7 Ways To Inspire Courage

You know they can do it. They’re scared. Their lack of courage is a downward spiral. Fear stops trying. Lack of trying creates doubt. Doubt affirms negative self-perceptions. It breaks my heart to watch highly qualified, talented people let scared stop them.

And yet, it’s hard for those born with a few extra confidence genes to build courage in others. Skills that come naturally are hardest to teach.

Courage Drowns at 60 Feet

Apparently, I needed a dose of scared.

During the last day of Scuba certification, 60 feet under the crystal blue oceans of Bonaire, I stopped breathing. Oh, air was flowing. But the pristine water suddenly turned dark, and crushed my lungs. Panicked, I signaled to Sven, our Scuba instructor. “UP!” He looked confused. Now I signaled more aggressively, “I NEED TO GO UP, NOW.”

He checked my equipment, looked at me curiously and gently signed “No.” Now more frantic, I started to kick powerfully and swim up. He grabbed my BCD, deflated his, and held me down. Surfacing too soon would create medical problems. He calmly signaled that we would go up, together, and slowly. My husband and son watched curiously. Why was mom, a former lifeguard, competitive swimmer and triathlete freaking out?

7 Ways to Build Courage

Sven knew how he reacted to my panic mattered. He also knew that he couldn’t certify someone who could potentially lose it diving in a remote area of the Island. How he reacted below and above the surface made all the difference.

 Sven’s Approach to Courage

courage

  1. Stay calm
    Confidence inspires courage. Sven didn’t react to my reaction. He never looked worried.
  2. Establish partnership
    “I’ve got you.” “We’re going to do this together.” “I’m not going to let you drown.”
  3. Ask questions
    When we got safely to shore he asked lots of questions to understand the scene. “When had I started to feel uncomfortable?” What did it feel like? Were there signs of Nitrogen Narcosis?. Surely such an absurd reaction had an explanation.
  4. Reinforce competence
    Sven reassured in his Dutch accent that I was fully competent. “Karin, you’ve mastered all the skills and demonstrated them well.” “ You know all the standby skills.” You know what to do in any emergency.”
  5. Naming the fear
    “The biggest risk now is that you become afraid of your reaction to your fear. You weren’t afraid of going deep before, so there’s no reason you should again, unless you tell yourself you’re going to be afraid.
  6. Straight talk
    “I know you can do this, and want to certify you. If you panic again, I can’t.” There are consequences to low self-confidence. We can’t risk putting people in certain positions, for their safety and others.
  7. Encouragement
    “You’ve got this. Let’s try again.”

We did. The next dive led to certification. Certification led to a wonderful week of diving all over the Island, including remote areas. No fear, just fun.

The Secret Behind the 9 Box Performance Potential Grid

Do you know where you stand in your organization’s succession plan?

“Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked…No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Most organizations use a deliberate approach like the 9 box Performance Potential Grid (great tool, for more visit Dan McCarthy).

If you have been told you are “high potential” do you know how many others are in the same “box?” in line for the same jobs?
If you don’t know, you should ask. If these programs are being executed well, those identified as having higher performance and potential will receive extra development and stretch assignments.

Being on the grid can be very helpful.

However the grid is based on perception and opinions. If you are in a good spot on the grid, great but don’t depend on it. If not, don’t freak out take action.

A grid does not define you.

Why Being on the Performance Potential Grid is Not Enough

“Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook. But when the system was broken, we wonder why you were relying on it in the first place.”
~Seth Godin

Organizations reorganize. Sponsors retire. Mergers happen. Politics change. It’s quite possible that all the people who put you on the grid yesterday, will be off doing something else tomorrow. Then, the grid is just a grid. Those opinions have moved on.

Performance Potential Grids don’t promote people, people do.

I went back and looked though the grids I had used in my organization as an HR Director years ago. Many names from the best parts of the grid have since been promoted and having strong careers. But other high performance-potential candidates had been caught up in mergers, downsizings, and other drama. Some are still unemployed. There were also people who had been once deemed “lower potential” now holding significant leadership positions.

Don’t wait for the grid

What else you can do.

When Your Inner Voice Grabs the Mic

As leaders self-talk is important. We must listen to our inner voice. But what if our inner voice gets scared and wants to grab the mic?

What if our inner voice wants too much affirmation?

What if our inner voice needs excessive feedback?

Can an extraverted inner voice get in the way?

Loud Inner Voices

  • Why do some people tell us to stop listening to them before they even start talking?
  • Why do we add last-minute self-deprecating remarks into our carefully rehearsed speeches?
  • How do we get people to listen to what we most need them to hear?
  • How do we sound humble, but confident?

It happens in interviews, presentations, sales calls, athletic events, cattle drives... People pre-apologize for what they are about to say. They tell us not to listen.

  • “In my feeble little mind”
  • “I’m certainly not the expert here”
  • “I’m just saying, well it’s kind of like this sort-of”
  • “…?”

Why Do We Undermine our own credibility at the very time we need it most?

Perhaps we’re…

  • Nervous
  • Under pressure
  • Unsure of ourselves
  • Unrehearsed
  • Trying to appear humble?
  • Trying to be funny?
  • Unaware of the impact?
  • ?

Tips For Shaking the “Don’t Listen to Me” Habit

  • Become an expert about your subject (feeling truly confident is your best safeguard)
  • Plan out your message (write it down)
  • Look for opportunities to speak (lots of practice will build confidence)
  • Ask for feedback (not from everyone, that also can sound insecure)
  • Ask others how they perceived what you said (what direct and indirect messages did they receive)
  • Record or video tape your talk (most cell phones have audio recording these days)
  • Focus on the behaviors you can use to drive respect (plan your desired behaviors)
  • Take a public speaking class (tell your instructor your specific objectives)
  • Hire a coach (they can help you practice or help you discover the root cause)

5 Ways Leaders Bust Confidence

Leaders work hard to build confidence in their teams.

They know that building confident teams and people is vital to success.

Confident team members are more creative, communicate more effectively,

and take more risks.

Plus, it’s easier to delegate to a confident person.

Sometimes the very actions leaders take to create confidence, can backfire. How does what was meant to be a confidence-builder become a confidence buster? It’s a matter of depth.

Here are a few ways well-intentioned leaders destroy confidence (from the follower’s point of view):

 1. Give me a new big task, because you believe in me

… but don’t give me enough support to succeed

2. Tell me I am doing great

…with no details as to what is working

3. Recognize what I do at work

… and ignore who I am and what I am accomplishing on the sidelines

4. View me as a specialist

… and overlook my creative ideas and what I could contribute to the bigger picture

5. Stay calm, cool, and collected

… and show no emotion around my big wins

The common thread through all of these well-intentioned actions is how much the leader invests. Building confidence requires exploring deeply with someone. Understanding what they are most proud of and building on that through specific opportunities, feedback and recognition.

It also involves getting into the muck, working a few levels below the obvious insecurity to understand what scares them, and helping them to overcome those fears one step at a time.

With subtle shifts in approach, leaders can build on their positive intentions, and work to create stronger, more-confident followers.