Eleanor Roosevelt wrote “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” While she was encouraging personal boldness, the message is also applicable to life insurance and financial services professionals.
In 2010, Audi stated its bold goal of “becoming the leading brand worldwide in the premium car segment.” They aimed to overtake BMW, which has held the number one sales position for the last decade, by 2020. This audacious goal has helped increase their overall performance significantly: courage pays off. Here are some six ideas for bringing Roosevelt’s sense of bravery to your job:
1. Differentiate between smart risk and silly risk. Being courageous at work does not mean challenging the boss to a dual at the next board meeting or neknominating yourself at the offsite. We would never recommend that you walk into a meeting unprepared, take an overly aggressive trading position, or give your boss an ultimatum.
While these are risks, they are not smart ones. A smart risk pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone without pushing others out of theirs. Smart risks include asking for the sale, asking for the promotion, or asking for more responsibility. A manager, coach or mentor can be very helpful in encouraging you to take smart risks.
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2. Have a strong vision of what you want. I used to be terrified of needles and would do everything in my power to avoid them. Then, when I wanted to have children, I had to have needles almost every day. Suddenly they were not as scary, as my clear vision of family life trumped my fear.
The same thing happens at work. You might be terrified of public speaking, but if you want to take on more interesting work in your field, the opportunity to keynote at a conference will help you get over your fears. Have a clear vision of what you want, write it down, and tape it someplace prominent. The daily risks you must take to get you where you want to go will not seem as scary.
3. Practice makes perfect. You can practice courage by taking small risks on a regular basis. This could mean anything from asking to be part of a new project, to writing an article for an industry publication, to offering to mentor a new employee. Take on small stretch goals and then climb, jump, or borrow a ladder to reach them on a regular basis. You’ll get used to feeling brave.
4. Courage can be borrowed. In a third century BC parable from Zhan Guo Ce, a fox is caught by a hungry tiger. The fox, trying to figure out a way to save himself, tells that tiger that he is king of the beasts and should not be eaten.