What’s Your Call to Courage?

by Zach Montroy, SPHR

Almost 100% of the companies I work with have a list of stated core values. Some even spend a lot of money to mount them on the wall in an attractive way…but fewer than 10% of organizations across the country actually do the work of putting these core values into play so that employees understand how to integrate them into their day-to-day work. 

It’s not a matter of posting values on the wall – it’s a matter of using them to transform the daily operations of a company. When we look for healthy team cultures, we’re looking for leaders who say, “These are our values, and they serve as our guideposts for how we’re going to work and operate together. 

The reason I’ve come to do the work I do (helping transform the way leaders lead and teams operate together) comes from a ton of personal experience. For years, I got to see unhealthy leaders and teams close up. I determined that if I’m going to live out my own personal values of connection, challenge, and courage, then I’ve got to help other organizations do the same. Once I begin doing the work for myself, I can then connect with leaders and teams, challenge them to be their best selves, and teach them to live out courage.

In my work with leaders, I teach them how to give people the freedom to show up as their whole-hearted selves at work. Courage, trust, and bravery are the foundation for healthy teams. 

Unhealthy Leaders Leave a Mark

My own experience has taught me that healthy leadership is often viewed as something to be gained by osmosis – which is far from the truth.

I started work early, on a work permit at the age of 14. As an employee of KB Toys, I only knew I had to start making money to pay for college, and I worked as hard as I could. I was given more and more leadership, and training consisted of a stack of VHS tapes that were meant to teach me how to lead a team. It was insufficient at best.

As a young adult, I found out the boss I was working for at my full-time job was embezzling money from the company. When I confronted him, I was fired on the spot, and told that I needed to get on board with the people in power and keep my mouth shut.

The result? I had a crisis at the age of 22 on the nature of leadership. I had to face up to the prospect of what the rest of my future career might look like, and I knew what I didn’t want that to be. I wanted my legacy to be defined by the way I positively impacted people and organizations. 

How Do We Ensure We Stay Courageous?

At the heart of successful teams are people who are committed to productive conflict, to being creative, and living wholeheartedly. It’s not something that happens by accident. Leaders are required to be incredibly courageous to create this type of environment. 

Throughout my work, I continually ask folks in executive leadership roles, “What does it look like for you to show up and be courageous at work?” Courage, like leadership, isn’t an inborn trait. It’s a skill that can be developed over time.

What do these soft skills have to do with work? What we call work is, in reality, a bunch of interactions that we have with other people. Whether you’re an engineer, product developer, or project manager – emotions come along with your daily to-do list. When you’re led by people who have your best interest at heart, it impacts your life.

Great leaders develop a psychological commitment to trust. It’s not easy – and it requires continual deposits in the “marble jar” of your employee’s trust. When you prove that you’re trustworthy, your team will believe you.

Who we are is how we lead. It’s the work of being inwardly sound as an individual that it formulates how we lead. 

Be Courageous Enough to Cultivate Vulnerability

I’ve been in the C suite, and I haven’t seen any leaders, and I’ve served managers responsible for production on warehouse floors and been surrounded by leaders. Leadership is not a mantle of title or position – it’s about having a growth mindset, and we all have the possibility and privilege of being a leader no matter our title or position. It’s about having the courage to develop yourself. 

When you’re courageous enough to be vulnerable, you can create an atmosphere of trust with your team. Thriving teams that produce long-term healthy results build trust as part of their culture. 

What happens when your team trusts one another? Hard conversations can happen in a safe space. When changes need to be made, folks will come alongside one another and put in the effort together.  

Every moment in the workplace is a moment to build trust or erode it. Trust isn’t built in big moments. It starts with you. It starts with our teams. It starts with an intention to live this out on a daily basis. 

Our Work At The Intention Collective

If you’re feeling like you and your organization may need a bit more guidance to develop this kind of radically vulnerable workplace, we can help be your guide. The Intention collective provides coaching and support for executive leaders and the organizations they serve. Reach out to find out more.

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