Professional courage and influence - Lesson 1: your reflections


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CIPD Staff

17 Jan, 2020 10:31

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Getting started with professional courage and influence. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Community reflective activity:
Think of a people professional that you have worked with who showed professional courage and influence and the characteristics or behaviours they demonstrated. 


  • One example is someone that was working with us as an external professional to assist with an internal recruitment centre. The day had led to unintended consequences, including a number of people being upset and complaining to senior management. In the toilet no less!

    This resulted in an ad hoc meeting with my manager, the most senior manager and a number of the people who had attended the day, which was somewhat reminiscent of a 'kangaroo court'. My manager at the time was far from supportive in the meeting and added to the tension, saying they had nothing to do with it. Which was of surprise as minutes earlier had said something rather contrary to us. 

    I felt upset, uncomfortable and that the rug had been pulled out from underneath me and my colleague, as we had only been doing what we had asked to do. However, this external person spoke with a calm, matter of fact voice and set out the original expectations and what had resulted. The courage that she showed, when it could have been all to easy for her to either cave in and agree, remains with me to this day. Whilst I was disappointed with my manager that day, the admiration and respect I had for this external person was clear and strong.

  • I an less than a year in my new L&D Role and would like to share a recent experience I had in a training session and ask for advice on how I could of managed the situation in a more pro-active and beneficial way to not only the individual but the group as a whole. Training sessions are held as a 2 day event with induction on day 1 and a regroup in week 6. Individuals previous experience is varied on day 1 but the expectation on week 6 is that the overall group will be on a more level playing field. I did not hold the day 1 session as normal so had no previous impressions of the group to work with and as the day progressed one colleague became increasingly uncomfortable with the rest of the group picking up on this and making the situation worse. I attempted to make the session more tailored with specific Q and A to ensure the content was appropriate for the whole groups needs but this one colleague ultimately stood up and was clearly upset and informed me that she found me to be patronising. This is my example of someone who clearly demonstrated courage at addressing the situation they found themselves in and I have no issue with the action that this colleague felt they needed to take. At this time I called a 10 minute break to allow me the opportunity to speak 1:2:1 with the colleague. I tried to be re-active to the colleagues needs but this did not repair the damage and the colleague became more frustrated with me and left the session, which in turn dampened the engagement of the rest of the group for the remainder of the day. Later I spoke with the individual by telephone for some clarification and to get some feedback. This conversation was a lot calmer, I accepted that my style had not been suitable for her needs and apologised. This was a good learning experience for me about being judgemental on my expectations of a group setting and how my style of communication can be perceived. I would be interested to see if anyone in the forum could give me some advice on things I could of done better?
  • In reply to Claire:

    Hi Claire, as an independent trainer/consultant I always lock into the organisations values. These help me engage with the learners and have relevant discussions. if I was in your position and your organisation had values such as Commitment, Open to others, Responsibility I would have had discussions 'off-line' starting with questions like "Thank you for attending even though you appear to be not getting a lot out of the day, what would you like me to do more of or less of in order to make the day more useful (reflecting Commitment and Responsibility)". Another technique that works really well when running Q&A is to get people to pair up for 1 minute and discuss what we have covered so far. You then take questions from each pair, leaving this particular person and their partner till the end. This enables you to create a psychologically safe environment for everyone to contribute. It also means you can 'gatekeep' where the difficult questions/comments may come from
  • My no.1 reflection is to stakeholder manage and don’t tackle things cold. I have learned from some great people who have invested the time sounding others out to get a viewpoint and build on ideas before presenting back to a wider group including those who were consulted upfront. People need time to digest things and we can all fall in to the trap of thinking that if you’ve told someone once, they immediately understand the challenge, scenario and what you are trying to say. They don’t.
  • The person I always praise to be informed, knowledgeable and with sincere humility is actually my partner. I crave to meet person like him at the workplace. And chances are that I will hopefully at my brand new workplace.
    My husband is an engineer in a racing team, has to deal with huge cultural diversity, professional background and special characters - competitive rather. Yet I’ve never seen him being pushy with his views and ideas for solving the problems/approaching the projects. Yet he managed almost always to communicate well and positively. The same is in our private life. He always says he knows how much he knows and will learn what he doesn’t, and if he is fortunate to have from who to learn from work it is a bonus. In his approach to working environment and approaching to communicate his views and solutions he has thought me how I want to be seen, and what would I like to achieve at my workplace.

