By Kris McGuigan
President of Professional Courage, LLC
My company was aptly named Professional Courage based upon some feedback I received early in my career. I was working at as a healthcare project manager, attempting to influence a gaggle of professionals over whom I had no formal supervision. Influence without authority? I’m sure a few compliance folks can empathize with that scenario.
In any event, during an annual evaluation, my boss took note of the seemingly fearless approach I applied to solving problems. She called it professional courage. To this day, I consider it one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. When it came time to start my own career management business – to promote the mindset needed to encourage professionals to take their careers to the next level – the company name was a no-brainer.
Stepping outside of a registered LLC, what does having “professional courage” really mean? More importantly, how can you find it and leverage it to unleash your true potential?
What is Professional Courage?
Clients come to me with a laundry list of reasons why they can’t land their dream job or find fulfilling employment. Those already poised for advancement express hesitation to take that next step, even when all signs point to go. I have witnessed top-level executives freeze in the face of success. Every time – every single conversation – comes down to fear.
I believe at the core of every action we take, along with every moment of inaction, lies our fear. We face it everywhere we look and it can be debilitating. The cold-hard fact is, contrary to biological predispositions, the best chance we have of conquering that fright it is to step into it.
Professional courage is the act of continuously seizing the opportunities that surround us; stepping past our hesitations and into our potential, bringing confidence in the face of chaos.
How can I tap into my inherent potential?
As Susan Jeffers points out in her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, nothing removes fear aside from actually facing it. Think of courage as a muscle one needs to exercise. The more you stand up to your fears and hesitations, the stronger your self-trust – the belief you can handle whatever comes your way – becomes. It’s an amazing cycle of empowerment, and it’s easier to get started than you might think.
Establish an Accountability Source. Even the most powerful, self-made (wo)man needs someone to check in with now and again. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% likelihood of completing a goal if you commit to someone. Moreover, if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%. Moral of the story? Find a friend, colleague, and/or trusted thought partner and start talking about your goals.
Develop a Forward-Facing Mindset. Jeffers points out that, “pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.” Take on a bold approach to life, embracing the concept of courageous living to bring you closer to what is truly possible. Practice saying yes to the universe. Recognize a growth mindset wherein one does not fail, rather learns from all experiences, can serve you and your goals. Do not be afraid to try and fail. Be afraid to stand still.
Create a Clear Plan of Action. Plan the work and work the plan. Moving to a courageous mindset takes intention, but also strategy. As with everything in life, it helps to start small and gain confidence in your footing. There is a reason babies crawl before they walk. Contemplate your next career goal, and take the time to develop a detailed action plan for how to achieve it. Break the process down into so bite-sized pieces so that you may celebrate small success along the way, fueling the courage to take on mightier tasks along the way.
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