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People who are intimidated by change often steer their actions based on fear. This is also what happens when outdated institutional standards manipulate people into thinking a certain way — to the point where they lose sense of self, and their identity in the process. Those who have accepted and adapted to those standards are often afraid of the unknown and/or of losing what they have. As a result, they may wait for something to happen instead of taking proactive steps to make something happen. This can leave them feeling helpless and anxious, and can also prevent them from taking advantage of opportunities or otherwise achieving their full potential.
Sound familiar? This is actually how most people feel today at work — suppressed, helpless and afraid of the future.
On the other hand, those who have been lifelong learners have likely not accepted the standards of the past, but instead have created their own. These types of people work both hard and smart to explore what’s required in order to find success — on their own terms and with a firm knowledge of the significance of what they’re doing. They realize that the status quo is a barrier to their own growth and that of their organization, and have further grasped that the workplace landscape is changing fast — that it’s essential to be adaptable and to learn new things quickly. But simply having the desire to learn isn’t enough: They also trust their own self competence, and this helps them set clear goals, take action, follow through and remain accountable.
Based on my organizational research, which has been further validated by an industrial organizational psychologist, here are actionable behaviors that can foster such boldness — a willingness to disrupt the status quo in search of new possibilities.
1. Aim to Advance Rather than Criticize
It’s easy to be a critic. When things go wrong, it’s natural to want to point fingers and find someone to blame. But what does that accomplish? In many cases, all it produces is tension and division — a cycle of negativity, with no real way out.
So, instead of criticizing, find solutions that will improve a challenging situation, which requires patience and perseverance. This doesn’t mean ignoring problems; we still need to acknowledge them, but if the focus is on finding ways to make things better, moving forward becomes far easier.
2. Keep a Proactive Mindset
A dynamic and forward-thinking outlook is essential for anyone who wants to make a positive impact on themselves and their workplace environment. People with that mindset take initiative and responsibility for their actions, and understand that their choices have real effect. They restlessly look for ways to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them, and are not afraid to take risks or try new things. Individuals with a proactive mindset know that change starts with them, and so are willing to do whatever it takes to influence a work environment to foster a healthier whole.
3. Maintain Confidence in Abilities
This quality is evident in the way people approach both challenges and opportunities. They believe in themselves and their skills, and this allows them to push to new levels. Such confidence is also evident in their interactions with others; they share ideas and opinions without feeling defensive or self-conscious. As a result, they can build strong relationships and achieve in both their personal and professional lives.
4. Nurture Self-Awareness, Including Your Flaws
On the surface, the individuals described so far might seem like they have it all together, but what sets them further apart is that they are purposefully self-aware. This is not to suggest that they are perfect, likely far from it. In fact, it’s their willingness to embrace imperfections that makes them unique. And in doing so, they inspire others to do the same. As a result, they are able to create a more positive and accepting work environment.
5. Be Fearless in Speaking Up and Otherwise Providing Feedback
Constructive and effective communication skills are, of course, indispensable in the workplace. They show that you are engaged with your work and with others, and that you are willing to stand up for what you believe in. However, giving feedback can also be difficult, as it requires one to be honest and direct. Some may shy away from doing so because they fear conflict or don’t want to upset others. However, if you can learn to give feedback effectively, it can be a valuable tool for promoting positive change. When engaged in that process, aim to be clear, concise and respectful, and avoid making personal attacks or speaking in absolutes. Instead, focus on the specific issue at hand and what you would like to see changed.
6. Stay Hungry for Knowledge
Those who are proactive in increasing their knowledge and intellectual growth are more likely to find significance in their careers. They are also more willing to unlearn bad habits, embrace new and better ones, and so expand their skillsets, which makes them more valuable and relevant. Furthermore, they tend to be more innovative, as they are constantly challenging themselves to come up with better solutions. As a result, those who invest in their intellectual growth are more prepared to be bold and disrupt the status quo.
7. Embrace Actions that Create Confidence, Power and Velocity
When it comes to confidence and overall effectiveness, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a few key actions that can help to nurture these qualities. First, it’s important to identify goals and set a clear plan for achieving them. This will help foster a sense of direction and purpose. Second, take positive steps towards those goals on a regular basis. Even small moves can make a big difference, and in taking action you build momentum. Finally, stay focused and maintain dedication to goals. If you can do these things, you will be well on your way regarding boldness as a trusted friend.
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