No Backbone? Then It’s High Time You Built One
By Janene Mascarella

Pop quiz: What makes a king out of a slave, the flag on the mast to wave, and an elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? That’s right -- cah-orage, as the Cowardly Lion would say. And not only is it what puts the “ape” in apricot, it’s the bold subject of the newbusiness/ management book Courage Goes to Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance, and Get Results(Berrett-Koehler, $27). Courage is essential and never more importantthan right now, says author Bill Treasurer, a courage-buildingconsultant who, as a former captain of the U.S. High Diving teamperformed more than 1,500 dives from heights that scaled to more than 100 feet, really walks his talk.

Why it’s essential “When the economy is down, the need for courage goes up,” Treasurer says. “It’s the lifeblood of leadership, innovation, sales, and many other important business concepts.” On balance, workers who behave courageously are more successful than those who don’t. So, how can a little bravery boost work performance? According to Treasurer, courageous workers are more willing to step into leadership roles, share their ideas, and speak up when things are going wrong. They’remore willing to embrace change and have the mind-set to seek outskill-stretching challenges. As they do, their skill sets grow and theyadd more value to the company.

Fortitude -- three ways Sorry, no wizard’s going to just give it to you, but courage is a skill that can be honed and developed. As with any other skill, it’s learned through trial and error and strengthened when it is exercised and used.Treasurer’s book offers detailed advice on building three specifickinds of (developmental) courage in a workforce:

Try courage: the guts to take initiative and try something new

Trust courage: the guts to let go and follow the lead of others

Tell courage: the guts to speak up and go against the grain

Four Steps to Building Your Backbone

Ask “Where am I playing it too safe in my career?”

Identify the “cost of comfort.” (The risk of inaction is often more dangerous than the risk of action.)

Build a Courage Community by surrounding yourself with people who encourage you and who seek courageous challenges themselves.

Do your “lead-ups” -- smaller courageous acts in preparation for a biggerone (i.e., before you do a 100-foot-high dive, do 100 dives from 10feet).

Guts and Glory: Five Films to Get You Started

Band of Brothers
The ultimate war movie (it’s actually a 10-part series) depicts brotherhood, comradeship, and, of course, courage.

William Wallace battles to save Scotland from British rule -- pretty much single-handedly.

It’s a Wonderful Life
A down-on-his-luck guy sees what life would have been like had he never existed.

The Shawshank Redemption
It’s an emotionally draining prison story that teaches about hope, determination, dreams, and, yep, redemption.

The story of a robot who won’t give up on love -- saving Earth and mankind in the process.

-- Anna Fialho