There are three situations when bravery is especially important: when employees risk their own safety or security to help someone else, when they face a series of debilitating hardships and when they’re confronting a moral dilemma.
Use these tools to raise their courage:
Use questions, not answers. Don’t give lectures about how staffers need to “be brave” or “dig within themselves” to persevere. Such rah-rah tactics rarely produce results, unless you’re a spellbinding orator with a heart of gold. And even then you won’t reach everyone.
Instead, meet privately with individuals and ask tough questions. Example: If they’re fighting off pressure to lie to save a friend’s job, ask, “What do you fear most?” or “If you responded with absolute courage, what would you do?”
Confess fears. If you laugh at anyone who discusses a fear—and you refuse to acknowledge your own—then you create an unhealthy environment in which people live in denial. Your employees’ performance will suffer because they won’t address core issues.
Set the right tone by volunteering a fear and inviting your team to give input. Example: Admit that you’re afraid your unit’s numbers remain too low and could jeopardize your growth plans—and their pay increases.
Praise incremental wins. If an employee fears public speaking, take it in steps. Get the individual to stand and deliver a presentation to you and perhaps a few others in an informal setting. Praise the performance and give specific compliments.
Then up the ante and ask the person to read some text from her seat at a staff meeting. Express admiration for her effort. Next time, ask her to stand when she reads, and dish out more praise. By proceeding in stages, you can guide the employee to break through her fears and muster courage.
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