Three Steps Effective Leaders Take to Build Team Courage

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This article is a part of the series Re-Inventing Leadership: 9 Things Virtual Leaders must focus on.

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Today, more than ever, our job as a leader is to build team courage.  

Why?

Let’s get real…what is on your mind all the time now?  

Pandemic, fires, kids at school, keeping your job, will you and your business make it through the pandemic?

The fear has affected everyone.

The main thing we are all aware of is the tremendous amount of uncertainty. We are dispersed, we are fearful, and we need leadership.

As we reinvent leadership, our job as leaders is to build team courage.

To build team courage, we need to acknowledge what’s going on, accept who we are (and others) and act.

Let’s dive deeper into these so we can build more courage on your team.

1)   Acknowledge What’s Going on

The first thing that leaders need to do is to acknowledge what’s going on.

We are all aware of what’s going on, but to acknowledge it and talk about it takes courage. Ignoring reality is not courageous, and ignoring reality denies your own self-awareness. It’s imperative that we talk about these things. Your job as a leader is to communicate, and ask questions to your team.

What’s scaring you?

How are you feeling?

What is physically going on? 

We are all facing change, stress, fear, and loneliness, and it’s time to start talking about these things.

Leaders need to be able to connect to their people to what is true for them right now.  Now is the time to get real.  Now is the time to feel and to express those feelings.

Personally, I am really concerned about my health, about the pandemic, and the fires. It is hard to concentrate, especially when it is hard to breathe, and other places have it much worse.  I’m frustrated that I can’t be with friends like I used to.  It is difficult that I have not been able to see my clients in person for months. As we are all focused on making it through this crisis, I’ve also noticed my connections starting to slip away. 

To build my own courage, I need to admit what is going on inside of me. 

We are all under a lot of pressure, separation, and confusion.  As leaders, we need to acknowledge it within ourselves, and with our teams.

As a leader, it is your job and opportunity to build connections by making time in your week to create permission to talk about what is truly going on inside of your direct reports.

2)    Accept Who We Are

The second step to build team courage is to accept who we are and what struggles we are facing right now. The struggle is part of being human.  It is not always pretty, not always happy, and not always ideal. But it is what makes us beautiful. This period of time is allowing you as a leader to have the conversations that you didn’t have time for before.  

This is the time to dive deep and connect with what people are going through. This is the time to say “yes it’s okay,” and “I appreciate and respect all of who you are.” 

It is also time to acknowledge that we are making it through this. We are making it through this AND we are showing remarkable fortitude in the face of unimaginable challenges, fear, and uncertainty.

Your role as a leader is to create space for acceptance so your people can own their feelings and acknowledge they are making it through this and becoming stronger because of it.

3)    Act

It is now time to build resiliency to strengthen our courage.  I know of only one way to do that…bring in the team.  Strength comes from sharing our challenges as a team and building solutions as a team. Building team courage is all about having these conversations with your team, and the only way to do that is for you to act. You need to begin these conversations.

Too many books focus on how you need to build courage and resiliency on your own.  I think it is a myth.  I think building courage is all about connecting with others, sharing our situation, and offering help to support another. Because sharing what is going on inside all of us is courageous.  As soon as we move from “I am scared,” to “let me help you,” we don’t learn how to be resilient, we ARE resilient.

Right now, more than any other time, you need to just stop, and act by asking your team the questions that will help them open up and build their courage. This will help get your team get to the other side of this with a new level of team courage. Your team will become so much more connected and courageous, that you will have an incredibly brave team when you do head back to the office.

In Re-inventing Leadership, I think that the pandemic and the fires are begging us, pleading with us, to take this time to be more human, connected, more truthful, and courageous.  We just need to bring this to the forefront as a team.