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Everyday Courage: 5 Tips for Bravery in Business and Life (3739 hits)

Originally Published By:
Wendy E. John (she/her/hers), Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Fidelity Investments

We live in loud times. There’s nowhere to hide from a 24-hour news cycle and a seemingly endless number of contentious issues are amplified by the bullhorns of social media. Judging from the volume and frequency of pronouncements across platforms, people have never been more outspoken.

But all too often what’s missing is a demonstration of the courage behind people’s convictions. Loud and/or frequent public pronouncements don’t have the same impact as the quieter personal acts of courage that take place in small rooms and less public spaces—actions that can lead to necessary or even overdue changes.

It could be one of those little things many of us do routinely in business: taking our seat at a table with people who don’t look or live like us, using our voices at the right time and in the right way, advocating for a new workplace experience, or even going for a big job that feels just beyond our reach. As a Black woman who travels through many spaces not designed for me, I can tell you at times, just SHOWING UP takes an act of courage.

These little moments of everyday bravery aren’t about being the loudest or even the best speaker in the room, and they’re certainly not about being in a “safe” position of power or authority. These moments are about having the fortitude to take a risk that could come at a personal cost, such as losing a job, a relationship or social capital. And at some point, many of us—regardless of age, status or circumstance—face a moment when stepping up and standing firm needs to happen. With that in mind, here are some ways I have learned to be courageous in business and in life:

Pick your spots: Bravery doesn’t mean recklessness. I believe it’s important to weigh the difference between the “now-or-never” and “maybe later” approach. When speaking out, sometimes your silence in the moment gives way to the best setting or occasion to make the greatest impact. And when your goal is to deliver the right words or actions at the best possible time to the right audience, having the patience to pick your spot helps ensure you’ve considered the issue and the potential cost of saying what needs to be said when that moment arrives.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”: Most of us rarely face the extreme consequences of speaking up that we presume will occur. But because we remember our losses more than our wins, even the smallest risk—like the risk of sounding foolish—can make some people stay silent. It’s natural to weigh risk and reward. But it’s also easy to overestimate risk. The better you understand and assess the risk, the easier it is to do the right thing and take a chance when one is within reach. It’s also easier to gather the support you might need ahead of time.

Be prepared to go at it alone—at first: It can feel lonely to put forward a new idea or take an unpopular position, especially when you might not have time to assemble your allies or seek counsel from mentors. When you’re the only representative of a gender or ethnic group, or perhaps reflect a different lived experience… or if you’re making a case when there is no one else who appears to be on your side (or who shares your perspective), it’s easy to find yourself as a lonely voice at the microphone. But sometimes…something interesting happens: Someone else steps up to say, “I feel the same,” or, “I’m glad you said that.” At that point, you, as a single courageous person, are no longer alone.

Practice little acts of courage: Over time and with use, being brave gets easier. Making a practice of being courageous builds the best kind of confidence…the kind that comes from experience and understanding. And there’s no shortage opportunity. One day, it might mean walking into a room filled with more seasoned professionals. Some other day, it might mean accepting a job in another state or country. Or, it might require advocating for a change that will improve the workplace experience for yourself or others. And yes, for some, sharing thoughts on social media may be an act of bravery. It’s okay to start small—whatever that might mean for you!

Be thoughtful and unselfish: Remember that every act of bravery is also an act of generosity that can benefit others, even if it’s not immediately apparent. If you’re a member of an underrepresented group, as I have been on many occasions, you know our actions and statements are often projected onto others like us—or those presumed to be like us. While that can feel like a heavy weight or burden, often, courage isn’t about self—though it might seem that way. It’s about “us” and about others.

With the new school year underway, I’m reminded of a time I stepped away from the crowd and sat with a fellow student who was being ostracized at school. It felt a little uncomfortable, but I knew it was the right thing to do—a small gesture that required no words but surely meant a lot to my classmate. I often recall the way I felt that day: the cringey discomfort of seeing a classmate left out, followed by a satisfying sense of relief that I went against the grain and, ultimately, pride that I had the courage to make what, at the time, felt like a risky move.

These may be “loud” times—with lots of opinions that take up all the space—but everyday courage can cut through the noise and give each of us the quiet confidence needed to show up in ways and at moments that really matter.

Original story on LinkedIn at
Posted By: Reginald Culpepper
Thursday, January 19th 2023 at 7:39PM
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