Trust me, I am not having a Mel Gibson/Braveheart moment, but reflecting today on a series of meetings and conversations I have had over the last two weeks, it strikes me that a pivotal part of leadership and business operations is an element of being brave.

 

In a dictionary context brave means “to possess or exhibit courage or courageous endurance” and I think that this definition strongly applies to the business environment we all operate and work in.

I don’t even think that being brave is a new requirement for business and that it is a skill that hasn’t been necessary in the past; I think if you look for examples of innovation, business success or influential leaders over the last 100 years you will find elements, or proof, of bravery in them all. But perhaps in the way most businesses have become more “digitised” and operating platforms firmly embedded into the way we do business; to avoid becoming influenced by a ‘tick box system mentality’ we need to create working environments that are open to change, reflection and improvement.

We set up processes, rules of engagement, operating systems and benchmark measurements which allow us to better manage and measure our people and our outcomes. But do these systems constrain our people and inhibit us from being brave and operating within a culture of courage.

Through courage and bravery comes the opportunity for innovation, new ways of thinking and doing, and perhaps at times it simply gives us the platform to deliver the value, culture or performance that we are seeking.
Being brave doesn’t necessarily have to involve large or dramatic actions, being brave can be simply be the way that we engage with others, speak our truth, put our hand up to challenge, take responsibility for our performance and look for new ways to do better.  

Being brave isn’t automatic but if small incremental changes are made, in which we work individually and collectively, then it can provide the opportunity to develop bravery as part of an organisation’s mind set. Here are five things that can help create a ‘braver mindset’:

  1. Make it safe: Encourage people to think, say or do things differently; create a safe managed environment where the status quo can be challenged and explored and support people when they have taken the initiative; both when it succeeds and fails.
  2. Encourage and challenge behaviour: Take the time to showcase behaviour within the organisation that demonstrates bravery or courageousness, and challenge behaviour and outcomes so that teams and individuals are always stretching for greater, and better, results.
  3. Do what’s right rather than what’s easy: Championing what is right means, at times, work can be more challenging or that we open ourselves up to reflection or review. Most of us work in time-pressured environments but a critical component of a brave, or even a high performing organisation, is the need and belief to not automatically look for the easy or simpler solution, but to look for the opportunity with the best outcome.  
  4. Take ownership: No matter what your job is, or what your position description says, we all play a part in our organisation’s success. If we all take the stance that high performing and successful organisations start with us first, then this gives the green light for everyone to proactively contribute or comment on how the organisation is performing. By taking ownership and a degree of braveness it gives the opportunity for everyone to connect and commit to the organisation’s purpose and direction.
  5. Be open and honest: Being brave requires the strength to be more open and honest about ourselves and how we communicate or connect with others. Being open means sharing your thoughts and opinions even when it means that your view is separate to others. Rather than seeing a differing view as a negative; diversity for a business is important and diversity includes a different viewpoint.

Being brave isn’t necessarily easy – it takes risk and courage to stand up for what is important or what you believe in. It also requires development; development on how to communicate and share bravery in a way that is inclusive, non-confrontational and constructive. But if we can encourage and champion brave behaviours in our workplace then perhaps we will all have the opportunity to learn, grow and deliver beyond what we think is possible or even just what is acceptable.

An adage goes “growth and comfort don’t ride the same horse” and so perhaps we do need to think of that infamous scene of Mel Gibson in his kilt (and horse) on the bonnie mountains of Scotland in the movie Braveheart so that all of us, in our own way, can dare to be braver, speak more bravely and lead more bravely.


Written by Jane McCarroll, the strategic partnership lead for the Skills Group including IMNZ.

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