31 Chapters
Medium 9781576755013

Chapter 11 Courageous Living

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I shall not fear anyone on Earth.

Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolent revolutionary

Be Courageous!

Bill Treasurer, high-diving, Speedo-wearing, fear-carrying courage consultant

“You have cancer.”

Few words fill the brain with as much unsettling confusion as cancer. Pretty much everything my doctor said after that was a jumble. “Positive biopsy… tumors… unusual for your age … radical surgery…”

One comment did get through, however: “If you don’t treat this, you will die.”

There are advantages to running a courage-building company. Courage is an attractive subject, and it certainly has attracted some marquee clients to Giant Leap. Conversations become electrified when they turn to the subject of courage. It is a subject that pulls people forward and upward, 184 elevating them to higher ideals and standards. But there are disadvantages to running a courage-building company, too. Courage is a subject with considerable mass and gravity. My proximity to the subject seems to have attracted an unusually large number of challenging life experiences. I sometimes wonder if, when God found out I was going to devote my life to helping others to be more courageous, he thought, “Is that so? Then I guess Mr. Treasurer is going to need some lessons in that area. Angels, start the conveyor belt!”

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Chapter 5 Modulate Comfort

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

John F. Kennedy

I started my career in organizational development facilitating team-building programs. Having spent seven years as a member of the U.S. High Diving Team, I was able to incorporate my own experiences (and frustrations) as a team member into the facilitated sessions. Before long I had facilitated some five hundred team-building workshops for teams of all shapes and sizes. My experiences as a team member and as a team-building facilitator have taught me that bored teams are in far worse shape than those that are overworked. Rustout is worse than burnout when it comes to performance.

I once led a team-building workshop for an information 68 technology project team of a large communications company. The team was responsible for maintaining the software of the company’s antiquated billing system. As a regulated entity, the company was ridiculously bureaucratic. The budgeting process alone was a nightmare. Most budgets weren’t approved until at least six months into the year for which the budget was created. This meant that “critical” IT projects that were slated to begin in January couldn’t get started until at least July, regardless of how urgent the project. Most project-completion dates, however, did not change. So project teams were in an impossible whiplash position. For the first six months of the year they’d sit on their duffs. But once the budget was approved, they’d work like firefighters at a gas explosion. Such was the case with the team I got called in to work with, except that I got them during the duff-sitting period.

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Chapter 9 TELL Courage

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.

Harry S. Truman

Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of “crackpot” than the stigma of conformity.

Thomas J. Watson

“Your opinion matters to us, really.”

“We want your input as we move forward.”

“These changes will impact you, so please tell us what you think.”

For all the talk about wanting people to be open and honest, the reality is that many organizations stifle (or punish) such behavior. If this weren’t the case, surely more people would have spoken up sooner about the breathtaking misdeeds at companies like Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Cendant, Dynegy, ImClone, Vivendi Universal, Waste Management, Global Crossing, and Tyco. It’s important to remember that most organizations are not democracies. 144 The average employee does not get to vote on which senior management decisions he or she will endorse. As one-party systems, most organizations more closely resemble authoritarian regimes than they do free and open societies. Employees aren’t “citizens,” and the ability to influence companywide decisions is restricted to those in the upper echelons. So regardless of how open a company considers itself to be, the risks of voicing an opinion that runs counter to the directives of the senior team are so high that most employees keep quiet. In the case of TELL Courage, the risk is that in voicing your true opinion, you’ll be set aside as an outcast from the established social order. The risk that comes with TELL Courage is the risk of social banishment.

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Medium 9781576752463

Principle 3: Write Your Risk Scripts

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


As they exited the aqua-theater, one of the most frequent compliments the audience gave us divers was that we “made it look easy.” While easy may have been the result, the word doesn’t adequately account for all the rehearsing and fine tuning needed to make the show appear that way. The diving show was extremely well choreographed. Though the audience didn’t know it, each dive, each moment on stage, and each bow of gratitude for the audience’s applause, was exhaustively rehearsed. Even our smiles were rehearsed! With our index finger, we’d swipe off the saliva from our top teeth, and tuck the upper lip against the whites of our teeth. From the audience it looked like we were smiling, but if you were on the stage with us you’d swear that we had had our top lips removed.

To further enhance the easy look of our performance, both the divers and the announcer regimentally followed a tightly defined script. Scripting was especially important during the comedy portion of the show because we had to dupe the audience for the comedy routine to work. This vaudevillian trickery involved the announcer, one diver as a “straightman,” and another diver planted as an unruly audience member. Here is how the setup was choreographed:

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Medium 9781626568020

Chapter 10: Leading at the Point of Goodness

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.
—Theodore Roosevelt

Leadership, as a topic, can be perplexing. As a leader, you are expected to be bold and calculated, passionate and reasonable, rational and emotional, driven and patient, principled and flexible, competitive and cooperative, strategic and tactical, and yes, confident and humble. Faced with all of these often conflicting factors, it’s enough to make you scratch your head and wonder, Where on earth do I start?

In my work with emerging leaders, I hear the question a lot. New leaders, especially, are flummoxed by all the divergent advice they get about what they should focus on to be a good leader. My advice to new leaders is simple: good leadership starts by being good. When it comes to the two words “good leader,” the first word brings about the second. You want to be a good leader? First concentrate on being a good person.

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