Training Industry


  • Awakening Courageous Leadership

Everyday courage has few witnesses. It is no less noble because
no drum beats and no crowds shout your name.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

During proactive times, training leaders in the organization generally become advocates to the causes they deem critical and then design the learning objectives to achieve those goals, such as implementing knowledge transfer programs, pushing innovation and creativity or becoming a promoter of a new system. In reactive crises, such as when strategic employees exit because a CEO is hired from “outside the industry” to replace the “old-timer” or when there’s the anticipated, but dreaded takeover and the workforce scramble in uncertainty—denial seeps in to shut down the organization’s spirit. Mired in apathy, training staff may stop looking within themselves for solutions that augment or expand their existing knowledge. Without this type of courageous action complacency and fear seep into the foundation of the organization.

You don’t have to be at spiritual odds to awaken your workforce to courageous leadership.

You don’t have to be at spiritual odds to awaken your workforce to courageous leadership. Extracting the gifts of courage during training sessions gives the organization its life force. Deceptively simple, the overwhelming challenge lies in the training teams’ level of clarity about how courage actions apply in daily routine. One size of courage does not fit all.

“Clarity may be the cousin to courage,” said Carol Alm, a business consultant.  

Boost Backbones

Identifying the merits of courageous leadership may initially jolt the workforce. Why? Generally courage is associated with being a hero or doing something amazing. The human spirit has fallen asleep to the applications of “everyday courage” (not an oxymoron). Our culture misses opportunities at home and in school’s curriculum to teach courage and its relevance. Educational training in courage actions for college and high school students transfer easily to work competences, but the wherewithal remains scant.

“I am constantly looking for resources to increase confidence levels in students, said Kasmin Boswell, Ph.D., college professor. “Unfortunately, courage isn’t something that’s mandated in individuals’ lives. Without its acquisition, living is much more difficult.” She confronts her students to think about how they can most exponentially triumph over their past challenges, such as moving out of comfort within the norm to excel in their present growth opportunities.

Whether large or small, sophisticated or simple, the training department’s test is to awaken and unleash this forgotten energy (virtue, in Latin, means “energy”), such as recognizing the “first red flag” response rather than turning a blind eye witnessed by BP or Toyota. When you know something is tugging at your spirit to take action, why wait for three red flags? The first red flag insight is a difficult one to react to because you want to believe that what you know won’t prevail, so why take action such as when everyone but you receives a new Blackberry. Have you been trained on how to speak up and confront an uncomfortable truth?

The trainer’s job is to boost the workforces’ backbones, and self-esteem is one of those courage ingredients. When graduates close the door to numbers and letters of school grades, they step into a new phase of learning called “designing your resume.” Tina Kashlak Nicolai, professional resume writer, sees this often.

She said, “New grads struggle to showcase their best talents in their first official career document if they have no on-the-job history. Chances are these folks will experience their first training phase called ‘orientation.’ New grads face their first courage experience that summons their self-esteem to showcase their covetable skills on their resume when a new project is launched and dynamic peers force them to be independent thinkers.” Have they been courageously trained or will missteps perpetuate regrets. Lifelong training builds character.
When this happens, the organization’s heart constricts, limiting the opportunities for expansion along with diminished receptivity to training and/or the frustrations felt by creative trainers who are luminaries.

Designing Courage
Sony Corporation believes customers want choices, so they push training designed with many creative options. Other luminary organizations such as 3M and Disney instill daily “gray shade attributes” to seek and stimulate their creative design. Creative people such as artists understand this abyss. They know inspiration hides in the paradox that the world is shades of gray, not black and white.

Harold G. Nelson, Ph.D., focuses on intentional change in an unpredictable world by applying fundamental design competences. “Humans did not discover fire, they designed it,” he explained. Most likely, your workforce will judge your courageous deeds and evaluate them in an assortment of insightful renditions. How does the training department lasso this abstract essence and design a substantiate outcome?

