Ryan Berman, author of the new book RETURN ON COURAGE, is the Founder of Courageous, a creative consultancy that develops Courage Brands®. For his book, Berman spent three years shadowing top leaders to understand how they accomplish their goals. He found that the best leaders make sure that courage is a key component of their organization’s culture. The excerpt below will help you build an organization in which courage thrives.
Most businesses are properly focused on return on investment. Courage Brands have a high Return on Courage. How can you recognize when your brand is moving down the right path to delivering a Return on Courage?
By doing the hard work of setting up your Central Courage System, you’re on your way to eliminating the fragmented gap that sits between organizational health and courageous business.
All decisions can now be made the right way—through your core values. Remember, core values are not eye rolls. They are how the exceptional roll. Knowing your values and communicating them takes the guessing game out of what matters most to your business. Activated properly, your values become your corporate cadence that can bring calm and alignment to your employees.
Remember, repeating makes Believers. The same holds true when you stay authentic to your values and use them as decision-making filters.
When you lead with your values, you have the opportunity to make a Believer. When you make internal Believers, you make a culture. When you have a culture crafted out of your values and belief system, you build a loyal company willing to go the distance on your behalf. This is the idea of conviction. How you operate and communicate is the driving force behind making Believers or making Fake Believers. It has never been more desired by a next generation workforce than it is now.
In less than a decade, 75 percent of your workforce will be Millennials. This generation aspires to work at unique, innovative, and purpose-driven companies. They’ll stick around if they believe. Create an authentic, empowering, and purpose-driven work environment that Believers can rally behind.
“Create an authentic, empowering, and purpose-driven work environment that Believers can rally behind.” -Ryan Berman
Jackie Stavros is a professor at Lawrence Technological University; Appreciative Inquiry strategic advisor at Flourishing Leadership Institute; and an associate at Taos Institute. Cheri Torres is a Senior Consultant with NextMove and Partner at Innovation Partners International.
I recently spoke with Jackie and Cheri about their work.
“We live in worlds our conversations create.” -David Cooperrider
Torres: Actually, conversation is powerful, period, whether it’s a good one or a bad one. A bad conversation can turn a good day sour, influencing interactions for hours to come. A good conversation can brighten your day and propel you into high performance and a sense of elation. When you think about it, everything arises from conversation. We’re either carrying on an internal dialogue or engaged with others, each conversation influencing what’s possible in the next moment. Conversations influence our health, wellness, happiness, relationships, performance, and what’s possible.
“Sometimes the greatest adventure is simply a conversation.” -Amadeus Wolf
With their importance, why do conversations not seem to get enough attention in business?
Torres: Conversations are such an integral part of functioning in community that we take them for granted. Until recently, there was nothing drawing our attention to their importance. Research in the field of neurophysiology, however, is showing that conversations are integral to our capacity to access the executive center of our brain, the pre-fontal cortex, where higher order thinking, creativity, trust, good decision making, and the ability to connect are possible. Conversations that trigger fear or uncertainly stimulate the release of cortisol, epinephrine, and testosterone, shutting down access to the pre-frontal cortex and stimulating fight, flight, freeze, or appease. A good conversation has the power to shift the brain from threat to safety, simulating a whole different set of hormones—oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These hormones help us reconnect, open up to what others have to say, and rekindle trust. Further research in positive psychology corresponds, showing that positivity in the workplace builds resiliency, high performance, innovation, and collaboration. Organizations that have taken this research to heart and have shifted leadership and management practices are discovering the amazing power of a great conversation – a conversation worth having.
Contrast a destructive versus an affirmative conversation. What are the effects of a destructive conversation? How long do they last?
