At what point in your career did you become aware that you needed to act with courage?
Tamara: My first job out of college was as a Mfg. Supervisor in a steel fabrication area in a large factory.
I found myself in situations that I probably should have been intimidated, but I just focused on doing my job the very best that I could, asking questions, and trying to make a difference. I put my focus on what was in front of me, not what surrounded me, and worked hard to ensure I did not let anyone down – those on my team or those I reported to. As I look back, I suppose I was mustering up courage daily for one reason or another.
Rekha: “I realized early on that other people showed up very differently to similar situations than I did. When I was tormenting myself on something, I realized that others were not internalizing external setbacks the way I was, and that that was a better way of handling it. So, I focused on learning from that.”
What did you have to overcome (i.e., fear of what others would think, failure) in order to act on your courage?
Tamara: I didn’t recognize it at the time but staying focused on my mission – to make a difference – helped me block out any fear that may have inhibited my actions. I guess I believed in myself enough to not question whether I could be successful in whatever job I had. If someone was going to give me a chance in a new role, I focused completely on what was directly in front of me.
Rekha: I needed to develop a tactical support structure of people who could help me. I needed to learn to take the long view in my career and look past what I feared. And finally, I needed to give myself ‘grace’ – knowing that mistakes would happen along the way.
Who helped you find your strength?
Tamara: I had a mentor early in my career who modeled the kind of servant leader I didn’t know at the time that I was striving to be. He was a sounding board for ideas, jumped in to help when I needed it, and gave me positive encouragement when times got tough. He fostered an environment where taking risks was okay.
Rekha: I found my strength by being around a lot of great leaders. I realized that they were constantly learning and curious.
What would you tell your younger self about operating with courage?
Tamara: Looking back, I can recall so many times that I was unbelievably nervous about something I was about to do…. a one-on-one performance discussion, a speech in front of a large audience, a conversation with union leadership. There were so many situations that I needed to muster courage to tackle. In most of those situations I kept any fear I may have been feeling to myself – not reaching out – keeping my doubts to myself. I would tell my younger self to find a confidant to talk with. Be brave enough to lean on someone for advice during challenging times.
Rekha: First, realize that no one is worried about you. Second, be fearless about asking questions. Perfectionism doesn’t serve anyone. Embrace the discomfort. Get comfortable being uncomfortable because that’s where you grow.
Any other advice that you’d like to share with our readers?
Tamara: I recognize how important it is to help the next generation of employees and leaders. Being transparent and acknowledging what I dealt with can help others learn through my stories, failures and successes.
Rekha: Unpack how you are feeling about acting with courage: Embrace the feeling, use your support system and demonstrate vulnerability. Also, know that you don’t need to self-disclose your uncertainty with everyone.