courageousMention the word ‘courage’ and the image that springs to mind is typically the hero fireman rescuing the child from the burning building, or the intrepid adventurer scaling the heights of majestic mountains. But according to a fascinating talk at the recent CIPD Learning and Development Show, a courageous mind-set is something we could all usefully adopt at work too.

Liz Vallani of consultancy Courageous Success suggested that many of us are stuck in what she describes as ‘unconscious complacency,’ trapped in habits and routines that we are not even aware of and that are holding us back. If we want to take our performance to the next level – and make a real difference to the organisations we work for – we need to get a bit ‘grittier’, ‘gutsier’ and bring a ‘spirit of adventure’ to our work.

Now, you may feel that this willingness to be courageous and push the boundaries is an innate quality that some people have and others simply don’t. Recent research, however, is telling us otherwise. Work being done in the field of education, for example, has shown that adopting a growth mindset (the belief that intelligence is not fixed, but something you can grow) can help us achieve bigger and better things. Research by US psychologist Angela Duckworth also suggests that ‘grit’ (the ability to stick to goals and keep going when the going gets tough) is a bigger predictor of success than intelligence – and a quality that can be developed.

HR is a challenging field to work in. Practitioners are under pressure to achieve more with less, to respond to constant changes in the world of work and to deal with hugely difficult and often emotional people-related situations. So, what can you as an HR practitioner do to get more courageous in your role and take your performance and impact to new heights?

1. Don’t let challenge paralyse you

The board’s request for a new employee engagement strategy (by next week) may be taking you out of your comfort zone, but get stuck straight in rather than worrying about what you don’t know and can’t do. Welcome challenges with open arms and you will be surprised at what you can achieve.

2. Be prepared to make mistakes

There is no failure, only feedback—or so the saying goes. Our biggest learning experiences often come from our mistakes, so shift your mindset towards seeing failure as a ‘gift’ and an opportunity to develop your skills. The new benefits package may have bombed, but you will have learnt important lessons about how you need to communicate next time round to get better buy-in from employees.

3. Push through obstacles

It’s easy to get frustrated and give up if people are constantly putting barriers and objections in the way of what you are trying to achieve. But forcing yourself to fight on when you feel deflated will help you grow more grit. Getting the budget agreed for a new HR system may be an uphill battle, but if you persist in pushing your case you may well get sign-off – and will probably feel better equipped to stand your ground with senior management on other issues too.

4. Keep your emotions in check

Don’t let anger or frustration get the better of you in situations where you may have to deal with a particularly difficult employee or stubborn and unsupportive manager, for example. Develop your awareness of how you are likely to react in challenging circumstances and plan for how you will keep your emotions in control and manage the situation calmly and rationally.

5. Trust your gut

Believe in your ability to make the right decision. If your heart is telling you that the senior level hire everyone else wants to recruit is wrong for the business, don’t be afraid to speak out. Believe in yourself and stay the course.

Information courtesy of Courageous Success 

One action to take this week: Find out how ‘gritty’ you are by taking the grit quiz 

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.