Bravery in the workplace is something I’m hearing more and more about. Bravery: it’s such an empowering and positive word. It is something we don’t shout about enough, but it’s a word on the lips of the inspiring HR leaders I’m meeting.
The decisions they make are bold and have far-reaching impact. I consider it so important that I now delve into it as a competency when interviewing candidates. The answers are fascinating. What was the last brave decision you made at work and what were the consequences?
I spoke with Annette Andrews, Chief People Officer at Lloyd’s of London, who shared this insight: “My ethos is very simple. I have to remain true to my values; if I don’t, who can? I have to be able to look myself in the mirror every day and say that I have done the right thing. Plus, if I don’t embody the right behaviours, how can I expect it of others?”
A business doesn’t need ‘yes people’ in HR. It needs passionate, confident and emotionally intelligent leaders whose strengths are patience, subtlety, persuasion and diplomacy. I often think it can be a lonely place at the top, setting the example and leading the way. Your CHRO needs a team of people who are courageous in their actions too. However, it can be a balancing act treading the corporate line of internal politics. To be effective you need to tread it sensitively but confidently – that is a skill in itself. You can’t be successful by yourself; you need to bring the business with you. Cultures and businesses don’t change unless these bold decisions are made in a collaborative manner, in a timeline appropriate to the business and with effective communication along the way.
We need to encourage a culture where people are able to informally call out poor behaviour. At Lloyd’s, Annette’s team is currently developing ‘courageous bystander’ training for the business at all levels. Annette says this will “help them with those judgement calls when something just doesn’t sit right or is blatantly unacceptable and out of order. To have the tools they can call on to share their discomfort and the impact something has had on them and others – in this way impactful, long-term change can be made and we can all look at ourselves in the mirror.” We have something similar at Berwick Partners and Odgers Berndtson. When calling out behaviour we use the phrase #ThatsNotUs to ensure people feel empowered and safe in highlighting an issue.
Bravery can come in many forms – stretching yourself on a project, going for a promotion, asking that challenging question, changing company policy, or simply calling out behaviour that doesn’t fit with the company culture. I often hear of people leaving jobs because company actions didn’t sit well with their moral compass. It can be hard to work in environments like that, but it can be harder to leave; brave, even.
I’m always fascinated by the direction people’s careers take. It is brave to move jobs and I see it daily. To leave your comfort zone, take faith in the unknown, reinvent yourself and be the new employee can be hard, but hopefully being brave is exciting too.
Jane Firth is a Consultant in the HR Practice at Berwick Partners, specialising in recruiting senior management and leadership roles across all functions within HR.