(4 minute read)
Deborah Fleming is the Director of Chameleon Works Ltd. She works internationally to build high performance transformation teams. She is fascinated by groups and teams working together, and applies psychodynamics to her work with Boards and Leaders who are managing change.
Join us as Deborah shares her stories of professional and personal courage, and inspires others in doing so.
How would you describe workplace courage?
Workplace courage is the responsibility to challenge boundaries. These boundaries tend to be internal blockers where our inner critic may be saying, “I can’t change jobs without having another one to go to,” or “I can’t give my manager feedback.” In challenging these boundaries, we drive personal or professional change, even though we don’t know what may happen.
What does courage look like in your workplace?
Specifically, clients coping with complex challenges need a consultant that brings ideas and tools that are new and haven’t been used before. If my clients are coping with new and ambiguous markets, then I have to role model the courage it takes to try new things.
At the “Away Days” – offsite meetings that provide the space for reflection – that I facilitate, I try to assess the client’s appetite for risk and then stretch it. In our busy lives, there tends to be a lot of unconscious activity that drives behaviour, and these “away days” provide an opportunity to be vulnerable which requires courage. It takes courage to stop and reflect; it takes courage to give and receive feedback.
I get the teams I work with, to work experientially; this can be uncomfortable, but the most courageous place to learn.
Please describe 1-2 examples in which you have been courageous. What did you do? Who/what enabled you to be courageous? What was the outcome?
I started my own business because the idea of MBTI and wine-tasting became so big in my head that I had to do something about it. When I handed my notice in to start my business, I had a big mortgage and very little savings. In the two months of time I bought myself, I managed to get two clients without going into debt. The fear of going into debt drove me to work hard and to be courageous. Although I was fearful of debt, I informed my father that “I wanted to try something fantastic.” This was a pivotal conversation.
Also, when I packed up my life to go travelling for a year after my father’s death, I was fearful that my clients would not re-engage when I returned. I informed them that I was taking the time off and they understood. On my return, my clients returned too.
What did you learn from these experiences?
From both of these experiences, I learnt that I had to be true to what I needed which was to change, even though I had 1 million reasons not too.
I realised that you need to create a picture of what you want to do and in doing this, it provides a pull to the desired change. If you don’t create a picture, there is more reason to stand still; it is easier to stand still.
I use this in coaching my clients – I encourage them to get their needs for change and the desired end point out of their heads and onto paper.
When else have you been courageous?
I travelled to Peru with bags of clothes, games and school supplies for children. Over the course of one week, we had to travel 200km down the Amazon River. We didn’t know what we would find – what state would the school be in? Would there even be a school? So, I went with my gut; I knew there was danger but I was driven by my wanting to explore and be curious; I was driven in knowing that the children would benefit from our supplies. A newspaper article was written about this trip which was seen by my goddaughter, nieces, nephew and family, providing a sprinkle of inspiration for others to be courageous.
Another example which also involves travel, was a trip to the Himalayas in Nepal after the earthquake in 2015. I had hundreds of pencil cases to deliver to the children in Poon Hill; these pencil cases had been donated by school children in the UK. After 2 days walking in treacherous conditions, we arrived to provide our supplies to children whose faces just lit up! One of the children in the UK who had donated pencil cases from her own collection, wrote an article in her school book for which she received an award.
What is it about you that leads you to be courageous?
“I want to be remembered for my love of life; for my zest for adventure.” The legacy that I want to leave is, “I’m a traveller of life, using fear, risk and fun to galvanise learning and grow.”
From your point of view, to what extent are our world’s leaders leading with courage?
Taking Brexit as an example; when the UK leave the EU, leaders will be leading a whole countries’ expectations into unknown territory. It has never been done before. I think this is going to require courage and tenacity which we have not seen yet.
You can get in touch with Deborah via: firstname.lastname@example.org
In interviewing Deborah, I learnt so much about her in just 45 minutes. I left our interview feeling inspired and energised by her courageous actions which clearly illustrate what is most important to her. We sometimes kid ourselves that we don’t have time, but it doesn’t take long to experience a high quality connection. Who might you connect with soon? Who might inspire you to courage?