Conscious Business in Action: On Undiscussables – From Permission to Courage

CourageIs your job driving you insane? Yes, so many people say so, yes they have experienced frustrations, disappointments, toxic cultures, impossible bosses. But, they want to do a good job, to make a difference, to be productive. So what practical steps can you take to untangle the dilemmas, confusions and contradictions of organisational life?

Having the courage to speak up, to ask for clarity, to raise your dilemma, to ‘discuss the undiscussable‘ – Fred Kofman speaks to how to do this skillfully – it makes complete sense. So why don’t we all speak up, why not say, ‘I’m confused about when to innovate and when to stick to the rules, can we talk about that?‘ Why not say, ‘I don’t have the time to do both of those tasks by Friday, can you help me?

It is a human condition to hesitate around conflict, to want to belong. If we believe our views will create conflict, we think twice. It takes courage to raise things we believe will rock the boat. An ‘undiscussable’ is provocative; we fear the consequences of raising it. But on the other hand, if it’s the norm to speak about controversial subjects, then we feel we have ‘permission’ granted, we feel safe, we are not exposing ourselves. Where our fears are high, where we believe there is no such permission, we feel vulnerable and will not speak our minds.

So how can you (as a business leader, HR, L&D, OD professional) systematically apply Kofman’s insights to produce a change for the better?

Three practical ways that have proven themselves to work are:

  1. Learning and practicing how to speak up in a constructive way (as per Kofman)
  2. Instigating higher levels of ‘permission’ for controversial issues to be raised (through high performance teams, empowered people, inclusive style of leadership, bold/open culture)
  3. Boosting courage in individuals, bearing in mind that precisely when we feel most vulnerable, others see courage.

When we work with companies it is for them to achieve an uplift in productivity, effectiveness and satisfaction. That means surfacing the ‘undiscussable’ conflicts, dissolving their ability to paralyse organisational health and individual happiness.

For a case study on how we helped a global organisation take this road, click here.

This is Conscious Business at work.



About the author

Cathy is Axialent’s Managing Partner. She leads the UK & Nordic market as well as our Culture Practice, with an eye on continuously developing and improving our approach to culture transformation journeys. She has a passion for pulling the right levers for change, identifying what a company can do to shift to a higher-performing culture. Read more >



Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: