Not every opportunity to display courage is worth taking

Not every opportunity to display courage is worth taking

2018-10-29 | Business

Sometimes things don’t work out, even with the best preparation. Competently courageous people develop mechanisms to mitigate the fallout. That might mean finding ways to make themselves indispensable to the organization, keeping external options open, or minimizing economic reliance on an employer. If you had lost my job and gone back to something more subdued and less glamorous—well, it wouldn’t have changed your life.

Not every opportunity to display courage is worth taking. Importance, of course, lies in the eye of the beholder. It depends on your goals and values and those of your colleagues, stakeholders, and the organization itself. As you gauge whether an issue is truly important, be aware of your emotional triggers; allow yourself to be informed but not held hostage by them. Also, assess whether engaging in a potential battle—whatever the outcome might be—is likely to aid or hinder winning the war. Ask yourself, for example-  Will securing resources to address this problem make it less likely that a higher-priority proposal will subsequently get funded?

Competently courageous people are masters of good timing. To avoid being seen as a broken record, they are less likely to act if they recently cashed in hard-earned idiosyncrasy credits. They observe what is going on around them, and if the timing doesn’t look right, they patiently hold off. They scan the environment for events and trends that could support their efforts, making the most of an organizational change or the appearance of a new ally, for example. They stay attuned to attention cycles—to public upwellings of enthusiasm for the issue at hand. Pushing for a more globally representative strategy or leadership team, for example, was for a long time risky in many organizations; now companies are more open to tackling those issues. Unless they’ve concluded that taking action is necessary to preserve their sense of integrity or to plant the seed of an idea, competently courageous people don’t act before those around them are ready to take them seriously.

When faced with a potential insult, conflict can be avoided by training yourself to be a little less sensitive or quick to anger.  The most effective negotiators bypass insults and treat them as accidents when doing otherwise might prevent them from achieving their goals.  They might use phrases like, “I might have phrased that differently, but I get your drift” or “That’s not the first or last time I’ve heard something along those lines, but let’s get back to where we were making progress” to steer a conversation headed for conflict back onto a more productive path.

So when should you use these and other techniques?  When is a battle not worth the aftermath?  Consider the following guidelines. It's best not to engage when:

(1) There’s a low probability of winning without doing excessive damage

(2) Upon reflection, winning isn't as important as it originally seemed

(3) There likely will be a time down the line when you can raise the issue again with a different person or in a different way

(4) The other party's style is provocative whether speaking with you or others, so it’s not worth taking personally

(5) You could win on the immediate issue, but lose big in terms of the relationship

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