Torres: In our book, in Chapter 2: What Kind of Conversations Are You Having, we classify four different kinds of conversations. All interactions either add-value or they devalue people and situations, and all conversations are either inquiry-based or statement-based. If your questions devalue a person or situation, we refer to those kinds of conversations as “critical conversations.” If you are telling and devaluing others, we call those “destructive.” Critical and destructive conversations typically trigger a threat response in others, and we just spoke about how that impacts us. The impact of such conversations can last a long time, long after the cortisol has left the system. The reason why? Our memory stores our experience; this person is recognized as unsafe. This of course inhibits working well together.
On the other hand, if you are telling and adding value, we refer to those interactions as “affirmative conversations.” Acknowledging strengths, complementing a job well done, advocating for someone or something are examples of affirmative conversations. If you are asking questions that add value or generate value, we call those conversations worth having. Affirmative conversations will shift the brain from distrust to trust; conversations worth having will broaden and deepen that shift allowing people to bring their full value to relationships in the workplace, at home, and/or in communities.
“Your conversations help create your world. Speak of delight, not dissatisfaction. Speak of hope, not despair. Let your words bind up wounds, not cause them.” -Tao Te Ching
Tom is the EVP, Head of Innovation for Zenith Media. His role is to understand new technology, behaviors and platforms and ideate and implement solutions for clients that take advantage of the new opportunities these make possible. He was also voted the #1 voice in Marketing by LinkedIn with over 580,000 followers on the platform. An industry provocateur and commentator on the future of marketing and business, Tom recently wrote Digital Darwinism as a wakeup call to traditional businesses.
I recently spoke with him about his book.
““Digital isn’t a thing, it’s everything.” -Tom Goodwin
The subtitle of your book is “Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business Disruption.” What defines the fittest?
I believe the fittest companies are those with the balance of a solid business plan for today and for the future. This can either be because they’ve established a defendable niche for now and ahead (like Amazon or Tesla) or because they have a team and culture that is able to adapt to the changing marketplace. Good examples of this are Facebook, Netflix, and Google. Fitness both in nature and business is about agility and the ability to change as the world does, but also about the quality of the business model today. There are too many companies that are widely celebrated, like Dollar Shave Club or Movie Pass, that offer hockey-stick user growth and happy customers, but don’t appear to have a semblance of a business model that can ever make money.
“The fittest companies are those with the balance of a solid business plan for today and for the future.” -Tom Goodwin
Mature companies often have a huge desire to innovate and launch various initiatives. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen them make in their pursuit of innovation?
Most innovation failures come from companies who do one of two things wrong. The main one is not going deep enough. They offer surface level improvements on the façade of a deeply troubled foundation. Retailers who need to close stores or entirely rethink distribution models or procurement flows, end up making a store in San Jose with a smart mirror, as it’s way faster and cheaper and offers distractions. Or car companies that celebrate apps where you can start engines remotely, while they are behind on electric propulsion. The issue is that most CEOs don’t have the time or thirst for risk to make proper changes.
The other issue is innovation with no sense of purpose. It’s adding a chatbot because your boss read about them one day. It’s an airline launching a mood-sensing blanket that gets press. It’s the VR experience to try to get promoted. We need to know why we are innovating and maximize against that.
“There are too many companies that are widely celebrated that offer hockey-stick user growth and happy customers, but don’t appear to have a semblance of a business model that can ever make money.” -Tom Goodwin
Almost every conference I have attended in the last ten years has highlighted the rapid changes that we are experiencing in every aspect of society. Companies need to evaluate digital futures, new technologies, and global strategies. Individuals need to develop plans to keep developing their skills.
How do we best deal with this constant pace of change?
Brad Staats is an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. His new book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, provides the framework to help all of us become dynamic learners. He says that, “If we fail to learn, we risk becoming irrelevant.”
He also says that we aren’t so great at learning.
I recently spoke with him about his extensive research into learning.
“One of the most powerful ways we can learn from others is to ask, ‘What do you think?’ and be open to the answer.” -Bradley Staats
Why is learning more important today than in past generations?
