What needs to change? Of careers and courage

Courage—even the Cowardly Lion had it (he just didn't realize it)Courage is one of those qualities that’s easier to see in other people than ourselves. The firefighter rushing into the burning building has courage; but so does the manager standing up in a meeting to say, “I think there may be another way to solve this problem.”

Think about what you’ve done in the past 24 hours. I’m willing to bet you did at least one thing that nudged you out of your comfort zone, even a bit.

Maybe it was conversation you had to take a couple of extra-deep breaths before starting—someone on the team you manage who hasn’t been performing up to par. Or maybe it was you, asking a mentor for help to improve a skill you don’t quite have a handle on. That’s courage, my friend.

Or maybe you finally tackled that task you’ve been putting off for no good reason at all. Chances are, you even nailed it. But whether or not it was perfect, the important thing is you did it. That’s courage, too.

Finding your voice can take courage—and using your voice takes even more. But it’s the only way to get where you want to go in your career. You’ve spent most of your work-life listening; it’s time for you to be heard.

The courage to speak and write powerfully

You’ve got ideas—I know you do. But do you know how to express them powerfully?

Business communication isn’t like writing a college term paper. At school, you write for an audience of one: your professor. In business, you may address an email to just one person, but if the ideas you express have any merit, that email will get passed along. Before you know it, you’re sharing your ideas in a meeting; writing a proposal; making a pitch…the better the idea, the more people your words will reach. Communicating persuasively and powerfully isn’t an optional skill—not if you want to do interesting, fulfilling work. Not if you want to lead.

The stakes are higher in business than school, too. Get a C on your Hamlet paper and it won’t end your college career. Say the wrong thing—or what you fear might be the wrong thing—in a meeting and who knows what repercussions it can have?

And then somebody like me comes along and says you have to be authentic on top of it all? It’s no wonder you’re tempted to just sit there listening. Throw in the towel.

I mean, you’re happy enough with your career as it is, right?

Except you’re not happy, are you?

But you are courageous. So what needs to change?

You need to find your voice. That strong, powerful, smart voice that’s just waiting for you to let it get to work.

You need to tell your story. I don’t mean “your story” literally—okay, sometimes I do mean your literal story. But I also mean your story of why this strategy change matters to you, why this product or service you’re pitching matters to you. Because lots of people can talk about facts and figures—and you’ll do that too—but no one else can see them through your eyes.

You need to discover the skills you need to communicate effectively and memorably. And then do it.

  • mindset
  • storytelling