On Season 4, Episode 36 of Unleashed, Jim Detert talks to us about the importance of workplace courage, how to recognize the lack of it, and how to get better at being courageous.

Actions You Can Take Right Now

  1. Take the free Workplace Courage Acts Index. Study the results, and note the behaviors you would like to practice more frequently.
  2. Identify one specific reason or factor within your control that explains why you aren’t doing, or skillfully doing, some of the things you think are important. Then identify one person who does this behavior skillfully, and ask for their advice.
  3. Build a Personal Courage Ladder and set a specific action goal. Use this to develop a specific and personal developmental plan.

View or listen to this and other past episodes at www.unleashresults.com/unleashed-series

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Each episode of Unleashed is hosted by Results’ CEO Jeff Tetz who spends most of his day exploring what makes high performers tick and helping build a community of leaders who want to learn and grow together. Follow Jeff (Twitter; LinkedIn; Instagram) for more great leadership insights.

Episode Highlights and Excerpts

  • Most of us feel there’s a gap between our values & what we do, or the actions we take. Most of us feel we have some sort of courage problem when it comes to speaking up or advocating for our beliefs.
  • We aren’t born to be courageous – it’s a skill we develop with practice and deliberate action. Courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s the gumption to go ahead despite the fear.
  • We tend to think of courage as really big acts, but lots of everyday acts require courage.
  • To advocate effectively we must be perceived as being competent. We also have to establish warmth. If we leave the impression we are advocating for our own self interest, we lose credibility. Judgements about our personal competence and warmth are formed incredibly quickly. We should all be mindful of body language, facial expressions, and relatability.
  • Being courageous requires 3 steps:
    1. Pre work. As much as possible identify what motivates and drives the person you need to have a conversation with. Can you align your needs with a strategic direction they are already focused on? Are there other influencers you can lean on for help with your message? Is there data or social proof you can lean into?
    2. The conversation. Ensure the conversation is structured in such a way that the recipient finds it compelling and motivating, which may not be the same as what you find compelling or motivating.
    3. Post conversation. Very rarely does a courageous conversation result in immediate action. Typically follow up steps are required, and quite possibly additional courageous conversations. Particularly if there was a dissenter in the room.
  • It’s very common to rationalize away challenging conversations by telling yourself that you’ll do it later. The time for learning is in the moment and it is estimated that only 5% of the time will those “later conversations” occur.
  • If the hallway or water cooler conversations are more vibrant than those in the boardroom then your organization lacks courage. Same if you witness silence where there should be passion. It’s a mistake to assume that silence is a sign of agreement.
  • We get better at this by seeking out opportunities to practice. Challenge yourself with small steps regularly. Also take some time to evaluate what’s holding you back from being more courageous – where does the fear come from – and develop strategies to minimize the fear.
  • We all have much to gain from becoming more courageous: self respect, authenticity, making the world a better place, and ultimately living a life without regret.

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Jim Detert

Jim Detert is the John L. Colley Professor of Business Administration in the Leadership and Organizational Behavior area at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and a Professor of Public Policy at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

Jim’s research focuses on workplace courage, improvement-oriented voice (why people speak up or stay silent at work), ethical decision-making and behavior, and other leadership-related topics. This research, as well as his consulting experiences, has been conducted across a variety of global high-technology and service-oriented industries as well as public sector institutions. His research has won several academic best paper awards and is regularly featured in various online and print media outlets.