• Cheska Bennett

5 steps to bravery as a habit within company culture

Updated: Feb 21

Bravery becomes a habit, but how can you teach bravery to become part of a company culture?

Bravery, courage, resilience are all traits we are taught as kids, either through our parents or more so throughout the media we consume and the stories we are told. The inspiration taken away by your minds is that if they can do it, so can we and fear sits on the side-lines waiting for its opportune moment.

And that moment does arrive for us all, we can’t all pinpoint when but soon enough the bravery disappears, daily acts of courage disperse and resilience needs a new bed to grow from.

We stopped practicing courage and overcame our habit of bravery. So when we need it most, as leaders to sustain and grow businesses, enact lasting change and open doors for next generations, we don’t have it.

We can all most likely identify one or two people in our lives who we would describe as ‘brave’ or ‘courageous’. But have you ever worked in, witnessed or described an organisational culture as courageous or an environment who cherishes bravery? How would you describe your leadership team? Commercial, Fair, Frustrating, but ever brave?

Bravery ignites inspiration and change, the business benefits are extensive ranging from commercially successful goals, talent retention, positive working environment, improved mental health and industry leading activity. So given it’s benefits to an organisation, why isn’t it ingrained and how can we create that culture to elevate a business to its best possible performance. In 5 initial steps:

1) Understand the definition of Courage, Bravery and Resilience

2) Make acts of courage mandatory not rewarded

3) Transparency of requirement

4) Leadership 360

5) Support courageous growth with authenticity

In detail:

1) Understand the definition of Courage and Bravery

May seem simple but test yourself if you can differentiate these clearly. It’s important to start with in order to step clearly away from the perception of bravery being the person who has the annoying loudest voice or “says what everyone is thinking”.

Courage - permits a person to face difficulties despite fear. The scenario is perceived as fearful but a person makes a choice to overcome this.

Bravery - permits a person to face difficulties without fear. The product of practicing courageous activity.

Consider how much time is spent thinking about a scenario in a fearful mindset; the overthinking, the lack of thinking about anything else, the conversations with at least two other people for their advice, the days taken to think about it, the increased levels of cortisol, the loss of sleep, the list could go on. It’s exhausting to write but just take a moment to consider the impact to a business when this happens every time a scenario is deemed fearful. That is a lot of time wasted and a slow, painful route to de-motivation.

Bravery is the goal, the courageous acts are essential to get us there.

2) Make acts of courage mandatory not rewarded

As harsh as it may sound, we don’t hire talent with ‘fearful backgrounds’, we hire them under the perceived notion they will come in and make positive change, in which courage and a state of bravery are essential. How often have you walked out of an interview or looked back over notes to consider what risks has this person taken in their career? Can they act courageous when needed, or do they embody the culture of bravery we are looking for? This culture shift is a natural enabler to see a scenario differently. Example, “I made the choice to leave my previous role because it no longer served me and I was stagnant”. Brave/Courageous move. It doesn’t matter whether it was an act or a state of mind at the point of decision but they made a choice regardless of the outcome. Ask yourself, when did you last stand up for what you believed in, authentically.

The other side of a mandatory requirement of your teams is that by rewarding courageous acts, they only ever occur again when reward is available. To achieve the end goal, focus needs to be applied to the point of ‘without fear’ and ‘regardless of the outcome’. If a person only chooses to act courageously because they will receive recognition then the outcome is wrong. Develop courage by all means through effective team management, but expect it and factor it into goals and objectives and absolutely reward a year of acting courageously and delivering results, just don’t let the acts themselves become rewarded.

3) Transparency of requirement.

To effectively whittle out the acts of defiance being portrayed as brave, a transparency of what is needed within an organisation to success is essential. There are two key points here, which work organisation wide:

A) Data-drive your speaking up. We all know that person who provides a continuous stream of noise, in which nothing changes because it’s a monologue of thoughts and rarely relevant to the business. Always speak up, and organisation’s need to have this opportunity available, but do so with evidence. Not only is it more likely to success, improving your likelihood of acting similar again next time, but it is paramount to removing any fear from your choices moving forward. If you’ve evidenced your views and you are happy with them, then it doesn’t matter what the outcome is. It won’t always swing your way, and that’s fine. But every time it is based on opinion only, you’ll feel it more personally.

B) Widely share and ensure full understanding of a P&L. It doesn’t need to be the full one, but the headlines. In volatile times, you need those courageous acts to increase. In positive times, you need bravery to maximise and maintain. What you don’t need is a select number of leaders who live in fear of making those decisions and this culture disseminating down. When you know where you stand, you know best how to proceed. You know when to step up, speak up and provide value.

4) Leadership 360.

Not called a leadership team for nothing, they lead the culture amongst all other areas. Therefore, within an organisation the metric for benchmarking performance must lie within these individuals and it takes a 360 to achieve it. I’ve had the experience where three hours of my lift were taken up going through 360 feedback line by line and looking to decipher who it might be and why those comments were made but a previous boss. The epitome of courageous lack. Yes, it’s personal, and that’s excellent because bravery is personal, your job is personal, your purpose is personal. You are being seen as a person and given any opportunity to be the best version of that person. Think back to when you felt invisible in a job (we’ve all experienced it), you aren’t invisible anymore.

Remember, it takes daily acts of courage, so it is unlikely a full leadership will come out 100% brave, but in some areas you will be close to this and in others you may need more focus. Which leads us to the 5th and final step.

5) Support courageous growth with authenticity. Telling someone to “speak up more” is a waste of everyone’s time. Same applies for “network more with your peers”. To enable courage growth, an individual needs to understand the reasons behind the fear in order to effectively overcome them. I’m not suggested every line manager becomes a therapist, far from it, but there must be a more effective manner of support. Using the examples above:

- “How can we get your thoughts and ideas heard more easily? Through smaller group meetings to start with? Via written means? Can I support you more in meetings with this? Or via 1:1 options?

- “What is the best way for you to spend more time around those you need to be working closely with? What about a re-induction? Or you take my place where possible?

So many options and I’d throw out a challenge that any alternate option isn’t better for your business overall. No fake rewards, no ego, just thought going into helping someone think differently within the workplace.

Six years I undertook a personality test within the workplace and my fear of failure score was so high the graph wasn’t big enough to include the result. In this instance, I didn’t get any new ideas on how to work. I was the walking textbook or reward courage through praise and nice words, which I continued to follow the same painful path for a few more years before taking even more painful step into an environment which did not provide the fake reward. Eventually, my courageous habits grew out of necessity rather than proactive desire. The adrenal fatigue, sky-high levels of cortisol and wine units were not worth it but I learnt the hard way. Where am I now? I’d say I’m 70% brave, 30% courageous. There are still scenario’s I’ll perceive in fear, but I will always, always act with the goal of 100% bravery clear in my mind.

Nothing inspires action like true stories, I’d love to hear and be able to share your stories of creating cultures of bravery, mentors who embody this culture or resources you swear by, I look forward to hearing them all.

If you are looking for any support in taking steps to become more courageous as a culture or to build resilience and bravery within your teams, consider either our two day specialist training or marketing resilience coaching.

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