  • In reply to Robin:

    Thanks for sharing Robin. I think this shows how much people are either aware or not of the impacts of someone else's behaviour to them and how difficult that is to manage individually and yet, collectively they found strength because they found out it 'wasn't them'. Realising you're not culpable in this was key and when others also shared their reactions it galvanised spirit into a collective effort to move things forward. Shame that resignation was necessary but proof that this debilitating impact they (the manager) had affected performance as well as morale, confidence and cohesion. Great share - thanks.
  • In reply to Claire:

    Thanks for sharing Claire. Sounds like the dynamic was a tricky one and you did your best to create inclusion and participation.

    My experience in this situation to throw open the way forward and call out why you might like to use more interactive and participative ways. This kind of dynamic is probably best if you break people into troikas (threes!) and ask them to talk amongst themselves, come up with some reactions and ideas on how to make the session more engaging and active and then they appoint a spokesperson to share their findings. This way you can harvest anonymous but accountable actions without forcing people to share publicly and you get insight into what people prefer, would like to see happen and then you can adjust.

    You handled this 'outburst' well but that would throw most people because the patronising accusation was a bit full-on and was a bit of a handbrake on things.
    Hope this helps.
  • In reply to Robin:

    Discussing this with the participant on the course. It was clear to me that the manager was not coming from a good place.
  • The person I am thinking of is a colleague (middle management) in a care home at which I used to work. The situation involved change: payroll was to be changed from weekly to monthly for care and operational staff, some of whom were on minimum wage, the management team were already on monthly pay.

    There was a lot of opposition to the change and my colleague took the time to sit down with those who displayed opposition to the change. The individual tackled the situation with humility, tact, and discretion.

    It transpired that some of our people felt intimidated with the thought of budgeting for a month, they struggled from week to week let alone having to do this month to month.

    Measures were put in place to support staff with the change.
  • I have a recent example where I felt shown some professional courage:

    My top boss had approved a training program to my 2nd top boss to Singapore for a week. My Manager informed me 10 days before the schedule about this. The training is totally irrelevant to the 2nd top boss. I am little bit scared to tell back as it was approved by top boss as well as supported by my manager. But, I have taken the issue again to my manager, explaining the irrelevance through a mail. IT WORKED and his tour is cancelled.

    Providing subjective evidence through mail made this possible

  • I remember a time, working alongside my former HR boss where she showed professional courage and influence at a point when we were delivery information regarding a staffing restructure. We were presenting the information to a staffing group who would have been particularly affected by these proposed changes. The meeting also included other management for the area, who were there to show support for the plans and answer questions. Following the presentation, a number of comments were made by the staffing group which called into question the validity of the proposed structure. We had management trying to vigorously defend the new staffing model, which in turn seemed to cause more animosity from the group of staff. My boss managed to calm the situation and allowed those who had constructive opinions and ideas to present them, whilst management sat down and listened. Despite a time table having already been drawn up, she explained to the group that she was pausing the process until the new information provided had been fully considered in line with the proposals. The result was that the restructure was changed based on the information provided, and was successfully implemented with agreement from managers and the majority of the staffing group on board. On speaking with one of the staffing representatives later, he was surprised but ultimately satisfied that their voices had been heard and the subsequent impact it had had on the proposals going forward.
  • I worked with someone who was particularly skilled when having what we referred to as ‘courageous conversations’ in recalling quotes or viewpoints stated by the other party / parties, who would feel both that they had been listened to & their views appraised which served to softening the conversation but also underlining the fact she had carefully considered the argument & was speaking from an informed position
  • Just this year, I witnessed someone who displayed tenacity and resilience in ensuring that the required safety measures were put in place not just for our employees but in protection of our whole community...despite a roomful of people who believed (at that time) that COVID-19 is not a big deal. It took a couple of meetings, some long emails and telephone calls aided by increasing amounts of evidence, but they eventually succeeded in getting the required results.
  • I'm thinking of someone who speaks clearly and always knows his audience and what the keys things they'll be interested in. They stood up for what they believed in even if this may caused some conflict in the way, I respect him for that and hope I can someday develop this skill and confidence.
  • The person who exemplifies courage and influence is my first boss.

    We used to sit in the same office for 6 months until the company moved into a new office building. I could observe her while she was talking on the phone or when she was writing emails. She always spoke slowly on the phone and read her emails through several times before she hit the send button.

    Once I was present in a meeting when she was discussing a serious matter with the managing director. She was calm, patiently listening but putting her points across assertively.

    I also remember an incident when she fired a person in front of the team. This person repeatedly behaved disrespectfully with his line manager.

    I admired her calmness, her listening skills and the ability to speak up whenever it was necessary.