What Are “Courage Skills?”
Milo is an 11-pound dachshund and Bonedigger is a 500-pound lion. Milo and his lifelong friend Angel have forged a friendship with the Lion that is joyous and happy, and unexpected. The payoff of our practicing courage can also be having lives that are joyous, happy, and unexpected. There are two dachshunds in our office right now and their love far outweighs their fear.
Isn’t it ironic that the skills we always needed to be successful have been given this rather dismissive term called, “Soft Skills?” These are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
For years, many people have run away from learning how to sell, influence others, build support systems, effectively pay attention to other people, and skillfully draw attention to themselves.
Why are these skills so important today? Many people only had to deal with networking and selling themselves just a few times in their careers. But, as change continues to accelerate, the cycles of having to sell ourselves also grow. As the world undergoes this huge restructuring of work, connectivity will determine who works at their full potential and who becomes part of the growing ranks of the underemployed.
For example, today’s average college graduate is going to change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. But our schools are not giving them the skills to deal with such change. With half of our nation’s workforce in a state of underemployment, of course, we are going to have turmoil. Far too many workers are being kicked to the curb by change because we never taught them how to change! College graduates tend to be haunted by underemployment for about 10 years.
As the world speeds up, thriving literally depends on our building courage skills and the ability to connect far more effectively with the very people who can give us great jobs or projects, the mentors who can give us a clue, and the champions who can hold us accountable for waking up. Honestly, it would be far more straightforward to change the words soft skills to courage skills. This is because many of us have run away from developing these skills because of the discomfort of drawing attention to ourselves.
Many of us have this inside dialogue that if we draw attention to ourselves, someone is going to hurt us. And, the probability of getting hurt does grow when more people see us. But, the probability of starving grows as we become less visible. As a result, many of us draw just enough attention to ourselves to survive but not enough to thrive. Wouldn’t it be more healthy to not only learn how to draw healthy attention to ourselves as well as develop the skills to deal with the consequences of visibility?
What are courage skills?
Selling is a multi-fold skill. It includes the ability to make a quick pitch, one that captures the value of what we are selling and speaks to the needs and expectations of the buyer.
Consultative selling is the ability to ask the kinds of questions that prompt the buyer to tell us what they want and need. It can include questions that help the buyer define their needs for the first time. This is the most important form of selling and is far more comfortable than relying solely on pitches.
Here, we are so clearly connected to our gifts that our words, actions, and interests create understanding in the people we encounter. Real influence is rooted in our ability to pay attention, to listen to someone’s every word, to notice their facial expressions and body language, and to be interested.
Customized Support Systems
Many people don’t get what they want because they don’t define what they really want. Many people don’t define what they want because they believe, on some profound level, that the right people will not help them realize their vision. If this is the case, why bother defining a mission, vision, and purpose?
But, once we define exactly what we want, our success is almost purely based on our abilities to create a support system, perhaps even a community that brings our mission, vision, and purpose to life.
Social networking offers the greatest potential to build these support systems with mind-bending speed. But, usually, that potential isn’t realized because social media platforms are not teaching the ideal ways to connect with others. Sending out connection generic and bloodless connection requests do little to build communities. We have been teaching people how to use social media in ways that actually develop engaged relationships. It is how we rebuilt our organization after the great recession.
Anyone with the ability to make a presentation to a group or in public immediately gives themselves a 60% pay hike over people who don’t. But, the need to effectively present oneself is growing. Let’s be clear, presentation skills include connecting with people virtually, face-to-face in the flesh, and once in a while, on stage.
The National Speaker’s Association once conducted a poll which defines that over 80% of Americans would rather and literally die rather than make a presentation. That would indicate that developing courage could help them move forward. It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking? Anyone can walk down the block to a Toastmasters meeting and find other people who are equally afraid.
As the transactions around work speed up, connectivity becomes far more important. As task work falls away, developing courage skills gives us the option of pursuing the work that will bring happiness and freedom into our lives. The skills make it easier to select a job or business. as our work platform.
But, we recently had an experience that personifies just how much our country and our culture needs a seismic shift in what we emphasize in learning.
My colleague, Dr. Mary Campbell and I spoke to a large community organization about the need to teach these skills in all of our schools and within our families. The organization sponsors one of the country’s most successful charter schools. Right after our presentation, they gave out the “student of the month” award to a junior from the school. She was so afraid of the attention that she refused to walk up to the podium to accept her award!
How many parents are in the same boat?
As change in the workplace continues to accelerate, the need to interact effectively and harmoniously with others will continue to grow. Anyone who wants to have the options to do the work they most want to do ought to be elevating the need to learn the courage skills. And, just what is courage? It is the commitment to take the right action whether or not we are frightened.
Remember, that in today’s world, the single biggest reason for failure is isolation.
Building these skills requires commitment. Humans have long demonstrated that we first must instill a vision in why we are going through the discomfort. I always suggest picking the work that you would most love. Perhaps opt to become a better role model for your children. Afterward, invest in the training that will fulfill your vision. Find mentors who can help. Go home and tell your children, “You know what? I have been a lousy example of drawing attention from myself. I’ve been responding to the very idea with fear as if some boogie man is going to jump out from the shadows. Don’t do what I do, because, in the years ahead, your ability to make a living and be happy depends on learning the skills that allow you to effectively connect with others.
For all of us:
- Rather than putting up with that job you cannot stand in an industry that is shrinking, go have lunch at Toastmasters.
- Practice contrary action. Instead of putting down social networking, learn how to use the medium to build strongly engaged relationships.
- Set new expectations with your spouses, business colleagues, and friends. Make a commitment to learning how to draw attention to your work at a whole new level. It requires courage and you need their support in getting back on that horse until you ride comfortably and joyfully.
- Don’t discuss your challenges with anyone who is committed to hiding. They will quickly talk you out of the venture. In other words, hang out with people who succeed.
- When people notice you, thank them and praise them. When we praise someone and they respond, “Oh it was nothing,” we are actually telling them to not notice, evaluate and judge us.
In closing, the more skilled we become with courage skills, the more we connect with the world and the more we connect with ourselves.
Courage skills will help turn life into a grand adventure.
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