Cultivating Everyday Courage

Courage doesn’t need to be heroic to make a difference. It’s the small acts of courage that happen day after day, often without much notice, that add up to significant change.

Dick Thompson, an Iowa farmer who made it a life-long pursuit to develop low impact sustainable farming practices, exemplified everyday courage. Dick, who recently passed away, challenged assumptions and innovated ways to reduce the fertilizer and pesticides needed to farm, while increasing profits. He did this through a lifetime of experimentation on his family farm. He shared the insights he gained with thousands of people who visited his farm, with professors at Iowa State University, and with colleagues in the Practical Farmers of Iowa, an association that he founded.In many ways Dick practiced what we call coaching-based leadership. He took the long, broad view, and focused on exploring what was possible. He challenged assumptions, not by railing against them, but by putting new ideas into action, then harvested insights, along with his crops. He coached and encouraged others to push the edge of what is possible, and together they wrote a new chapter in farming.

Coaching-based leadership is founded on helping others cultivate their own courage in ways that build confidence, break up old limiting patterns, and lay the groundwork for innovation.

In corporate settings everyday acts of courage might look like:

  • Asking questions that invite others to be curious about new possibilities
  • Telling someone you’re sorry
  • Reaching out to a perceived adversary to start a dialogue
  • Backing up someone who takes a risk for the right reason
  • Suggesting a new idea that’s outside the shared comfort zone
  • Not joining in on gossip or disparaging conversations about others, or about new ideas

Dick said, “I don’t have all the answers, but I try to ask the right questions.” How about you? Are the questions you ask yourself, and those you invite others to address, questions that encourage small acts of courage or do they favor playing it safe and maintaining the status quo?

You and your organization will reap the rewards of the questions you sow. Are you planting what you want to grow?

Dianna Anderson, MCC
CEO, Cylient

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What kinds of questions do you ask yourself or others to encourage everyday courage?

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