When organizations opt to design a courageous culture they create a document called “The Declaration of Courageous Intention” (DCI). Flushing out and then designing the organization’s courage is the beginning of the end result. Once you start the training design that reflects your culture, it becomes your companion. As the size of your organization’s courage expands it turns into your sponsor for improvement.

Connecting the training value and curriculum to your organization’s unique courage design and then merging those courage qualities with the workforce is elusive. Don’t seek fancy formulas or complex matrixes. Misty intangibles (“real” skills) such as trust, courage or honesty come in a variety of sizes. What a breeze if you could pick up a non-toxic courage spray bottle and spritz your reservations away or better yet, how about that elusive courage pill! But, to some degree, everyone is courage-challenged, so there will be a variety of integral levels of courage consciousness.

Galileo said, “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” During your tenure in training, your type of courage perspective hopefully resonates with being the conduit to the company’s success. Perhaps you are great at designing a program that unfolds the strategic plan. Training workforce leaders to conquer their courage requires a practical stretch beyond business mechanics such as orientation, LMS, Six Sigma, etc. These competencies (“hard” skill) are great if merged with the spiritual moments that tap into the issues that reveal breakdowns in the human condition — the issues most difficult to express or pinpoint. These internal kernels might be an employee’s self-doubt, competitive nature (bordering dysfunctional) or “to the ninth-degree” justifications. Desire or greed for the illusion of security is often the culprit that clips ones courage.

Where to start the courage clarification process? Hire and support the people with leadership qualities defined by courage. For example, what right action for the right reason will your folks choose? Will altruism play a role in the form of collaboration? Just as you strive to hire high performers who demonstrate elevated emotional intelligence (EQ), courage attributes are a critical component of the quotient. Your workforce probably identifies whistle-blowing as an extreme courage example. Once branded, courageous behaviors can be learned by everyone. There is a direct correlation between the courage quotient and success.
Genius in Gray Areas
Several years ago in Fast Company magazine an article called “Invest in a Courageous Culture” highlighted the training philosophy of a German company named Degussa. “Degussa views bravery and audacity as essential corporate virtues, and it trains all of its managers to embrace those qualities: ‘Successful leaders in Degussa,’ the company asserts, must have ‘courage, determination, and strong backbone’.” How does one train these concepts—what’s Degussa’s secret?

The courage to be bold and audacious counts on genius. Genius should not be confused with IQ (intelligence quotient). In Power versus Force, David Hawkins, M.D., writes that:

“It would be more helpful to see genius as simply an extraordinary high degree of
insight in a given area of human activity. … Genius can be more accurately
identified by perseverance, courage, concentration, enormous drive, and
absolute integrity — talent alone is certainly not enough. Dedication of an
unusual degree is required to achieve mastery…”

How do you apply courage to design a curriculum that perpetuates a genius environment? The answer: help your workforce discover the resourcefully gray areas. They can do this by:
  • Risking themselves: The size of their courage expands when a resounding “yes” is used to embrace adversity (and failure). “Yes” lives in collaboration.
  • Being answerable for dysfunctional behavior: It’s unacceptable to violate the varieties of courage actions that undermine the culture’s norm and dignity. 
  • Applauding the dignity to dare: Diminish the desire for security and invite the spirit to trust learning new possibilities versus attempting to cage the organization’s spirit; hence, dehumanizing the environment.
  • Recharging the organization’s heart and spirit through reflection: To discern the clarity of intention instill the value of contemplation — it leads to completeness. Taking 2-3 minutes to stop and center (called “courage-centering”) before a meeting shifts the mood and invites focus.
  • Celebrating all sizes of courage and diminishing regrets: Share examples as “courage change agents” by creating e-postcards that acknowledge the courage action of the human being or the team’s accomplishment with appreciation. Applause in any form grounds the training intention and instills “where courage meets grace.”
Sandra Ford Walston, The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckThinking™ is an organizational effectiveness consultant, trainer, speaker and a courage coach. She is the internationally published author of bestseller, COURAGE, and she is certified in the MBTI and Enneagram. She can be reached at .   

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