Successful organizations not only adapt and leap forward with change, they intentionally create change in hopes of sparking transformative innovation. But to innovate we must have the courage to think bigger, bolder and differently than everyone else, and a culture of courage is needed to fuel the spark.
All organizations go through periods of change and uncertainty. A revolution may take place in your industry where you must adapt to compete. During these periods of uncertainty — as we’re outside of our optimal comfort zones — it is natural for anxiety to rise (either individually or companywide) and our inclination for risk to fall precipitously.
Yet, it is in these moments where one’s courage, accompanied by bold and decisive action, can reap the greatest rewards. Through a series of small shifts and encouragements, a culture of courage can become embedded in your organization.
A culture of courage empowers employees to make decisions using their insights, not just with the status quo. It’s the willingness to take smart risks and to accept failure not as a loss, but as a strategy and learning point from which to grow. It’s giving your employees the permission to fail.
Courage is at the heart of an innovative company. In cultures that embrace and encourage courage, failure is a natural and expected point of learning on the journey to creating something new. Something innovative. Something great. It takes courage to reach that point, but more importantly, it takes a culture where employees aren’t frightened to make a mistake.
Employees are hesitant to push themselves beyond their comfort level unless they know they are supported by upper-level management. If you establish a culture where employees are supported to be courageous and daring, you not only engage employees, you inspire innovation.
Here are five ways to encourage courage in your company:
Continuously communicate. Share your leadership’s views on the need, invitation and the stated permission to be courageous.
Engage in dialogue. What does courage look like to them? To you? To your company?
Illuminate acts of courage. Reward courageous behavior. (Note: The reward doesn’t have to be a trophy or a bonus. It could be a note from a manager, a pat on the back or a story told at a department meeting.)
Demonstrate forgiveness. Forgiveness emboldens forward movement after failure and encourages those to try again.
Provide a safety net. “I told you so” should never be an appropriate response; create a culture of constructive criticism and helpful, encouraging dialogue.
Courage begins with you. If you want your team to take risks, show them how it’s done. If you’re not afraid to make mistakes, your team won’t be either. The example you set is the biggest determining factor in successfully instilling a lasting culture of courageous behavior and thinking.
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