It Takes a Team to Build a Courage Brand
By Ryan Berman
One of the joys about living on the service side of business is that you’re granted exposure to dozens of diverse industries. Where most go deep into one vertical, I’ve been fortunate to experience breadth. One day I’m sitting in a meeting with Hilton or Caesars Entertainment and, the next, I’m on the phone with a leader at Aetna. From hospitality to life inside a hospital, one of the key behind-the-scenes insights I’ve discovered is that building a Courage Brand is not a Do-It-Yourself activity. Courage thrives when people Do-It-Together, especially in today’s rapid-fire global economy where standing still is deadly and change is the only way forward.
But change is hard, and that’s why implementing the four principles of courage, described below, is essential. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Your Talent
It all starts with the talent you recruit. When your talent is truly top-notch, you can empower them with the ability to steer your corporate raft. As Steve Jobs once said: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people, so they tell us what to do.”
When it comes to corporate courage, you need to not only pick your spot, but also pick competent raft mates who round out your raft. Assuming you don’t want the raft to sink, there are only so many spots available. What collection of diverse skills do you hope others have, that you don’t? Are they strong communicators? Do they have a positive attitude?
What separates your very best people from the rest? Their ability to consistently be counted on to get the job done. What’s the most beautiful thing about the most talented people? They never think they are talented enough, so they keep pushing, working, and stretching themselves to be better. They have a constant desire to continue to grow their talents. Never stop helping your talent become more talented. We’ll get to “the how” later in this article.
2. Your Team
Did you know diamonds and graphite are made up of the same stuff? Both the cherished diamond and the less-glamorous, chalky graphite are made up of carbon atoms. Yet one is known for its extraordinary brightness, strength, and value, and the other is dull, black, and absorbent. How can two substances composed of the exact same stuff be so different? The answer is how the carbon atoms are arranged.
A diamond’s atoms are tightly bonded. The atoms of graphite consist of flat bonds. Some of these bonds are strong, but they are often working with weaker bonds. Graphite is more cooperative than diamonds, perhaps too cooperative. This means that some of the strong bonds try to make the most of the looser bonds. These weaker delocalized bonds tend to loosely slide and glide over one another—ultimately diminishing the potential of what could have been.
You want your team to be bonded by bright, valuable and, quite often, uncompromising members. Having your senior leaders function like a firm, desirable and transparent diamond is one way to make an admired, harmonious work culture. The structure, tightness, and rigid conviction exuded by a united team can be the difference between success and failure.
3. Your Tenacity
So here you are. You’re with the right team members, on your competent, committed business raft full of talent. That diverse talent makes up a team with the right mind-set to conquer terrifying business uncertainties. This brings us to our third principle regarding how the team grittily takes on tomorrow’s unknowns: tenacity.
My book, “Return On Courage”, which helps companies operationalize courage, almost had a different name: Willing Courage Brands. I adore the double meaning of the word “willing”. It not only means being open-minded (which can be hard for a leader’s ego to surrender) but also showing the will to grit it out in the hardest of arenas. This is tenacity. Tenacity is nothing more than persistence plus resilience. Tenacity draws upon willingness, commitment, and a healthy dose of determination to power through unforeseen obstacles on the quest for your desired outcome.
There will be speed bumps along the way. Though when you’re ready for the hiccups and hurdles of business, it’s better to face them with a team of tenacious warriors who share your values, resilience, and attitude. Attitude certainly matters, and a dose of positive tenacity can go a long way.
Even if you fail on “work experiments”, when you power through with tenacity, you can learn from those failures and turn them into positives. Over time, you will create better outcomes.
4. Your Training
Navy SEALs meticulously train for missions over an extended period of time. Their training includes process, practice, and repetition for hours on end. A marathon runner also embarks on this same type of training. Long distance runners don’t simply wake up one morning and conquer a marathon. There’s regimented training. There’s a reason 99 percent of marathon runners finish their races: It’s because they are disciplined.
That discipline is a critical component of training for courage.
For many in business, the lack of rigorous workplace training is a gargantuan problem. We are not proficient at providing our employees with the proper tools to take action in the office. Either the training time is too short, or the programming is not as potent as it needs to be. We don’t get the luxury to go away for 6 weeks for corporate basic training. For most of us, we’re thrown into the wars of work 72 hours into the job.
This is the core thinking behind launching my “Courage Bootcamp” as an 8 week online program that helps companies operationalize courage. The focus is to help courageous difference-makers install courage in their business by first instilling courage in their people.
What I’ve learned of studying the topic over the last three years is that training the brain is the answer. Being prepared helps keep us away from our instinctive freeze, fight, or flight reactions to tough situations.
The irony? When training transforms into instinct, the idea of courage fades. Skilled teams that have been properly trained don’t believe that they’re courageous. The training has fully taken over, and muscle memory is at work.
Ryan Berman, author of RETURN ON COURAGE, is the Founder of Courageous, a creative consultancy that develops Courage Brands® and trains organizations through Courage Bootcamp, an 8 week online program that helps companies operationalize courage. Berman is also the founder of Sock Problems, a charitable sock company that supports causes around the world by “socking” problems and spreading awareness.