Learning has always been a key competitive differentiator. What has changed is that things are moving faster and increasingly we are in a winner take all (or at least most) environment. There are four factors I’d highlight that are driving these changes. The first is routinization. Through the use of technology (information and otherwise) we can knock out repeatable tasks. That means our attention can turn to new things where we can innovate. If one looks at job changes in the US over the last 30 years, the data reveals that routine jobs are flat and growth has only occurred in the non-routine settings.
The second driver is specialization. Knowledge around us is increasing, often exponentially. It is estimated a physician would need to read 29 hours a day to stay current on all the necessary knowledge. So we are forced to pick areas to dig in. The third driver is globalization. In the 1990’s, in particular, the global economy opened up as countries like India, Russia, Brazil and China flooded the global labor market with talented individuals. Success is no longer a local affair, it is a global one. Finally, we have digitization. We can capture knowledge digitally and share it around the world. All of these factors mean that great products and services can quickly capture markets and squeeze out others—so we have to learn if we are going to stay relevant. As Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has said, “Ultimately, the ‘learn-it-all’ will always do better than the ‘know-it-all.’”
“Whatever we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” -Otto Rank
Innovation is dynamic, iterative, and even messy – but with the vast problems facing the world, and opportunities to harness people’s creativity, passion, and desire to make an impact, there has never been greater potential to make a dent in as-yet unsolved economic, social and other issues. Leadership qualities, not always and not simply technology, are the essential ingredients.
I love this line in your new book: “Purpose defines what you stand for and why your business exists.” Tell us more about the power of purpose and why it’s so important to change makers.
Purpose defines the marketplace problem the change maker wants to solve. It’s why they pursue an innovation. They see the need to create something new, to fix something they see as really broken.
Purpose is grounded in emotion, but it’s far from touchy-feely. Purpose:
Focuses everyone on unifying beliefs, makes collaboration the norm, and aims resources at the vision and nothing else.
Minimizes the corrosive effect of internal politics — everyone is committed to the same point on the horizon. Purpose is an energy booster.
Sets the goal post on achieving aspirations to meet real market needs. Of course, financial results matter, but the purpose-driven team delivers financial impact and sets itself up to meet broader stakeholder needs.
“Purpose means knowing what you stand for, why you want to exist.” -Amy J. Radin
Resourcefulness is a key behavior of change makers. How should leaders encourage resourcefulness?
Resourceful leaders are those who can find a path forward no matter what. Doing so means they are making progress even though they have what can look like severe resource shortages.
Much of anyone’s resourcefulness comes from an ability to help everyone in their orbit to be more resourceful.
First, be a role model of resourcefulness behaviors. My favorite example of all time is one I uncovered while doing the research for The Change Maker’s Playbook: Drew Lakatos co-founded ActiveProtective, a company working on an innovative device – think of it as the wearable equivalent of an inflatable air bag — to attack the growing medical and social crises caused by millions of seniors’ falling every year in this country. He had purpose and passion, but lacked capital. So, he went around to junkyards one Saturday morning, and extracted non-bloody air bags from wrecked cars. Then he combined these with bicycle tire inner tubes, working with his local tailor to create components of early proof-of-concept designs – for a few dollars apiece. They were convincing enough to win critical support to get to the next steps.
Second, when assessing potential hires, listen for stories of how they have demonstrated resourcefulness in their lives. If you don’t hear evidence of real tenacity, move on.
Third, be open-minded about how things are done, not just what is getting done. Being resourceful means finding and supporting non-obvious ways to accomplish milestones and achieve goals.
“Resourceful leaders treat others with respect and value people as people, and as a result inspire and attract others to enable their purpose.” -Amy J. Radin
Fourth, promote a culture where seeking help is a mark of leadership and strength, not a sign of weakness. I see organizations where people are afraid that they will be fired if they admit ignorance. I see cultures punishing people who admit they don’t know something or would like help. These are environments where innovation cannot ever be successful.
“Resourceful leaders are those who can find a path forward no matter what.” -Amy J. Radin