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Braver at Work

Braver at Work: Questions to Inspire Your Next Courageous Act (with Video)

by | May 16, 2022 | By Karin Hurt and David Dye |

Gain the Confidence to Be Braver at Work

Whenever we ask participants in our Courageous Cultures or Team Innovation programs to share a time that felt particularly brave at work, the room explodes with powerful energy.

People love to share times when they were scared and did the right thing anyway.

Sometimes we even construct a “Courage Buffet” so people can share their courageous moments privately and publicly at the same time. This leads to poignant sharing and powerful insights.

Perhaps some of these moments of courage will feel familiar to you. Moments where someone…

  • “confronted my boss’ bad decision”
  • “fired a poor performer after years of everyone looking the other way”
  • “had the courage to walk away from a toxic situation”
  • “stood up for a coworker being discriminated against.”
  • “fired a customer.”
  • “defended a co-worker against a bully.”

We’re curious. What’s a time YOU felt brave at work? (We would love to hear your stories in the comments).

Most of these stories are not about Bravery with a capital “B”—the front-page news stories of whistle-blowing and confronting ethical breaches.

They are stories with a lower-case “b”—choices to take a small, uncomfortable risk for the good of the business, team, the customer, or themselves.

How Does Courage Make You Feel?

When we ask about how being courageous at work made them feel, the answers are remarkably consistent. People report that they felt:

  • “Fantastic”
  • “Strong”
  • “Relieved”
  • “Proud”
  • “Stupid that I Waited So Long”

Avoiding Regrets of Boldness

This discussion of courageous moments often leads to confessions of regrets – those times when you don’t act.

Dan Pink calls these “regrets of boldness” in his book, the Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward.

Dan collected 20,000 regrets from people around the world. In fact, you can take take part in this ongoing World Regret Survey here.

He found that people have the same four regrets, and one of them is a “Regret of Boldness.” (Learn more in this short interview:)

on being brave at work and not regretting boldness with Dan Pink

Here are examples of regrets we heard from audience members in one of our recent Courageous Cultures keynotes.

  • “My regret is not talking to my boss about this sooner. She was so receptive.”
  • “I wasted years in a toxic job, but I was too scared to leave.”
  • “I knew what we were doing was wrong—still wake up at night feeling guilty.”

5 Powerful Questions That Will Help You Be a Bit Braver at Work

Our goal today is to save YOU a regret or two. Or, to help you encourage courage in your mentoring or coaching conversations.

1. Why is this courageous act so important?

One of the most interesting side findings in our psychological safety research was that when people described their courageous acts, they told us, “At the time it didn’t feel remarkably courageous, I was just doing what needed to be done.” They were brave at work because the cause mattered.

2. What does a successful outcome look like?

You can gain confidence to be braver at work by visualizing success. What’s better because of your courageous action? What will be better when you take action this time?

3. What’s at stake if I don’t act? (Will I regret not doing something?)

This one’s the inverse of number two. What’s the consequence of inertia?

Consider what happens if you don’t speak up or address the concern. What if no one else does anything either? What are the consequences?

4. Imagine you’ve just taken courageous action, what do you notice about yourself?

Dr. Amy Edmondson of Harvard, who wrote The Fearless Organization and the foreword to our book, talks about the risk of “discounting the future,” or underestimating the future value of speaking up and over-weighting their current fear. This question can help you be braver at work by visualizing those powerful, positive feelings that come from doing the right thing.

5. What do others notice about you after this brave-at-work moment?

This final question can be fun to consider too. Confidence and daring are contagious. They may or may not even know about the courageous act—many of these acts of courage necessarily happen behind closed doors. But they might just notice a renewed sense of calm, peace, or maybe even some healthy, well-earned pride.

Looking for more ways to speak up and be a bit more courageous at work?

Check out these articles, or download the first chapters of Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates for FREE.

Your Turn

We would love to hear from you. What’s a moment that you were brave at work that makes you proud? Do you have any “regrets of boldness”?

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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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