Aristotle once said that courage “is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”
We often think of courage in connection with the battlefield, or with daring feats such as diving off a high cliff or jumping out of an airplane. But in today’s difficult economic climate, showing initiative and focus in the workplace may be one of the bravest acts of all.
“Courage in my mind is activated by challenging times,” says Bill Treasurer, a management consultant. “It doesn’t mean being fearless, it means carrying on despite our fear. Right now, when it’s easy to get stoked by the fear out there, it takes courage to keep your eye on the ball.”
Treasurer is the author of the new book, “Courage Goes To Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance and Get Results,” and is founder of Giant Leap Consulting. But as the former captain of the U.S. High Diving Team and having performed thousands of dives himself – some more than 100 feet high – Treasurer understands what it takes to calm internal jitters and focus on the task at hand.
He says that while employees and managers may be deeply worried about the latest economic news and the continual threat of worse times to come, now is the point at which everyone in the workplace must call upon their inner strength.
“This is an opportunity to really test yourself,” he says. “This is when you move through the fear to the other side.”
For example, Treasurer says that managers must not let themselves join the “pity party” at work.
“Don’t commiserate with employees about what is happening,” he says. “Now is the time to lead by staying out in front. Lead people where you want them to be. You have to provide the resiliency to show them how to keep moving.”
Treasurer says bosses also should:
- Stay calm. Don’t let stress boil over so that you’re threatening employees or giving “or else” directives.
- Stay close. In order to keep workers focused during such unsettled times, it’s best to check in with them at least once a day to make sure they’re moving toward goals.
- Avoid being a human helicopter. Hovering over workers can only communicate fear and distrust, and distract them from their work. While you don’t want to hide in your office and avoid communication, you also don’t want to be overbearing.
As for employees, Treasurer says they can show their courage during these tough times by “giving their fear the pink slip.”
“Now is not the time to hunker down,” he says. “The challenge is that you’ve got to embrace change, to look for new opportunities for your employer. Come up with new ideas to save money. Your company needs you now more than ever – don’t become irrelevant.”
Some ideas for employees to show their courage include:
- Raise your hand. “This is the courage of voice,” he says. “The people who are the most effective are the ones who are the most assertive. So, don’t just problem-dump. If there’s an issue, speak up – but come up with solutions as well.”
- Know the boss’s goals. “I think we forget that part of our job is to make the boss successful,” Treasurer says. “Anything you do should be closely tied to his or her goals.” This means workers have to be ready to really communicate continually with the boss to understand their strategy.
- Embrace the moment. “When your knees are shaking, when your palms are sweating and your voice is shaking, then you know that you’re moving toward a courage zone,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to really test yourself.”
Treasurer reminds both bosses and employees to recall that their actions during these very difficult times may have an impact on more than just their jobs.
“At the end of the day when you look back, you’re going to ask yourself where you were the most proud of yourself. You’re going to find that by showing courage and meeting these challenges, you were a better you.”
Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.
Bruzzese: Economic chaos is chance to show courage at work