Every year I pick a word that will become a theme for my growth. My word for 2023 is courage and the meaning of this character trait runs deep into how I believe God has been molding me (you can read more here). This transformation is especially true in my leadership skills and the way I apply them at work. As I look back at my career I can see the character of courage being developed through unique situations that have now become synonymous with my way of leading. It’s the type of courage that generates confidence and makes others trust me.
As the new year unfolds and work intensifies courage can help you recognize how to best handle expectations and responsibilities. These are some of the ways I see courage making a difference in my work. I believe they will do the same for you.
Courage to say yes and try something new
I think the best way to see courage developed at work is by creating a culture that invites new ways to think about problems and seek new solutions. This approach requires a shift in paradigm; a change in the way we do things.
We are all creatures of habit and the process of change can be uncomfortable. It’s easy to start every work day the same way we’ve always done; to approach every challenge with the same familiar checklist; or to see progress under the same metrics. Don’t get me wrong, having a process and being organized is not a bad thing. But sometimes looking for a new way can be the trigger that you’ve needed to achieve what you’ve been working so hard for.
The courage to say yes has been most noticeable in my career when I became a Product Owner with a product development team. I could see my skills matched the requirements to be successful in that role but it was still a stretch, especially when I consider my shift to a new project management methodology. However, this shift has provided some of the most satisfying work experiences in my career and I am glad I said yes to the opportunity.
Courage to read situations and say no
While saying yes can reflect courage, saying no can also be synonymous with boldness. I know this can be an unpopular opinion. The ability to read situations and see something so important that requires your full attention is a skill often overlooked; recognizing it and actually taking action to close the door to other opportunities is a sign of maturity. But even in maturity you need courage.
In a world where success is often viewed only through the lens of more work responsibilities and additional project opportunities, the essence of focusing on the most important priority has been lost. Unfortunately this reality has fogged our view and has challenged our ability to see what we need to say no to.
In my work the courage to say no has been best described in my ability to decline new product development or even new job opportunities. The process of saying no is not an easy one. I still had to review all my options before I made a decision. And to some of my peers this approach was somewhat strange and not celebrated. But looking back I am glad I said no to certain paths and have remained focused on what is most important.
Courage to recognize what you don’t know
Finally, be courageous enough to be authentic. To recognize we are not perfect and all knowing is to be true to ourselves and to others. In the workplace this can be a game changer, yet so many people avoid it.
The struggle most people experience in vulnerability is the reality of all these fragile, self-doubting questions about our ability actually being true. This is called the “imposter syndrome” and the only way to fight it is to be true to yourself and recognize the value you have regardless of what you know and don’t know. The courage to admit what you don’t know in many ways unlocks the potential for you as a contributor and as a leader to your team.
In my career I’ve painfully navigated this reality that indeed I am not always the smartest person in the room. In fact, admitting that from the beginning has allowed me to ask the right questions for the right motives. It has made me a more effective leader and allowed me to grow as a person.
In what ways do you see courage help you in 2023? Share in the comments.