Spill the Truth: Exercise your courage muscles

Spill the Truth: Exercise your courage muscles

Spring is in the air. Unfortunately, it’s also peak season for crises.

Every year around this time, my email and voicemail fill up with requests from clients who need help managing a business crisis.

The situations vary. Some clients want to know how to deliver bad news; others are trying to resolve a conflict in the workplace. Regardless of the specifics, there’s always a company reputation or personal brand at risk—and with that comes fear.

The most common lament I hear during a crisis is “I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough. Maybe if we wait, it will resolve itself.” In response to which I always say, “Yes, you can do it. You are strong enough. Besides, even if you choose to hide under the covers, there’s no guarantee the problem will go away.”

No matter what the circumstances are, no one has the power to define you but you. And the only way to stay true to your values during a crisis—or any other time, for that matter—is to stand firm and communicate effectively.

The trouble is that when you need to own up to a poor decision, hurt feelings or a botched project, it’s easy to let self-doubt stop you from being brave.

To prevent that from happening, try these techniques for exercising your courage muscles:

  • Move toward the fear. In any crisis situation, it’s essential not to hide from your employees, clients or the public. Being proactive rather than defensive shows you’re coming from a position of strength.
  • Know how to control a conversation. If it’s inappropriate to respond to questions about a crisis, offer an explanation: “We are gathering facts so we fully understand what has happened (or what needs to happen), and we will communicate more as soon as we can.”
  • If you need to cry, cry. We can’t always control our emotions. So if the tears insist on flowing, let them. Once you’ve gained your composure, you can better convey your message.
  • Make the most of the small stuff. Anytime you find yourself managing a conflict—even if it’s minor in nature—practice being brave. The less often you sweep the small problems under the rug, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with the big ones.

Before you act . . .
Commit to a courage-building workout plan. For starters, push yourself outside your comfort zone: lead meetings, take media calls, seek ways to address audiences. As with any exercise program, don’t overdo it or expect instant results. Just stick with it and you’ll develop communication skills worthy of a pro.

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Melissa DeLayRead all author posts