The High Cost of Gutlessness

Have you stopped to assess the cost of lack of courage in your organisation? For example: have you costed the failure to manage poor performers. Or the cost of lost productivity when team dynamics go awry and no-one has the courage to deal with the situation because “I don’t want to upset them”.

What about the cost to an organisation when groupthink prevails at the very top. For example, when the CEO is surrounded by ‘yes’ people who, often due to a heightened sense of self-preservation and a fear of rocking the boat, fail to challenge the CEO about the strategic direction of the company or some other decision or direction where the CEO has got it wrong or is in danger of making a big mistake.

The origins of courage

Here’s what Charles A. Smith has to say: “Courage is persevering despite fear. It is gumption, grit, and the capacity to get up after a setback, with one’s heart on fire. The word comes from the French curage for “putting one’s heart into action.” Courage is an essential virtue, a source of strength that contributes to all significant human endeavors. Every great accomplishment requires courage… courage simply is “making the decision to do what you know is right.”

A day comes in every person’s life when there is a choice between acting out of fear and doing the right thing… Courage finds its roots in two fundamental skills learned during early childhood: persevering despite adversity and remaining mindful despite fear.

This wariness and self-protection are critical skills…The problem with fear, though, is that its arousal can trigger mind-numbing panic. The natural push of fear to flight makes self-control challenging. Courage, like all growth, requires taking risks. Remaining mindful despite fear means acting with grace under pressure. (It means learning) to link the thinking part of our brains (the cortex) with the emotional arousal in the center of our brains (the limbic system).”

Charles A. Smith, PhD, is a parent educator and extension specialist in the School of Family Studies and Human and Human Services at Kansas State University in Manhattan. 

Three recent examples where courage was missing – and yes, these are true!

Example one: A manager devised a 360 degree performance feedback scheme for himself and his team with a rating of 1 to 5 where five was ‘above and well beyond expectations’ and one was essentially abysmal. When he received the feedback forms from his team (who acted very courageously), he received mostly ones and twos. He simply told his team that they would re-do the assessment in 6 months time and promptly filed the feedback in a bin.

Example two: at a major retail outlet in Sydney, the system for queuing and paying was so disorganised that the customers were getting irritated about the length of the wait for service. When the store manager was told the system was not working, she responded: “well it’s been alright up to now” and she walked away. So clearly the customers were the problem!!

Another customer followed up with: ‘We are trying to give you some helpful feedback”, to which she replied: “there’s nothing wrong with the system”. Then the store started to lose big money as angry customers put down their intended purchases and simply walked out. Finally after further interchanges, the manager said: “Look I only do what I’m told. It’s nothing to do with me” and walked away.

I was astonished to have witnessed this and became even more so when another staff member was saying under her breath: “Let her have it!”

Example three: prior to an off-site managers’ workshop to discuss how to move the organisation forward, the staff had given extensive confidential feedback to the facilitator about the financial results – mood dependent chief executive and how that led to a lack of trust in promises that the CEO made. Poor results would usually mean the CEO would do a back flip on previous promises. This in turn led to nervousness on the part of the staff to take risks or a long term approach to the business.

When finally one person had the courage to raise this during the workshop, he was not supported by the other members of staff; nor did the CEO accept what was being said. The trust issue remained unresolved and needless to say, no real progress made on the issue of how to move the company forward.

Do you surround yourself with courageous people? You should – it’s an employee retention strategy.

It’s a courageous act to surround yourself with courageous people and what an extraordinary place it would be to work. People would be challenged to grow and contribute, listen, be listened to, think outside the square and feel valued and supported. This is what employees tell us they want so see it as part of your employee retention strategy.

Your customers would also benefit as the culture of being courageous would extend to the way staff dealt with customers, listening carefully to their feedback and ideas for improvement. What a low cost way to do research that would improve your performance in the market place.

So why do we hold back? What can we do about it?

What holds us back from being as courageous as we could be? The Almond Effect ® – our fear based on past experiences. Let me share the first step in overcoming The Almond Effect with an extract from my e-book: Where Did That Come From? 

“Start by identifying the physical sensations you experience prior to, or during, an episode of The Almond Effect ®. Think back to times when you ‘lost it’. What were you feeling, physically? Tick the ones that apply to you on this list.

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweaty palms and/or underarms
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Blushing
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Tight neck and shoulders
  • Foot tapping or finger drumming
  • Teeth grinding
  • Increased, erratic or shallow breathing
  • Add your own:
  1. When you did notice the sensation – was it already too late to do anything about it?
  2. What could you have done if you’d gone into reaction management mode straight away, as soon as you noticed the sensation?
  3. What could you try to do differently when you feel these things in the future?

Make some notes about your answers to these questions somewhere where you can look at them often, especially your answer to question three.

Start training yourself to become body aware so that when you notice any of these physical reactions begin to develop, so you can take steps to get yourself back in control. Whatever you do, don’t forget to breathe!”

There are more than 80 additional tips in Where Did That Come From?

For more details, sample chapters and table of contents, click here

Ask Anne

Do you have a question or comment about The Almond Effect®?

Or do you want to know more about how to attract, retain and motivate your employees, delight your customers and have stress-free relationships at home?

If so, email me and I will provide an answer or solution on my blog or privately if you prefer.

© 2009 – 2014, Anne Riches. All rights reserved.