>Courage in the first instance, not the tenth!

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I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.  In workplaces large and small, there is a silent plague.  People are immobilised like possums in the headlights.  What’s the cause of all this workplace stuckness?  The line manager needs to tell her direct report that he needs to start coming in to work on time.  The Executive Assistant needs to tell the MD that his way of interrupting others at the Management Team meeting is affecting morale.  The admin staff need to tell their boss to stop micro-managing and let them get on with their work.  In all of these real-life situations, people are scared that if they say the ‘hard thing’, they will lose respect, damage a good working relationship or be seen as the office ogre.  After all, getting on at work is all about popularity, isn’t it?
Performance management is not about dressing up problems to make them look good; it’s not about ‘saying three (…or five…or ten…) positive things for one negative thing’; it’s not about beating about the bush; it’s not always about the old FIFO principle; and it’s certainly not about avoiding the issues.  However, avoiding the issue is often the favoured choice of managers who are in the position of having to performance manage their staff.
A wise teacher once suggested that it requires the same amount of courage to do something difficult, whether you do it instantly or leave it until later.  What courage in the first instance does, however, is prevent the build up of layers of unnecessary strife that ALSO needs to be dealt with later on, when the initial issue snowballs into something major.  If we think bigger about a difficult conversation we can see that it is only fair to give a person the opportunity to modify their behaviour before THEY themselves become the issue – what a great incentive for dealing with the issue early.  The lesson, then, is ‘courage in the first instance; not the tenth’. 
It is indeed possible to train yourself in courage.  Use of action learning techniques, such as Role Training, generates the new behaviours alongside new attitudes.  The old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks doesn’t apply here, either.  Research in the area of emotional intelligence does indicate that these capabilities are both recognisable and learnable.  Old dogs are learning new tricks well into their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in fact.  
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2 thoughts on “>Courage in the first instance, not the tenth!

  1. >Spot on John. In my experience, it's one thing acquiring the skillset required as a manager, it's another gaining the aptitude with people, or "emotional intelligence", to know that the probability for desired outcome is greatest when courage is coupled with the ability to inspire. Nice post!

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