The book Courage Goes to Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance, and Get Results hit the bookstores in fall 2008, just about the time the financial markets imploded.
While the author Bill Treasurer makes an incredibly convincing argument about how we need to help employees conquer their fears to be more energetic, innovative, and productive, there has been little interest in building workforce courage.
Instead, just the opposite as happened. Almost as fast as Lehman Brothers collapsed, those old standby feelings, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), burrowed into the workplace.
The findings of the new study Communicating for Engagement, commissioned by the CIPR Inside, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ specialist group for internal communicators, punctuate this problem.
There’s a big gap between what internal communicators do and what they believe they should do to build engagement and lead change.
For instance, according to the research, the overwhelming majority of internal communicators (91%) spend less than 25% of their time on employee feedback and research. A big majority (71%) spend less than 25% of their time on line manager and team communications.
Yet, almost the same percentage said they wanted to spend more time on employee feedback, research and line manager and team communications. However, they felt restrained for a variety of reasons—not enough support from leaders, not feeling empowered, not having enough resources.
Why is this such a problem? These actions plus strategic communication are what support employee engagement, as identified in the 2009 UK Engaging for Success study that informed the work of this CIPR Inside task force.
The results corroborate the findings from Connect’s survey this past summer, Being a Strategic Communication Advisor about the divide between leaders and communication advisors. The majority of the communication advisors who responded said leaders were primarily responsible for the gap between what leaders want and what they get in terms of strategic support. To a lesser extent, survey respondents said that communicators are also at fault. We have poor consulting skills, low business acumen and inadequate political skills.
We need more courage to:
- Ask questions.
- Speak succinctly with candor.
- Slow down and take time to get input from others.
- Be assertive and suggest other, better ways.
- Insist on getting data to guide our actions.
- Take the initiative.
- Stand up for our convictions and points of view.
- Say “no” to wasteful work.
- See ourselves in a new, different role—not just the order taker or jester but the strategic advisor.
- Think big.
We do need to be braver, both in our thoughts and our actions. For example, if you sense that what you’re doing isn’t getting the results you and the leaders you support need, don’t hide it; highlight it. If you talk about challenges—and opportunities—in the context of real business issues, it’s less likely you’ll be killed as the messenger. And if you’re shot at, take that as a sign you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For those of you who are independent communication consultants and you want to be more courageous, join me for a free telecall on Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 am PT. We’ll talk about actions you can take to boost your confidence so you become an influential thought partner and trusted strategic advisor, not just another pair of hands. Sign up here.
You also may be interested in the Strategic Action Group for Independent Consultants that I’m offering for the first time in January. Working with me and up to seven peers, you can get more comfortable speaking up more frequently, more forcefully and more truthfully.
Are you ready to be more courageous?
Connect the dots plus dot the “i”s to be more intentional, inquisitive and inclusive
How well are you tapping into the skills and wisdom you need to lead in a BANI world?
All the old playbooks are out-of-date. Instead, you need to reach inside yourself, tap into your wisdom, and connect the dots for yourself and others.
To start, you can use these 5 tips to embrace your humanity and become a better leader.