86: Have You Activated Your Leadership Courage?

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Bill Treasurer believes the world needs more courageous leaders. In this episode, he shares how he found his courage and offers advice on how you can find yours. Bill explains what courage is, the different types of courage, and the role that gender and career progression plays in the type of courage that a person will manifest. He offers advice on how to develop your courage and to inspire a climate of courage around you.
Bill founded Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company, and he is the author of the best-selling book, Courage Goes to Work. In 2017 he released the book, A Leadership Kick in the Ass, which focuses on the importance of leadership humility.  Prior, Bill served as an executive in Accenture’s Change Management and Human Performance practice. He eventually became the $35B company’s first full-time internal executive coach. Bill attended West Virginia University on an athletic scholarship for springboard diving and received his Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay.
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Bill.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • How Bill found his courage. Prior to starting his current business 18 years ago, Bill worked for “Executive Adventure” where he facilitated 300 experiential team building events. He was also with a boutique consulting company called High Performing Systems. If you rewind far enough, Bill was a springboard diver who was afraid of heights. He had won the Westchester County Diving Championships three times. Colleges were offering sponsorships but wanted to hear about his high board dives, which he didn’t have because he was petrified of heights. Bill’s coach took him to Iona College, the only college in the country with a hydraulic lift diving board. His coach would move the board from 1 meter to 1 ½ meters, and so on. Through the process of modulating between comfort and discomfort, Bill’s coach would nudge him out of discomfort, let him stay there long enough to acquire new skills and get comfortable, and then move him back out into discomfort. Ultimately, he received a full scholarship to college and became a member of the US High Diving Team, making dives of over 100 ft. That is how Bill found his courage.
  • Bill Treasurer Quote on HR Studio PodcastUsing ‘lead-ups’ to build courage. Once Bill knew how to stand at the edge of risk and figure his way off the platform, it eventually led to the founding premise of his business, Giant Leap Consulting, helping people take whatever giant leap they may be facing. Everyone has had to take career high dives, however, there are no hydraulic lifts where you can do things incrementally. However, you can do ‘lead-ups’. You don’t have to jump from 100 feet before you do 100 jumps from one foot. If you have an aspiring leader, have them facilitate a meeting while you are on vacation so that they get a small taste of what it is like to be responsible for a team. Give people small lead-ups, on their journey.
  • Goal setting to take risks and move out of your comfort zone. A playwright from Chicago, James Neil Hollingworth (also known as Ambrose Hollingworth Redmoon) penned the expression, ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.’ Meaning – when you need to activate your courage, start with a challenging goal that is worthy of the expansion of your courage.  Organizationally, come up with strategies for people to exercise their courage. Individually, work with people to define their goals and stretch them enough to move them into discomfort. Senator John McCain wrote a book called Why Courage Matters, and in it, he states, ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity to act despite our fears.’ 
  • Courage is being fearful. It is not fearlessness. When you are in a courageous moment, your knees are shaking and your palms are sweating. As long as you are moving forward, that is courage. If you don’t have the presence of fear, what you are doing is not courageous.
  • The Types of Courage. There are different kinds of fear and three different behavioral expressions of courage. ​
    1. Try Courage – the courage to try the first time, first attempts. It is the courage of action and often requires encountering the unknown. It takes courage because there is risk. 
    2. Trust Courage – the courage to release the need to control, the courage of emotional vulnerability. Delegate to someone, and do not hover or snatch it back if they are not doing it the way you want it done. Entrust people. The risk is that if you entrust and the person handles it incorrectly, it becomes a reflection on you. Also, if you entrust someone, they could betray you. As a leader, you have to trust and be comfortable in your own skin to show authenticity, to be real – and imperfect. 
    3. Tell Courage or the Courage of Voice or Assertiveness – the courage of the truth-teller – speaking honesty and honestly with each other. The risk is that if you say something against the grain of the group, there is a chance you could be banished from the group. This is not about being a malcontent, it is just being truthful. Voice your loyal opposition. There is a time, a place, and a way to do it. Show you are in it. Show you are loyal, that you love your company and what you are doing. Show that you love it so much, you are going to voice your opinion or truth if it is in the service of doing the right thing for the company, even if others disagree. Then it is much more digestible.
  • Stephen Covey, who wrote the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, also wrote the book, The  8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness. In it, he talks about finding your own voice and to let it out.  Then, help to activate the voice of others as well. Henry David Thoreau is often credited with the quote, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still inside them’.  Covey is talking about finding your own song and expressing it and then helping other people find their song and expressing it as well.
  • The Courageous Leadership Profile Insights. The profile has been administered to thousands of people. Early data suggested that women have a greater propensity for Trust Courage – focusing on relationships. Men have a greater propensity for Tell Courage – speaking bluntly. The team has also seen a level-consciousness as well. The lower you go in an organization, the more tongue-biting occurs. People suspect what to avoid. As you go up in the organization, it is expected that you will have a bold opinion and will assert yourself. You will learn how to do it politically and survive, but there is more expression of boldness the higher you go up – and there is less trust the higher you go up because people have been ‘burned’ and have become jaded over time from betrayal. Therefore, they have a harder time trusting at the top.
  • Leaders have an expectation that younger employees new to the workforce or those who are newer to the company will have Try Courage – these are people who do not know the ropes yet, but leaders will throw them in to see what they can do, expecting that they will have the ability.  Leaders nudge them in that direction. It is a good testing ground.
  • Are there tactics to use as a way to develop courage? Assess which buckets are high for you. Ask yourself, ‘where am I playing it too safe?’. That will move you in the direction of what is the next courageous thing for you to do. At a certain point, too much safety can be a dangerous thing. Every risk can be broken into two – the risk of action and the risk of inaction. You can typically see the risk of action. The consequences of not taking a risk can take longer to see but are often more dangerous than the risk of action.
  • There is a fourth, bonus bucket. There were originally four buckets of courage. It was ultimately reduced to three for the book. However, the fourth was:
4. Take-In Courage – the courage of reception.  People are bad at receiving feedback.  Have the courage to hear feedback or different points of view and not take offense or feel threatened, allowing yourself to consider, ‘might I need to change?’, and having the courage to embrace that and move forward. This is true of both critical and positive feedback. Positive feedback is sometimes dismissed, more so by women. Take critical and positive feedback receptively.
  • Bill Treasurer Quote on HR Studio PodcastTake-In Courage is critical for senior leaders. Leadership itself can be very seductive because people are treating leaders special because they are the leader, and leaders begin to believe their own marketing. Leaders can reach a ‘hubris’ point where they become a danger to themselves and others. This is when a leader needs feedback. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and discipline to overcome the natural hubristic tendencies leadership seduction can cause.
  • Bill offered advice for leaders, practical things to build into day-to-day leadership behaviors.
1. What can you do to be more courageous? There are three key questions to ask yourself.
  • What do I want? Take accountability.
  • When is the last time I did something for the first time?
  • What will I regret the least? This is the theory of least regret. What will happen with this bold move if I wipe out and get hurt, or not try and having to live with not knowing if it would have been successful?
2. What can you do to inspire a climate of courage?
  • Deputize people around you to call you out, to be able to give you feedback out of loyalty. Create the expectation that you do not want to be surrounded by ‘yes’ people, that you want your team to push back.
  • Coach on how to disagree with you in a way that your authority is not being disrespected.
  • As a leader, create safety. Convince people you want to hear feedback and create a safe way to hear it. Create physical and psychological safety.

Bill Treasurer HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Bill Treasurer HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 8:00am
HR Consulting
Fred Bunsa
Bill Treasurer
HR Studio Podcast