Interested in understanding how courage can cultivate a safe workplace (fostering inclusion) and the steps you can take to support others' growth and success journeys by leveraging workplace courage? Continue reading for guidance underpinned by data.
The lack of diversity within the tech industry is a constant challenge that has only slightly improved over the years. For example, the US is one of the leading countries for workplace discrimination of gender, age, racism, and sexual orientation. So, when it comes to tech companies in the US it’s no surprise that there is a higher percentage of employment for those who identify as white (63.5% to 68.5%) and male (52% to 64%). These stats can influence poorly conducive work environments that prevent others who don’t identify as white or male to thrive and grow in their career.
However, there are tech organizations that recognize the importance of building inclusive cultures in the workplace and fostering a variety of traditionally underrepresented people. One example is HubSpot, who understands the importance of making an effort to create paths for others from all different backgrounds within the company.
When I started my new role at HubSpot as a Developer Advocate in DevRel I enrolled in a professional development program called CHANGE@Hubspot, which focuses on engineers who identify as a marginalized gender. It was within this program that I learned more about workplace courage from Yvonne Alston from Indelible Impressions, who introduced the Five Types of Courage and how we can use courage to help empower other engineers and ourselves at work to push through our day-to-day fears. Practicing courage and encouraging our colleagues to be more courageous builds a safe work environment and fosters inclusion in our workplace so others can be their authentic selves.
Below I’ll explain the five types of courage that were introduced to me and share how you can apply courage in your workplace and foster courage amongst your colleagues.
What is workplace courage?
Workplace courage is taking action at work despite your fears and pushing through.
The 5 types of courage are:
- Physical Courage - a physical act of courage of saving someone or helping someone and feeling fear.
- Social Courage - when we’re at risk of social exclusion, we choose to be ourselves in the face of adversity.
- Intellectual Courage - to question the status quo and risk making mistakes as we learn from them.
- Moral Courage - based on your values and beliefs you take risks and speak up and apply the action for what you believe is “right”.
- Emotional Courage - showing your emotions and following your heart.
5 steps to build courage at work:
- Identify a fear that you have that is holding you back from fully engaging in your role or team. You can also identify opportunities for growth and goals that are important to you yet scare you.
- Example: Fear of speaking up and appearing “stupid” or “dumb”.
- Name your fear. This allows you to face your fears by describing them and curb a negative response to them. This way you can avoid minimizing your fears by sharing and recognizing what is holding you back.
- Example: The Unknown - How will others react to my statement if I give constructive feedback?
- Make a change in your routine or way of doing something. Taking small steps to switch a routine will help develop a ‘courage muscle’ that will help you for bigger challenges ahead. Breaking out of your comfort zone and practicing experiencing discomfort will enable you to have more courage to take risks.
- Example: Schedule 1:1 time with someone with expert knowledge to ask questions and whom you might be intimidated by.
- Take a risk and do something that makes you feel nervous. Taking risks that lead you to stand out, be seen, or connect with others can be accomplished authentically with this approach. These sorts of risks open new opportunities.
- Example: Speak up during a meeting or ask others for clarification when you need more information for your own understanding.
- Do something bold that entails bigger and riskier actions. However, the courage to do something bold should also still align with your core values in the presence of fear. Taking risks at this level enables you to live with more passion and purpose.
- Example: Take what you learned during your 1:1 with the expert and see if you can apply this knowledge to a webinar or conference to share with others.
Think of something you’ve always wanted to do within your role but felt too afraid of and begin small steps to pursue it.
How to encourage courage amongst your colleagues?
- Ask: Ask how you can encourage courage in your colleague or ask them what they want to accomplish (i.e., a goal, a promotion, etc.) and how you can support them best.
- Example: Help your colleague identify their next steps and offer to mentor or sponsor them and be aware of opportunities that can help them reach their goals.
- Observe: Reduce the need for courage by ensuring people see and believe they will not get in trouble for speaking up/out.
- Example: Respond instead of reacting to colleagues during discussions and lead by example.
- Affirm: Assure your colleagues that you are not looking for those who only respond with “yes” and agree to everything. Assure them that you welcome other perspectives and those who challenge you constructively.
- Example: When your colleague finds the courage to speak up or share an opinion, be aware and engage in the discussion.
Engage in a courageous conversation
Engaging or leading courageous conversations at work is part of learning, developing, and contributing to an inclusive culture. It enables others to build a better understanding of your needs and recognize the needs of your colleagues.
- Set any intentions clearly: Explain the goal of the conversation. This is the time to share questions and concerns and provide an opportunity for someone to ask for support.
- Example: Your colleague is anxious about a meeting. So, make sure to ask them if they’re looking for solutions or support. This could be you listening to them while they express their concerns and being a soundboard or it could be helping them prepare for the meeting.
- Create space for the conversation: Schedule dedicated time to talk to your colleague and make sure you’re present during the discussion.
- Example: Schedule at least 60 minutes and try to limit distractions and use Zoom or a video conference tool to be able to see one another when communicating.
- Set the stage: Share your intentions for the conversation and express if anything said should be kept confidential.
- Example: Check in with each other to understand one another’s point of view and ask questions. How can I support you? Is there anything you’re confused about?
- Be vulnerable and communicate: When speaking with someone about something that takes courage to do it’s important to create a safe space. You can create a safe space by being open and honest.
- Example: Share personal stories and feelings and ensure each person has the chance to speak up. It helps to curb any interruptions or speaking over one another by pausing and allowing airtime for each other.
Note: It’s important to hold any strong different opinions in an effort to not debate or nullify someone’s personal experience or feelings. There also shouldn’t be expectations to solve one another’s problems or make the other person feel better.
Having courageous conversations is not limited to only one discussion. They can be difficult and frustrating, but the goal is for everyone to feel clearer, calmer, and secure knowing that it’s okay to be our authentic selves at work and there’s psychological safety in the workplace.
Embracing and acting with courage isn’t always easy. However, remember that any small effort of courage builds towards a larger effort. Whether that’s encouraging a colleague to courageously speak at a conference, write a post for a technology blog, or build the courage in yourself to do the same.
My experience with Change@HubSpot has encouraged me to speak up and ask my teammates questions, share my thoughts and opinions, and assure myself that I’m smart enough and worthy to be here and be part of this team. However, HubSpot is one of the few organizations I’ve been part of that not only encourages this sort of courage company-wide, but they also make space to learn and grow within this area, so that I can show up as my authentic self.
Whatever approach you take, the key is creating a space on your team where diverse voices are encouraged and lifted, building an inclusive workplace for everyone to succeed in their tech career.
If you're interested in having your own journey to HubSpot like Hannah, check out our open positions here.