Choosing Courage is a new book by Jim Detert, a Professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden

The lack of courage percolates through every organizational level, but so do positive examples if we only open our eyes to look for them. Words such as ‘be loyal,’ ‘be a team player,’ or ‘don’t rock the boat’ encourage us to conform and not challenge the status quo. As I previously reported in Forbes, there is a difference between being a dreamer and an achiever. If you want to become more courageous, you cannot just read or think about it; you need to do it regularly and make it a habit. You need to learn to be comfortable benign uncomfortable.

People choose courage for two reasons; they want to cement their legacy or avoid regret. Some of the small steps Detert recommends to increase your courage barometer include taking on stretch assignments, owning bold initiatives, and innovating within or beyond one’s current organization. Detert outlines a five-step process to learn how to be more courageous:

Create the right conditions

People prefer to work with those who they know, like, and trust. Developing those

factors with your colleagues is a critical first step. Do whatever you can to avoid feeling financially or emotionally handcuffed to your current situation so that it provides you with greater flexibility and freedoms. There is always risk involved with courageous acts, so maximizing job security or the ability to exit safely is paramount.

Choose your battles

There simply is not enough time or energy to take on every opportunity. As I previously wrote for Forbes, determining your goals and values and selecting projects which align with your future pursuits is paramount. Before taking on a battle, consider whether it will take you closer or further away from your goal. 

Manage the messaging

Packaging the message is half the battle. Who delivers it and under what conditions can dictate whether the receiver will take it well or not. Offer data and solutions; do not just point out problems. Ensure that your message is framed so that it is not offensive if you want it to be well received.

Manage the emotions

Be sure you respond, not react, to your emotions. If you do not control your intense emotions, you may do something you will later regret. Consider your non-verbal cues as well, such as your shaking, going silent. Managing strong feelings can make it easier to focus on the responses of others.

Follow up after the act

Now that you have taken the first act of courage do not stop. Be sure to follow up with commitments, set timelines, and agree on the next steps. Be persistent and see your courageous act through to the end.

The future of work will require us to try things we have not done before under conditions that may be unfamiliar. Choosing Courage offers valuable advice to get us through our next chapter.