Fast Company Features Return on Courage

These are the 4 essential components to becoming more courageous.

At the current churn rate, about half of the S&P 500 companies will be replaced in the next 10 years, predicts Innosight, who are strategy consultants. And 52% of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 2000 are no longer in business, reports the Harvard Business Review. It’s a matter of what got you here won’t keep you here, but change is hard, says Ryan Berman, author of Return on Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change.

“We’re wired by evolution to be afraid of change,” says Berman. “At the center of you, calling the shots, is this thing called the central nervous system. We’re stuck in preservation mode, but to stay ahead of the competition, what we really need is to be courageous. You drive change, or change drives you. You must be willing to have courageous ideas; they’re the only thing that matters.”

Part of the problem is that many of us misunderstand what it takes to have courage. “There are several myths, but the biggest is that courage is being impulsive or careless,” he says. “That it’s a peripheral thing and not practical. That’s not true.”

Instead, courage is spotting a courageous opportunity in real time and having the ability to do something, even if it frightens you. “Knowledge plus faith plus action equals courage,” says Berman. “It has to be all three. Knowledge plus faith with no action is paralysis. Faith and action without knowledge is recklessness. Knowledge and action without faith is maintaining the status quo and staying safe.”

To be courageous, you need four building blocks, says Berman.

1. Talent

This is having the right talent to do the job at the highest level. At a company it starts with the people you recruit, says Berman.

“What’s the most beautiful thing about the most talented people?” he asks. “They never think they’re talented enough, so they keep pushing, working, and stretching themselves to be better. They have a constant desire to continue to grow their talents. They are driven, and they can be relied on to succeed time and time again.”

2. Team

Courage is a team sport that requires the right players, says Berman. The team must have breadth of experience that is aligned but doing different things.

“It’s about finding raft mates,” says Berman. “A raft is only so big with so many spots. Everyone has to communicate to move it in the right direction.”

The right people put the team first, says Berman. No one person is smarter than everyone else; and great people on great teams succeed together.

3. Tenacity

Once you have talent and a team, you need a mind-set that will help you conquer business uncertainties. You need a team that is experimenting together and has what it takes to get through hurdles, says Berman.

“Tenacity is persistence plus resilience,” he says. “It is in the constant pursuit of truth, a sibling of curiosity, and the antithesis of laziness. It draws upon willingness, commitment, and a healthy dose of determination to power through unforeseen obstacles on the quest for your desired outcome.”

4. Training

Warriors don’t start out that way, they take the time and steps to learn and transform into battle-ready soldiers, says Berman.

“An army trains its employees for eight weeks in a boot camp, yet most companies offer 72 hours of orientation,” he notes. “Training needs to be a priority.”

Train according to how you want to perform. “To train is to prepare,” says Berman. “Nicholas Alp, a fear expert and Cambridge [University] PhD, studied our natural freeze, fight or flight response and found that just five percent of us fight. We need to override the way we’re wired. The psychological speed bump we must often cope with is our protective central nervous system. How will you prepare and what knowledge do you need to go obtain to have faith to fight?”

Using Courage

Once you have the building blocks, put them into action by identifying and addressing your fears.

“Fear and courage are brothers, and you can’t get to courageous without channeling through the fear we suppress instead of address,” says Berman. “Fear causes shrinkage in business.”

Courageous people and courageous businesses embrace change, and change happens at the culture level. “What is a business but a shell of people?” asks Berman. “Unlocking courage in a workforce starts with the worker. Courage is the price for any person who wants to advance in their career or within a company.”

Being courageous is the ultimate competitive advantage, and the more it’s practiced, the easier it gets. “Courage breeds courage,” says Berman. “When you are courageous, it’s easier to continue because you’ve developed the momentum and energy. If you can create culture where courage breeds courage, the workforce will feel empowered, which can lead to greater happiness, less turnover, and more experimentation.”

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