Use Courage—Not Fear—To Manage Your Team

Years ago, I wrote an international bestselling management book called, Courage Goes to Work. I’ve taught the concepts of courage-building in the workplace all over the world. One of the most profound principles is that when managers stop leading with fear and begin infusing courage in the workplace, there is a dramatic and positive effect that impacts everyone. The transformation is powerful and worth the shift in mindset and approach managers bring to the team and the company.

Stop Stoking The Fear

Managers fill people with fear to motivate them, often for reasons of efficiency and immaturity. It simply takes less time, thought, and technique to bark orders than to motivate people according to their interest, passion, and capabilities. So managers justify their behavior with excuses like, “I’m too busy to coddle people” and “I’m paid to get results, not be nice to people.” The way they see it, encouragement is a waste of time. 

You can harness fear’s energy in ways that allow people to do courageous things.

Workers have a way of acting in their own worst interests when managers overload them with fear. Like flailing about at the sight of a bee, thinking that the best way to keep from getting stung is to wave hysterically, the actions of workers who are managed with fear are often dramatic and disproportionate to the fear being faced. 

Fear makes workers clam up, restricting the flow of feedback necessary for keeping managers from making bad decisions. For example, fear heightens workers’ suspicions of one another, undermining the trust that interpersonal relationships need to flourish. Fear causes workers to be unduly preoccupied with safety, strangling their willingness to take risks and extend their skills. Subsequently, fear lowers morale, damages relationships, erodes trust, and builds resentment. Ultimately, fear lowers confidence, standards, and profits.

Workers led by courage are more engaged, committed, optimistic, loyal, and change embracing.

The Benefits of Encouragement

Encouragement does, as fear-stoking managers argue, take time. But, providing encouragement to workers is an investment of time, not a waste of it. There are better ways to use fear than threatening workers. You can harness fear’s energy in ways that allow people to do courageous things. A far better and more impactful approach is to inspire people by helping them to find their personal courage. 

Workers led by courage are more engaged, committed, optimistic, loyal, and change embracing. Why wouldn’t they be? Imagine working for a boss whose vision was so bold that it excited you. Or working for a manager who valued mistake-making as a natural and necessary part of your professional development. Imagine working for a manager who saw ass-kicking as a repulsive, manipulative, and dishonest thing. 

Then go a step further and imagine what the whole company might look like if all managers led by putting courage into their workers. It would be a workplace where you could implicitly trust the motives and intentions of everyone around you. You could speak the unvarnished truth. You could make more forward-falling mistakes to serve the company better.

Courage Goes To Work

When you bring courage into the workplace, it goes to work for the team and your business. Moreover, there is an undeniable transformation that happens within your people that they’ll never forget. Give everyone the gift that lasts a lifetime—something they can use professionally and personally. Provide them with precious and practical courage. They’ll thank you and remember you for it. 

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