Creating Possibilities By Building A Culture Of Courage

A culture of courage at the workplace, in its simplest form, is outspoken, frank behavior all the way through the organizational structure. A place where workers are encouraged, as opposed to intimidated, is at the very base of how to create a culture of courage. When a culture of courage is in place, employee engagement need not be inveigled or cajoled. It’s a natural by-product along with filling out one’s role and responsibilities.

As Brian Kristofek, President and CEO, Upshot famously said, “Being a great place to work is the difference between being a good company and a great company.” This statement sums up what makes a workplace a great place to work. 

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Building a culture of courage in the workplace

In the world of work, the importance of a positive culture of courage gained momentum around the same timeframe – in the past decade. Moving away from the exacting work environment initiated by the Industrial Revolution, labor leaders and the C-suite executives quickly saw that a warm, welcoming work environment brought the best of motivating factors to the fore in workers.

When workers see that their ideas are asked for and discussed earnestly in the discussion of, say, a team or project brainstorming session, they are more eager to come up with ideas. The positive affirmations from an interesting idea or a task well done are incentive enough to keep up this behavior. Brave leadership would encourage out-of-the-box ideas to make innovation and experimentation the norm. In this intercommunication, the habits of courageous companies become part of one’s work ethic. With practice, they lead to the positive effects of job satisfaction and a fulfilling work-life.

A workplace where an employee finds alignment of their personal ethical and strategic stances with those of the company is a place conducive to growth. Without diversion, teams at such a workplace communicate in a frank and realistic fashion. They have a clear understanding of their strengths and learning opportunities. In turn, the leaders in these companies find it easy to create a courageous culture.

How to develop courage in the workplace: A hands-on approach

Although there is no one-size-fits-all routine to develop courage in the workplace, there are several strategies that imbue a workplace culture of courage. Foremost, this is about taking away performance anxiety.

In a transparent and friendly work environment, brave leadership allows employees to learn from peers, test out their learning through mock-ups, and compare notes freely among several rungs of the hierarchical totem pole.

This all-important status-quo where a worker need not fear being marked down breeds psychological safety. From the big picture perspective, this is exactly the sort of workplace where retention is high. Workers might even forego more lucrative job opportunities for a position in a company that values personal contribution and decision-making prowess.

Furthering the cause of psychological safety to enhance the culture of courage

If taking away performance anxiety is the removal of a negative, the inclusion of decision-making or decision-impacting powers to a job role is an emphatic addition. They create a courageous culture that promotes honesty when the fear of a reprimand is replaced by constructive feedback.

Key roles of leaders include helping team members become responsible for certain tasks or job families. This allows cohesion and unhindered progress towards the delivery of a project. Even in a culture of courage, leadership styles may differ – and different styles of leading are required for different scenarios.

For instance, where upholding the standards of quality, tolerance, and compliance are concerned, CHROs and Compliance Heads alike agree that authoritarian guidelines are necessary. It is recommended that all employees follow them with precision. 

But where up-skilling, filling of knowledge gaps, and re-skilling or transfer of skills are concerned, an authoritative style that focuses on guidance offers more value. It seeks to elevate the knowledge-levels and practical abilities of the employees in question. In short, this approach vests the decision-making and judgment with the employee.

Individuals and teams collaborating on a project can consult and analyze outcomes to make choices in a mutually respectful, inclusive manner.

The execution and fallout of decisions made in cohesion with other teams and verticals are less drastic. Even in the event of extreme results, decisions made by thorough professionals enjoy more advocacy.  Employees vested with executive powers stand by their rationale and work hard to glean favorable outcomes.

Characteristics of a culture of courage

  1. The foremost and biggest distinguishing factor is trust: Employees know that they matter. High-involvement decisions and even propositions are discussed without ‘talking down’.
  2. The ability to affect change: Flatter organizational structures means that issues in operation, decision-making, and day-to-day problem-solving pass through fewer hurdles. Brilliant insights are not lost in translation in welcoming company culture. Therefore, lower to middle-level managers get to contribute toward not only monthly or quarterly targets but in policy matters and strategizing as well.
  3. Clear communication: Open channels of communication, a semi-formal office environment, and forthright language are encouraged. In the case of telecommunicating teams and location-independent workers, a host of tools are available to keep clarity and upfront communication flying high at all times
  4. Mutual respect: Managers and team leaders balance authority with respect for personal boundaries. With many employees working from remote locations, office hours tend to get blurred. Respecting boundaries in the changing organizational culture begins with gestures as simple as not calling/emailing employees outside office hours.
  5. Encouraging autonomy: By consciously steering clear of micromanagement, good leaders promote a culture of courage in the largest of teams. The team members retain their sense of validation and agency, which in turn serve to boost morale.

Creating a culture of courage goes a long way in building strong teams. At the core of it lies the innate ability of leadership at all levels to make individuals feel valuable and significant to the mission of the organization. The organizational cultures built in such a granular fashion pays back in terms of low attrition and high performance backed by enduring motivation levels.


  • Understand the role of power, decision-making and trust | Corridor Business CBJ | John Langhorne | August 13, 2020
  • Workplace Culture: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Define It | Your ERC | February 1, 2019
  • The Advantages of Employee Involvement in Decision Making | Small Business Chron | Casey Anderson | March 4, 2019

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