Courage, The Antidote for Fear

By Ann Elliott

Fear comes in all sizes and shapes. We all experience it.  Fear can be subtly woven into your corporate culture and affect the decisions at all levels. Fear-driven decisions, systems, and policies can undermine your profit, efficiency and fun. Protecting one’s turf, creating chaos, micromanaging, blaming, and reacting to the crisis de jour become normal behavior over time.  The corporate culture absorbs and reflects these values. The corporate culture, at least in part, is based on fear.  By reaction not intention your organization can eventually develop values based on fear.  Is this what you want for your company? achieve Someone jokingly responded to my request for information by saying, “If I told you everything I know, then where would I be?”  At the time it seemed like an innocent though somewhat annoying remark.  Now I understand the implications for his need to protect himself by protecting his knowledge.  His response was fear-based. People who are busy and rushing from one project, meeting or deadline to the next must be important, right?  If they weren’t important and key to the survival of the organization, why would they be so in demand?  It would be fool hardy to even consider letting them go because they are responsible for so much. Some employees have created their job security–at least in their own minds and probably others–by seeming to be indispensable.  This is a fear-based pattern of behavior. There’s a fear for everything from A to Z.  You can check it out by going to  Maybe you will be as amazed as I was. Courage is the antidote for fear. If you are running your business on fear, it is costing you money, efficiency and fun. The remedy is courage. Begin by understanding courage. The root word for courage is coeur, the old French word for heart.  Webster defines courage as “1.the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. with firmness and without fear; bravery.  2. to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.” John Kotter, professor at Harvard Business School, says in Fast Company (2004) “what we label as courage is a strong emotional commitment–and the key word is emotional–to some ideas.”  He goes on to say that these ideas can be expressed as the vision where you intend to take your enterprise, important values in life, or principles of what is right and wrong. These ideals to which you have an emotional commitment provide a solid place to stand.  When you face barriers that impede these ideals, the stronger your commitment, the more likely you are to take action consistently with those ideals according to Kotter. Use these guidelines to strengthen your courage muscles: 1.  Ask your team what their non negotiable personal values are. You will have a stronger company and be able to hire and retain good employees when they can live their values in the work place. 2.  Define the values for your company. Are you operating based on these values or merely giving lip service to them because they look good?  Do you espouse the value of work/life balance and have policies to support this?  Do you expect employees to work sixty hour weeks relentlessly? 3.  Honestly examine how you operate your business. If what you say and what you do are out of alignment, are you willing to take steps to change it?  Be prepared for some short term discomfort as you make the changes. 4.  Provide the context for truth telling. Make it safe for anyone in the organization to challenge an assumption, idea or pet project.  Reward people for calling out “the elephant in the room.” 5.  Take action for the love of something. Engage your company in working FOR something you collectively value. Fear is a stimulus for courage but passion and commitment are easier motivation for courage. Acts of courage that make the news fill us with awe. The passengers who averted their hijacked plane on 9/11; Martin Luther King, Jr. who took a nonviolent stand on racial equality; and Katherine Graham who led The Washington Post and its coverage of Watergate are examples of highly visible acts of courage. What about the acts of courage that occur every day all around us and never make the news?  The salesperson who calls on a big account; the executive assistant who refuses to lie for her boss; the person who takes the car keys from a drunken friend; the Toastmaster who makes her first speech are examples of unknown acts of courage.  We all have opportunities to be courageous and to support those around us who are. Have you noticed you don’t need courage until there’s a challenge? Being afraid doesn’t make you a coward.  Being afraid is the opportunity to act  courageously in spite of your fear. Courage is your willingness to act and to take a risk without certainty of the outcome. Fear stems from our mental projection into the future and focus on what someone else may do.  You can worry a lot about the future but you cannot manage it because there are too many unknown variables. “What would you do today if you were brave?” asks the songwriter, Jana Stanfield.  Bring your mind back to the present moment. The present moment is always manageable.  All it requires is deciding on your next step.  What are you willing to do today?  What are you willing to help your team do today?

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Ann Elliott

Ann Elliott, founder of The Berkana Company, excels at leadership strategy

An expert at helping business leaders enjoy more profits and improved productivity with less stress, she blends fun and excitement with executive coaching and training to yield results for her clients.

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