Psychological safety is one thing, bravery talks another

That morning at the coffee machine I ran into fellow Beans Serge, Chris, and François. Apart from our role as business consultants we also share quite some seniority when it comes to coaching. These coaches actually turned out to be a bit puzzled. And what was supposed to be just a coffee break ended up in a kind of small revolution when it comes to coaching people.

It all started with an innocent story of a sales manager. She has had this lousy year at work full of bad luck, failure and unmet targets. Every year her company organizes a large employee meeting where successes get celebrated, so a lot of can-do-vibes and rounds of applause. Still, the CEO warmly asked her if she would be prepared to tell her tough story on that very same day too. It took guts, but she did it. And she would be the only one that day to get all 200 colleagues breathless.

Psychological safety as enabler or scapegoat?

All 4 of us agreed that this was an act of bravery and that the warm invite of the CEO was what it took to get this sales manager to step up. At Beanmachine we take psychological safety very seriously, and it is exactly what the CEO provided. Still… being coaches, we somehow struggled with this case. Of course, it’s okay, it even is highly admirable of this CEO to allow room for failure. But we couldn’t help wondering: what if he hadn’t? Would the sales manager have kept quiet? In other words: for sure psychological safety is an enabler of bravery, but what if it becomes a scapegoat as well. “I would have shown bravery but I couldn’t because my organization didn’t provide safety”.

Bravery Talks

So we got ourselves another cup of coffee and decided to focus on enabling acts of bravery, regardless if enough psychological safety was present or not. That’s when it struck us: in all our years of doing coachings, the most valuable sessions – although they were rare – were the ones with coachees really wanting to push their own boundaries. Professionals that are genuinely ready to face their challenges with head, heart, and hands. Like the sales manager taking the stand. In that case, her CEO created the right circumstances to do so, but personal coaching could have gotten her on that stage too. Not with the classic coaching approach, however, what we need here… are bravery talks.

And at that very coffee machine that morning we decided how this should be our mission: learning managers and coaches how to coach people into bravery. Far from easy, not a 1-2-3-done approach, and definitely a challenge for the coach as well. But we are convinced that this effort is totally worth it, as bravery makes better business!

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