Where Clarity Meets Courage

Three recent and not so recent events have led me to wonder about my own courage (or lack thereof) As I reflect on them, I am asking myself:

  • What prevented me from speaking up in that moment?
  • Why didn’t I say something about this terrible thing that just happened?
  • If I had been there, would I have said something?

The first event occurred when I failed to address an inappropriate statement from my boss. Why didn’t I stick up for myself?  As I relive that experience, I remember being stunned and at a loss for words. Why didn’t I express my discomfort? Do I defer to authority?

The second event happened when I was facilitating a leadership program of very talented senior level women executives. The program began on a Sunday evening, the day after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. On Tuesday morning, one of the participants, visibly upset, wondered why we weren’t discussing this tragic event.  Her point was that, as leaders, we need to be the first to understand when people may be hurting or fearful — not just go on with business as usual. I so agree, yet I was going on as if it had not happened. Why didn’t I say something and own my responsibility to lead the group through a discussion?  Do I avoid difficult subjects?

The third event was a Zoom call of 30+ people in which I was not a participant. One part of the call was a well-intended humorous tribute gone wrong. Only a couple people on the call knew how it was supposed to go, but neither explained.   Why didn’t the person with the idea say something to clear up the confusion and concern? Why did all 40+ people sit silently through fifteen minutes of this awkward moment? If I had been there, would I have spoken up?  Do I tend to follow the actions of the group?

Each of these events required courage. So, here is what I know. I need more courage. And, in being more courageous, perhaps I’ll influence others to do the same. How will I do this?

  • First, I will reflect on events where I believe I acted with courage and events where I did not.
  • Second, I will use these reflections to uncover any patterns for future benefit.
  • Third, I will anticipate future situations and prepare a set of useful questions and responses to be better prepared.
  • Fourth, I will remember that I don’t have to have all of the answers. I just need to say one thing and see where the conversation goes.

1:1 Conversation Setting

  • I think I misheard you. Would you like to repeat that?
  • Why did you just say that?
  • What motivates you to say that?
  • What makes you think that’s okay?

Group Setting

  • Is anyone else uncomfortable?
  • Can we stop and discuss what is happening right now?
  • I’d like to discuss this before we move on.
  • Why is this happening right now?
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