What Are Courage Skills?
Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
Over the years, I’ve observed the words “soft skills” as a derogatory term, often used to dismiss entire categories of learning. This is done because the development of such skills requires courage. Learning how to use them can be frightening, especially if we are not used to the experience. However, a significant reason that almost half of America’s workers are underemployed is that they have not been willing to develop the very skills that will bring them into the right jobs or become successful business owners.
Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call these critically important abilities, “Courage Skills?” Not only is this more accurate, but we would have to work just a little bit harder to work through a decision to dismiss them.
From an evolutionary point-of-view, here is why these skills have reached critical importance. Many of us would have little trouble in declaring the Industrial Revolution is over. But, few of us have identified the deeply embedded beliefs and behaviors that were imposed on all of us during that era. But, the most limiting standards of all involved how we selected work because first and foremost, work had to bring us survival and predictability. While ultimately mediocre standards, predictability, and survival portrayed a promise in which we got jobs for life and would not have to become ace salespeople, or build strong support systems, or influence others. Our employer would do that.
In my opinion, the most tragic example of this aversion to courage skills is today’s educational landscape. Cathy Sandee, the Chancellor of the University of Alaska has been vigorously studying the impact of change on education. One of the most urgent messages from her work is that today’s average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. And yet, we cannot find any schools that require skill development in sales, presentations, building communities, and etiquette. We were recently talking about this type of skill development and the Dean of the School kind of developed a glassy-eyed smile and said, “Oh, we teach life skills. Just this year, we started a class to show teenagers how to balance their checkbooks.”
Not long after, we were at an event where a someone from that same school was given an award for student of the month. She refused to come up to the podium to receive the award. From our perspective, it doesn’t really matter if the parents were lousy role models in dealing with attention, or the school did not intervene, or no one had thought of this growing requirement.
In the end, the results will be the same: Failure to connect.
Two law students graduate at the head of their class from the same school. They go to work work for the same firm. Which one will become a partner? It will almost always be the attorney who brings in business. Task work, just like any other profession, is being removed from law firms through technology. Today, large firms will not accept lateral moves with associates unless they have a book of business ranging from $1-2Million per year. The lack of courage in learning the courage skills often shows up as a blind spot. For underemployed attorneys who continue to look the other way are finding themselves working at Legal Zoom for $25/hour.
As technology continues to speed up and shorten the cycles of work categories, the ability to interact “effectively and harmoniously with others” is one of two foundations for our success. I have served thousands of people and organizations in getting the most out of work. This is what I have observed. The single most common ingredient behind the failure is isolation.
Building these skills require commitment. Humans have long demonstrated that we first must instill a vision in why we are going through discomfort. 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 in 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:
- Instead of running from bullies, learn how to handle them.
- Rather than put 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, don’t follow them to the soup kitchen.
- When people notice you, thank them and praise them. When we tell them, “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.
In the end, courage skills will help turn life into a grand adventure.
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