by Darcy Eikenberg, PCC | Author, leadership & career coach | RedCapeRevolution.com
What do you see in your mind’s eye when you hear the word courage? Do you picture the firefighter, walking into the wall of flames when everyone else is running the other way Or the extreme sports expert, defying gravity and risking death to achieve a certain level of awe? Or the administrative professional who decides to miss a deadline because the project isn’t on the right track?
Hold up a minute. Yes, the first two images are ones we typically classify as courageous or brave. But the third?
Rarely do acts of defiance in our workplace get called out in the same awe-inspiring manner. And yet, those deliberate, everyday acts of courage are becoming more vital, especially in the world of administrative professionals. If ever there was a time that called for you to accelerate your courage, this is it.
Why Now? The Commodity Trap
The casual observer knows that the tactics of professional support continue to shift dramatically. Today’s administrative pro isn’t just working with people, but trying to comprehend new tools and processes within our changing workplaces. As dramatic as those changes seem, they’re not the reason we need more courage.
The real reason is that administration work is increasingly perceived as a commodity.
What’s a Commodity?
A commodity is something that’s like everything else in its category—perceived by leaders and other financial decision-makers to be interchangeable and replaceable. We’ve seen commoditization happen in many traditionally high value professions such as human resources, information technology, and even security. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t admit it’s happening to administrative professionals, too.
The irony is that at a time when high-impact support is in more demand than ever, administrative professionals are struggling to have the high impact they know they can make.
That’s why it’s time for more courage at work. When we show more courage at work, we break away from being seen as a commodity. We naturally start adding more value, which not only benefits our careers, but benefits our colleagues, companies, and communities, too.
But How? Three Strategies to Increase Your Courage
How do we speak up more, push back, and challenge our corporate comfort levels in ways that motivate real change and real progress? How do we resist the busy-ness of business, just executing and executing without meaning or impact? How do we hold our breath and dive into the important burning issues in our companies and communities—without risking our careers and the success of those around us?
To start applying more courage in your life at work so that you can increase your value and make a bigger impact, try these three strategies:
- Be Clear on What Matters
In a world trying to find its balance between inclusion and exhaustion, you can’t be all things to all people. It’s more essential than ever that you do the work to know what issues, behaviors, and values are important to you—and not just to your company.
For example, are your relationships the most important thing? Then take a risk advocating on behalf of your colleagues or clients. Is creativity your driving force? Push harder to show the team a different way of thinking.
If you’re trying to accelerate your courage, your effort must connect to something deeper that’s of value to you. Getting clear first helps you decide which dragons to slay—and which ones to let lie.
- Get Comfortable with Discomfort
Does challenging an internal client or colleague make you nervous? Does saying “I don’t agree” in public give you hives? Good news—you’re human. This is what we know about humans: discomfort is where the growth is.
Your bicep only grows after that third set of curls when it’s exhausted and quivering. Our courage biceps work the same way. Start to notice and acknowledge when discomfort pops up. Let yourself feel dumb, lost, or confused. Resist the urge to wriggle away from those feelings. It’ll be okay. Learn to be okay with that off-center, unbalanced, out-of-whack place—it’ll be the source of the courageous growth you want.
- Practice Makes Progress
In my fantasies, I’m bold, creative, experimental. Fearless. Tireless. In reality, I only have so much energy. So much time in the day. And experimental? I’m sorry—that hot new idea will need to wait until the staff meeting’s done.
We can’t expect to have all the courage we want instantly. Like any good habit we’re developing to be better professionals and even better people, it’ll take time. Maybe we won’t experience superhero leaps all at once. But as author and University of Houston researcher Brene Brown says, “courage is contagious.”
Start flexing your courage muscles today, so others can follow. The administrative profession—as well as your company, your colleagues, and your world—need you now more than ever.
Catch Darcy and other spectacular speakers at IAAP Summit 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland (just a short distance from Washington D.C.). Find out why IAAP Summit is the go-to conference for office and administrative professionals year-in and year-out.
Leadership & career coach Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, will teach “Communicating Your Value (While You’re Doing Everything Else)” at the IAAP Summit 2019. She helpshigh-performance leaders and teams manage through constant change with more clarity, confidence, and control—plus a bit of courage thrown in to handle today’s complex life at work. Get free career & success tools at RedCapeRevolution.com/IAAP.