The Courage Zone

As another new year approaches, many people are shifting their minds to change. The end of a year is a time to reflect and make goals to be better in the new year. But change takes courage and often forces us out of our comfort zone. But first, it’s time to get acquainted with your courage zone.

Every leader needs a courage zone.

When we talk about courageous leadership in our workshops, we talk about the comfort zone. We all have a comfort zone and that is the place where we feel confident and capable. That is also the zone where we are not pushed to learn new ideas or challenge ourselves with different responsibilities. Learning does not happen in a zone of comfort.

Learning occurs in discomfort. Ginny Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, sums it up perfectly,

“Growth and comfort don’t coexist.”

It is important not to make yourself so uncomfortable that you freeze, but a certain amount of discomfort means that you are stepping into your courage zone. If you want to push yourself to new heights personally or professionally, you have to step into the courage zone.

The kicker is that this zone looks different for each of us. It could be that the idea of public speaking makes you tremble. That tremble means you are in your courage zone. Perhaps the possibility of taking on a new job that requires skills that eclipse your current skillset makes your heart race. That speeding heart means you are in your courage zone. Or maybe the idea of being truthful with your boss and letting them in on a personal matter that is affecting you at work makes your palms sweat. Those sweaty palms mean you are in your courage zone.

Workplace courage looks different to each of us because what causes us fear is different. I hope you have already identified some ways that you can challenge yourself to step into your courage zone more often, but that’s not the point about leadership I want to make today. Today, I want you to consider that your greatest responsibility as a leader is to encourage those you lead out of their comfort zones and into their courage zones.

If you want your organization to succeed and your people to flourish, they have got to be in a courageous culture. A place where new ideas are encouraged, people are given the time to speak up and share their point of view, and trust-filled relationships are developed. Good leaders want to develop the skills of the people around them. That means you have got to encourage them to move into their courage zone more often.

How do you get them into their courage zone? First, you have to find out what they want to accomplish and what causes them fear. Make these conversations part of the annual review process and incorporate this into how you hold them accountable. You also have to model courage to them. Tell them about the times that you moved through discomfort, even though something was risky or caused your heart to beat fast. Model and encourage courageous behavior. As a leader, you might end up impressed where your people lead you.

How will you encourage your team to get into their courage zone more often?

Updated December 2021.

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash.

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