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This week I want to talk to you about some work we’re doing on assessing personal courage in the workplace.  Although still in its infancy, we’ve based this work on some outstanding cutting-edge academic research and our own experiences in dealing with organizations – all views are most welcome!

Assessing Personal Courage

We portray personal courage as a person with four key facets – the head (goals), heart (values), arms (inclusion) and legs (action). 

These facets encompass both the individual’s actions and beliefs – what the individual does and what they think.  Each facet can be broken down into a small number of sub-groups, each of which is either observable and / or assessable by the individual themselves and / or a third party such as a trained witness or by a work colleague.

Head (Goals)

The Head represents the forward looking aspects of the individual.  A courageous individual;

1. Proactive future focussed

Is able to visualise a future and strives to shape and create it rather than passively watching it unfold around them.

2. Self-efficacy

Has a personal belief that they have something valuable such as knowledge, experiences or values to add to the wider group.   

3. Exceeds conformity

Has the ability to meet accepted levels (written or tacit) of compliance but also seek to achieve ethical ideals i.e. to not only consider the rules but also reflect upon their purpose and consider what is right, just and appropriate.

Heart (Values)

The Heart represents the values of the individual.  A courageous individual;

1. Self Awareness

Understands their own strengths, weaknesses and values; and continually seeks to self-reflect, learn and develop.

2. Values driven behaviour

Possesses an automatic willingness to address an ethical challenge; has a predisposition toward values based behaviour and the persistence to keep going in pursuit of ‘doing the right thing’.

3. Holds multiple value sets

Draws on different value sets when making a decision and is able to effectively combine, reconcile and decide which need to be employed; is able to hold firm to values and beliefs despite external concerns or demands.

Arms (Inclusion)

The Arms represent the individual’s ability to be inclusive.  A courageous individual;

1. Believes in others 

Engages with others in a positive attitude, recognising their (leadership) potential and is committed to supporting their development and encouraging the courageous expression of their purpose.

2. Serves the greater good

Is driven by more than achieving the task, they use virtues e.g. prudence, honesty and justice throughout the decision-making process to achieve a principled outcome; they seek to serve, help or benefit the greater good (peers, subordinates, managers, organisation and/or the larger entity). 

Legs (Action)

The Legs represent the individual’s ability to take action.  A courageous individual;

1. Anchored change orientation

Embraces change, seeks new ideas and ways of doing and looking at things.  Their adaption to a changing world however is consciously anchored in explicit and non-negotiatable values.

2. Persistent

Is able to face difficulties, both perceived and real danger or threat, with endurance; manage negative emotions (such as fear, anxiety, or doubt) as part of the ‘cost’ (loss of status, social connections, etc.) of holding important values and accepting this from the onset as they recognise that the value of their actions outweighs the potential personal sacrifice. 

What do you think?  If we believe that workplace courage is a good ‘thing’ for both the individual and the organization, and we believe that courage is a competency that can be developed; shouldn’t we be able to assess existing levels of courage (or disposition to courage) in order to measure the success of our learning interventions?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.