~2 minute read.
Julia Steel is a pro at dealing with change and uncertainty. After growing up in a military family and moving around the world as a kid, she built a reputation as a safe pair of hands leading organisations through change. Having led some of the largest business and technology transformations in Australia and the UK, Julia knows that dealing with uncertainty – at work and in life – takes nerves of steel. Now a speaker, trainer and coach, she works with organisations, leaders and teams on what it means to stand up and be brave in the face of change. She is the author of Buy-in: How to Lead Change, Build Commitment & Inspire People and is the creator and host of the VID19 Conference that inspired this book.
Join us as Julia shares her thoughts on courage.
How would you describe workplace courage?
In its simplest form, courage in the workplace means taking action in the face of fear. This fear might be caused by our uncertainty in the road ahead, the fact that we’re boldly going somewhere we haven’t before or taking risks that are bigger than normal. It’s about having courage to take action and strength to see it through.
What does courage look like in your workplace?
At an organisational level courage can be anything from a brave new strategy to taking a stand on social issues. It’s about having the courage to say this who we are, this is where we are going, and this is what we believe, to our shareholders, customers and team. We saw this as organisations shifted strategies in response to COVID-19 and the many that came out in support of #blacklivesmatter, #climatechange, #metoo (to name just a few). I’ve reflected on these when running my business over the last few months. As each new challenge presented itself, I’ve had to have the courage to adapt what I offer and how I offer it. Has it felt uncomfortable? Yes. Has everything worked? No. Have opportunities come up after taking a few brave steps? Absolutely.
Courage is about not settling for the status quo. It is about embracing what makes us feel vulnerable, asking questions and being curious. Doing what is right, rather than what is expected. It’s about acknowledging what is comfortable and easy, and being willing to stretch.
… to adapt what I offer and how I offer it. Has it felt uncomfortable? Yes. Has everything worked? No. Have opportunities come up after taking a few brave steps? Absolutely.
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 think many of us are more courageous than we give ourselves credit for. For me, two standouts in my life were deciding to leave my corporate role to setup my own business and coming clean on some personal trauma I experienced a long time ago. In both instances they sat in my mind for a while before I did anything. I was aware that they were there, I just didn’t know what they meant, or what the right action was to take. I spent time reflecting on why I was feeling the way that I did, I got clear on what my options were and weighed up the pros and cons of taking action. When I was ready, I started sharing how I was feeling and what I was thinking with a few people that I trusted. I invested in mentors and networks that would support me professionally in terms of my business and have a wonderful husband and family who provide immense support on the personal front too. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing but I’m happier, in control and feel more complete.
From your point of view, to what extent are Australia’s leaders leading with courage?
It’s hard to put myself in the shoes of other leaders. Without knowing the challenges they face, who am I to say whether they are being courageous in a given situation or not?
What I do know is that for Australia’s leaders to overcome challenges and make the most of opportunities, they have to be willing to explore the space beyond what they know. To step into the unknown and sit with the uncertainty while they figure what will make a bigger and better difference to the world as we know it.
If you would like to connect further with Julia, you can do so via her website.
I met Julia when I was a speaker at, and participant of, VID19 Conference in 2020. Her courage to implement her “one big, hairy and completely audacious idea” was undeniable; her energy limitless.
As you undoubtably know, like Julia I do believe we underestimate just how courageous we are. After all, we all have courage within … we just need a light shone on it.