Captains Courageous

Karin Hurt and David Dye have produced COURAGEOUS CULTURES, a book which promises to build teams in business and does just that.

Guest Blog by Jim Nowakowski

Courageous Cultures, a book by Karin Hurt and David Dye, is a little over 200 pages and is a well-written, organized and insightful book that is easy to read. With effort, it is just as easy to implement its ideas. So in the age of COVID-19, courage – the central theme of the book — might be just the thing businesses large and small need most of all.

Hurt and Dye are founders of Let’s Grow Leaders, which is a leadership training and consulting firm in Maryland. They have brought their experiences in the writing of this book, and businesses throughout our country should pay attention to what they say.

Courage has always been important to business leaders, but it is essential when things go South. COVID-19 has changed business forever, making courage the single-most-important quality to survival.

Stories Are Important to Understanding Courage

Courage as a word is hard to define. The word is largely associated with actions of individuals. Sometimes it takes “courage” to get up in the morning. Other times it takes courage when you hear words like, “You have cancer.” So because it is intangible, courage always has to be discussed with examples.

Hurt and Dye devote a whole chapter to “How Courage Works – according to research” that tries to do just that. They put it in context of what the book is also about: leadership. But because courage is an intangible thing, sometimes stories help us better understand what it really means.

In Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous published in 1897 (probably no one reads anymore), a 15-year-old rich boy is washed overboard in the Atlantic and rescued by a fishing schooner. Harvey, the boy, can’t convince his rescuers to take him to a port and they would be well paid for doing that. They are on the Atlantic Ocean, and if you know about fishing and oceans, you understand that the ocean is always not your friend. In fact, if you are going to be successful as a fisherman, you will need courage.

So the book is a series of his adventures as Harvey learns and gains courage while learning fishing and about the ocean. In the movie, Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for playing the role of the Captain on the fishing boat that saved Harvey.

Our modern Captains Courageous are Karin Hurt and David Dye

The adventures in their book can help all businesses who have been washed overboard by COVID-19. The book is really about what we all need to be rescued: courage, told in a well-researched narrative full of real-life examples, questions and insights that display this important intangible asset a business today needs perhaps more than anything else including the PPP.

Hurt and Dye wanted their book to be interactive, so they invite you to share your stories with them. Impressively, they offer you the opportunity to download an Executive Strategy Guide with additional templates, discussion questions and best practices to the book – a true teaching tool – for free.

Courage is about the Team

Most leaders know that it’s the team that makes the difference in success.

In Leadership in Today’s World, I talked about what happened at a business meeting I attended when the group responded to the question: “What is the most important example a leader should project in today’s world?”

I like to shake things up at these meetings, so I changed the question: I asked, “Can you have a leader without followers? I like to examine leadership from the perspective of the followers of a leader. Your responses all are qualities, of course, necessary in a leader, but the question of what is the most important example a leader should project begs the question: Why do people follow a person?”

Hurt and Dye answered that question: courage. In fact, at the meeting I was in, the word “courage” surprisingly never emerged in the discussion.

But it does it their book.

For example, they note: “Responding with regard means you receive ideas and react in ways that respect the other person, build momentum, improve your employees’ strategic thinking, and generate more useful ideas.”

In fact, they tell you flat out that this skill –responding with regard – “is one of the most underappreciated and rarely taught in most leadership and management training.”

In his excellent book Call Sign Chaos, Jim Mattis, the former Secretary of Defense and philosopher warrior, puts it this way:

“Trust. That’s what held us together…leadership can’t depend on emails or written words. Leaders are not potted plants, and at all levels they must be constantly out of the critical points doing whatever is required to keep their teams energized, especially when everyone is exhausted.”

Courage. To respond honestly. In everything you do.

Hurt and Dye tell us:

“We opened Courageous Cultures by describing the gap we often observe when executives think they’re creating an open environment that encourages employees to speak up but are surprised to learn that employees are holding back.”

Their point is that concepts and tools need to be translated and owned by leaders and managers with the responsibility. But the fact is, as they imply, everyone has that responsibility.

They claim that “the number one reason people don’t lead well is that they haven’t been taught how.”

And there is a certain truth in that statement.

But “taught well” is also practice. And more practice. Because with practice, you can do almost anything you put your mind to do.

As a former teacher I learned this truth very early in my teaching career. I was a terrible teacher my first year. But through practice, I learned this: “All education is self education.” I couldn’t teach anyone anything. I could only supply the raw material, the motivation, the courage to learn by showing fearlessness. I became a master teacher of underachievers as a result, and for ten years practiced my trade. I developed, in other words, the courage of my beliefs.

And that’s what Hurt and Dye do in their book: show us the raw material and tools we need to practice fearlessness – to have courage when you go into battle in a business environment.

John Wayne is reported to have said, “Courage is being scared to death — and saddling up anyway.” Well, what are you waiting for? Buy the book, read it and saddle up!

Finally, I’d like to personally thank the authors for sending along a copy of their book for this review. It was refreshing — and timely.

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