If you’ve ever wondered why managers (maybe you?) don’t show more backbone on the job, consider this: are they too comfortable, too afraid or too much of both?

“A leader’s job is to role-model courageous behavior while activating the courageous behavior among those they lead,” says Bill Treasurer, founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a “courage-building” company.

Treasurer is author of Courage Goes to Work and creator of the new training program Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace. As Treasurer explains, businesses stagnate when people are too comfortable in their routines but too afraid to try anything different. He says, “When people equate ‘just enough’ with ‘good enough’ and become satisfied meeting only a minimum standard of performance, productivity suffers.”

To overcome the debilitating effects of organizational apathy, Treasurer recommends that organizations focus on building workforce courage, starting with the leaders. When leaders become more courageous and help workers move beyond comfort and fear, the benefits are significant. In a courageous workplace, people will:

  • Take on more challenging or complex projects.
  • Actively seek out tasks that stretch their skills.
  • Speak up more frequently, forcefully and truthfully.
  • Be less risk-averse, less self-conscious and less apathetic.
  • Do less brownnosing and complaining.
  • Get more work done.

Courage isn’t a fixed trait or an innate skill — it requires effort and practice. But it can be developed. Treasurer suggests breaking down the large concept of courage into three buckets. Start to look for opportunities to demonstrate, encourage and reward “Try, Trust and Tell Courage.”

TRY Courage is the courage of “first attempts.” This is the courage that is needed when attempting something for the first time, or re-attempting something after a significant failure. It is about taking purposeful action.

TRUST Courage involves “letting go.” This is the courage involved when delegating, following someone’s lead, or keeping someone’s confidences. For controlling types (any caffeine-chugging micromanagers out there?), releasing control and trusting others is no easy task!

TELL Courage is the courage of “voice.” It is about assertiveness, truth-telling and “‘fessing up” when mistakes are made. “Speaking truth to power” remains one of the hardest things to do at work, particularly at lower levels.

Treasurer notes that workers take their behavioral cues from leaders. Thus, if you’re a leader who aims to inspire more workplace courage, it is essential that you start by role-modeling the kind of behavior you’d like to see among your workers. You have to go first! When you jump first — whatever the leap — workers are more likely to follow your lead.

Five Promises of Courage-Building

“One of the most essential jobs of a leader is to activate the courage of workers. This is the true meaning of the word encourage,” says author and consultant Bill Treasurer. “First and foremost, a leader must be a courage-builder.”

Treasurer is promoting a new organizational development practice that he calls “courage-building.” As he explains, on balance, workers who exhibit courageous behavior outperform those who behave tentatively. According to Treasurer, the practice of courage-building rests on five foundational ideas:

  1. Courage is a teachable and learnable skill.
  2. Everyone has the capacity to be courageous.
  3. People perform better and with greater engagement when they are working with courage.
  4. There are specific approaches and techniques that can be used to build people’s courage.
  5. The entire organization benefits when everyone is working with more courage more often.

Learn more about courage-building with Treasurer’s new training toolkit, Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace.

Take the first step to boost your courage! Sign up for a CCL Webinar with Bill Treasurer: Courageous Leadership
March 31, 2011
1 – 2 p.m. ET

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