Drive Up Courage

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." — Mark Twain

Great projects have great value akin to a pile of gold hidden away in a mountain.

Those great projects are very difficult and have great risk. That gold is guarded by fierce dragons. Dragons create fear!

Fear is a tricky thing in organizations tackling important projects. "No fear" leads to a lackadaisical approach, low quality and missed dates. "Too much fear" makes organizations stupid with a frantic approach, low quality, and missed dates.

Exceptional leaders know the best course for dealing with the risk of dragons is to drive up courage! Your job is provide everyone with the weapons and the skills to deal with the dragons. Here are a few of the weapons.

  • Relentless, repetitive focus on the value of the mission. The big why is always important. In the best mythological stories of pursuing mountains of gold guarded by dragons the purpose is not the gold, but what good the gold can do. Courage is created when people know why the mission is important to you, the organization and them.
  • Promote the dragon as a feature of the project. If the project is important it has risks! Feature the risk as the opportunity for everyone to improve their skills, to find out what they are really capable of.
  • Name and tame the dragons. Create a culture of proactive risk management. Ask people to name the risks. Not just name them, but ride them! What are the risks? What can each person do to lessen the risk likelihood or the impact? What is the contingency if the dragon spits fire at them? Don't wait for the dragon to come to you - go after them!
  • Search for alternative pathways into the mountain. In great fantasy adventures as in great projects there is always time pressue. Encourage smart speed. Encourage your teams to be always seeking an alternative way to get to the gold. Encourage them to ask for more weapons.
  • Encourage yourself and everyone to enjoy the adventure! Great projects are often under a spot light which can elevate the fear of failure because it will now be a very public failure. Our responsibility as an exceptional leader is to put into place courage to focus not on the possibility of failure, but on the thrill of the adventure.

Be thankful for dragons. The pile of gold wouldn't be there if there were not dragons guarding it!

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT