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Bravery - What Does it Mean?

Qualtrics, a leader in Experience Management, recently published an interesting article called "How to Build Bravery and Belonging" and I wanted to discuss it with you all!

A few months ago my family welcomed a little puppy now 5 months old: Estelle. She's a tiny thing in a big, big world, so she spends a lot of her time hiding behind legs, particularly my legs (not that I'm complaining - it's very cute), only occasionally poking her head out to attempt to bark (which sound more like a huff) at a passerby.

When you think of bravery, you might picture something like a small puppy attempting to intimidate a bigger dog at the dog park. But if you examine bravery in the context of employee experience, it takes on a more nuanced meaning.

This article defines bravery as:

"people [feeling] safe being their authentic selves . . .

They feel empowered to speak up,

trusting the organization will

hear, respect, value and support them."

For every person you've worked with who was willing to speak up and challenge their peers, you probably know several other people who have kept quiet for fear of creating friction, or, worse, retribution. Perhaps you've heard friends and colleagues say things like:

"I would've spoken up, but it wasn't my place," or

"I can't ask for help; they'll think I'm an idiot," or even

"I'd say something but I don't want to get in trouble."

This is what a company that lacks bravery sounds like. In order to encourage individual bravery among employees, an organization needs brave leaders that create a safe environment, and it needs to make it clear that DE&I is a major company priority, because empowering all your employees is very much tied to diversity, equity, & inclusion.

Brave leadership has all the same elements of individual bravery (show up, speak out, trust that the company will hear you), with additional responsibilities. On the note of "trust that the company will hear you," leadership needs to demonstrate that it hears its employees. In addition, they need to:

  1. Take feedback, especially the hard feedback, and take action.

  2. Practice transparency and communicating results, and not just the good results.

  3. Take accountability for failures; state clearly what was learned.

  4. Continue communicating with your employees.

"The real courage is doing things differently than you’ve ever done them before." (Dr. Cecilia Herbert)

Efforts to encourage bravery are bound to fail if there isn't a major DE&I focus. And I mean a continuing imperative company-wide on DE&I, not just isolated programs and initiatives. If a group of employees is being marginalized or disempowered, that effects everyone, and bravery will not thrive. Moreover, it's been shown that employees’ sense of belonging will suffer not only if they personally experience marginalizing behavior, but also if they witness it happen to someone else.

An organization that has brave leadership will empower their employees to be brave. When organization-wide bravery is achieved, a sense of belonging flourishes across the company because all employees know they have a place at the table, and they feel comfortable making their presence known.

At home, we are empowering Estelle to be brave, and I look forward to when she will step out from behind my legs and feel the confidence that we have in her.


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