Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Do You Have a Spineless Career?
When was the last time you did something courageous at work?
I'm not talking about cleaning out the office fridge (although that does take gumption) or trying a new font on your report. I'm talking about stepping out of your comfort zone, doing something that made your palms sweat or your knees quake.
You may be wondering why in the world you would do something scary at work, when just being at work these days is frightening enough. But recently I interviewed someone who knows a thing or two about stepping into the abyss, and I've been thinking about career courage ever since.
Bill Treasurer is a workplace courage expert, but he's also a former member of the U.S. High Diving Team, where he often performed as the fire-diving superhero "Captain Inferno." His new book, "Courage Goes to Work," is all about -- wait for it -- courage at work.
Of course, Treasurer wrote his book before this current economic crisis, but what he has to say may be even more relevant now. Because while you may feel like just playing it safe and keeping your head down, you need to put yourself in scarier situations now more than ever.
"Courage in my mind is activated by challenging times," Treasurer says. "Courage doesn't mean being fearless, it means carrying on despite our fear."
So, even though you might be afraid to put your hand up and suggest new or innovative or even outrageous ideas at work, Treasurer says now is the time to do it.
"Right now, employers really need employees to really embrace change. They need those new ideas to help save money. They need to find new opportunities. This is exactly the right time to raise your hand."
Or, step out on a stage. That means that despite your tendency to want to puke when addressing more than five people at a time, you go ahead and give that speech or presentation to hundreds or people. Or, you volunteer for that new project even though it's out of your comfort zone. Maybe it even means you accept that new job for less money because you'll be doing something totally different than what you've done for the last decade.
"Courage means that you move forward through your fear. You voice is shaking or palms are sweating because it means you're moving into the courage zone," he says.
At the same time, the greatest acts of courage at work can come from some unexpected places.
"Courage of voice is the least common," Treasurer says. "It's when you raise your hand and say you're overwhelmed and you need help. Or, when you admit to a mistake and apologize for it."
So, the next time your stomach roils and your palms become damp at just the thought of doing something at work, take heart from these words voiced by a man who knows a thing or two about diving off that cliff:
"At the end of the day when we look back, where we are most proud of ourselves -- where we see that we were better us -- is when we've met the challenge," Treasurer says.
"Just trust yourself."
Do enough people show courage in the workplace today? Why or why not?