compassion, courage and leadership at work.