In a recent workshop with the leaders of a global business unit this insight was crystalized: No one raises their hand and says, “I lack courage right now.” Instead, words that are tolerated in a culture are used to delay or impede productivity – all for the sake of avoiding personal risk to the ego.

Does your team use any of these expressions?

“Let’s take this discussion off-line.” Translation: “I’m afraid of conflict.” Or, “I need to conceal the transparent truth – even though everyone needs it to perform together.” Instead, try: “Let’s pause for a moment and share our authentic perspectives right now so the business can move faster.”

“We need more data.” Translation: “I don’t have the guts to make a tough decision.” Or, “I’m not clear on the decision making criteria.” Instead, try: “It’s tempting to push this decision further out – yet we’re committed to speed and simplicity. Are we clear and aligned to our decision criteria? If we made the decision right now, what would it be?”

“We appreciate your feedback. We’ll get back to you.” Translation: “You have no idea what you’re talking about; we’re the experts.” Or, “We’re here to practice pretend inclusion.” Instead, try: “I don’t quite see how your feedback fits, yet I value your opinion. Can you please provide an example of how we’d apply what you’ve shared?”

Many work cultures have a high tolerance for employee insecurity. It’s normal for employees to hide behind expressions or words that are commonplace and accepted as “how we do business.”

Blaming employees for their lack of courage is a waste of time (and wrong). What’s required instead: We need more inspired, secure and courageous leaders who will model what’s not normal – and instead do what’s necessary.

Be that leader for us.

(It’s worth asking your team: What additional language might we practice to model greater courage?)



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