Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is courage?

Courage, says Brene Brown, comes from the Latin root, cor or heart. Its earliest meaning was: tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

Many people are afraid to be authentically themselves at work. We wear a mask -- I'm dependable; I'm smart; I'm tough; I'm nice. But that mask, even if it describes a part of who we are, hides the whole truth of who we are.

The cost to ourselves and others is that we find ourselves working to support that mask -- taking care not to do or say anything that might put a nick in it in others' eyes -- while others don't have access to those hidden parts of us that may be supportive of their work. Further, others may be more likely to wear a mask themselves because we do; we've made it de rigueur.

For example, let's say I maintain the nice-guy image at work. What do I do when someone asks me for something that is going to slow down my current projects? What do I say when I'm passed up for a promotion? Most likely, I say nothing. My company loses because I am less productive on my project in the short term and because they are missing the opportunity to fully utilize me long term. And clearly, I lose visibility and promotions.

Are you wearing a mask? What benefit does it provide? Would you be willing to risk that benefit? Why or why not? What would happen if you told the story of who you are with your whole heart?

If you have time:

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